Never send marketing mails from your inbox. This is why!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Someone just mailed me their entire customer list. And not just me, but all others on their list. What a embarrassing and expensive mistake!

Unfortunately accidents like this are still far too common. I regularly get sent customer lists. These lists does not come as an attachment. However you can read, and copy if you wish, all other recipients from either To or Cc-field of the email itself. Someone has again used regular email instead of marketing email software for the job.

In this post I'll tell you how to do it, if you absolutely need to do it, and why you should never send email campaigns, not even invitations to your event, from your regular email client program, such as Outlook, Gmail, Apple Mail etc.

How to send marketing emails with Outlook, Gmail, Apple Mail, Thunderbird, IMP and more for free

Yes, you can send marketing emails using any normal email client. And it's totally free. And it's super easy. Just like sending regular email. With one important twist.

  1. Create new mail.
  2. Write your email copy. You can even add images. You can even add attachments, but you should never do that for mass mailings to avoid wasting people's inbox space.
  3. Always use Bcc-field! Never To or Cc. Bcc stands for blind carbon copy. When you list your recipients to Bcc-field, they won't see who else got the mail. However, if you accidentally use either To or Cc, which stands for carbon copy, fields, every recipient will also see everyone else's email addresses, which is a very bad idea. Bcc-field is not commonly used, so many email clients hide this field by default. You may find a link where to open it (see Gmail below), or you might have to go to settings to enable the field (like in Outlook). But I repeat: never, ever use To or Cc-fields when sending bulk emails.
  4. Select recipients. If you have them all on your Contacts, you can select many by Ctrl-clicking those you want to send mail to. Or copy-paste a list of emails from e.g. Excel. Most email clients can handle this.
  5. Empty To-field or not? When you send using Bcc-field, your recipients see the To-field empty. Depending of the email client program, this may seem odd. Your recipients may think you are sending spam or worse still, malware. Some put their own or collegues email address as To-address, but that doesn't make it less odder. Now it seems like you have been accidentally Cc:ed for no particular reasons. So the risks are being marked as spam or being deleted without opening. Unfortunately there is no best practice here other than your email client is not a marketing tool.
  6. Send

In Gmail, Bcc-field had to be opened.

Bcc-field is often hidden and have to be opened. Look for some kind of switch: link, button, triangular... In Outlook, bcc is hidden from settings, and often have to be enabled before you can even find it or a switch. However your IT department may have set that setting differently when deploying Outlook.

It is super easy, yet also super easy to make the mistake and forget to use Bcc. As Bcc-field is not often used the field might not be visible by default. You might remember to use it once, or twice. One day in a hurry, you forgot how you should do it and use To or Cc instead. And that mistake might either cost you a fortune, if you are the business owner, or your job. Literally.

What can possibly go wrong when blasting from regular email client?

When you are using your trusted, everyday email, with the program you are using dozens of times a day, what can possibly go wrong with that marketing blast. I sure hope you won't screw it. And when you eventually will, that you get away with it with minor injuries. However before you hit send, it's better to know and weight the risks

Losing valued customer list = direct drop in company value

Your customers are often the most important assets you have, and your customer list thus the most guarded asset of them all. When you accidentially share your customer list with every recipient, it is likely to end up into the hands of one or more of your competitors. You might not notice it immediatelly, but again, it's highly likely you are going to lose more customers in coming months than before to your competitors for two reasons: competitors now know whom to target, and you broke trusted customer relationship by sharing the list in the first place thus making them more likely to switch. 

If you are the business owner, the value of your business just went down. If you were planning to sell your business, in some cases, this accident might have tanked that opportunity by revealing potential buyer just one of the core assets they want access to: Your customers. And if you work for the business owner, think how she will take it when you tell the news that you just make the business far less valuable.

Breaking trust = losing customers

Trust is the glue that keeps customer relationships together. Without trust, there is no relationship.

If a customer questions whether she can trust you, your changes of getting the deal (or the next purchase) are whole lot slimmer. Depending of your relationship with your customers, and the nature of your business, breaking trust may be very bad thing, or not such a big deal at all.

Sending the invitation to your event might seem unharmful, but I once received the customer list of a respectable law firm this way, and I am quite sure, their clients weren't very happy. Advocates should, by law, keep their clients secret.

Breaking the law and getting fined, BIG TIME!

Revealing your clients' email addresses may mean you have broken a law or two.

Sometimes you are obliged to keep who your clients are private. The forementioned case where a law firm emailed me, and all other clients, their list of clients, is obviously a good example where the confidentiality of a principal and attorney relationship was broken.

You might also break laws coverning data protection. In the European Union, one such regulation is EU General Data Protection Regulations, or GDPR. This regulation is already in force, however under transition period until May 25th, 2018, meaning you are not fined. Luckily, as the fines are very hefty indeed: Up to 20 million Euros or 4 % of your groups global turnover, whichever is higher.

Under EU law, email address is personal information that should be guarded as well as any other personal information such as name, address, time of birth, maritial status, religion... So if you operate in European Union, or market to people in EU, you need to prepare for GDRP. You need to have your processed documented. Even if you haven't misplaced any customer data, failing to document your data protection processes is punishable.


At minimum, the usual reaction from customers is to unsubscribe. If you can't keep the list safe, it's better to be off-the-list.  This will hurt your marketing efforts and future income.

But then, how do you unsubscribe from an email that is send using regular email? You can't. There is no unsubscribe link. Your local marketing laws may require that.

Want more tips about B2B marketing to your inbox?

Why some still often use regular email programs for marketing?

Here are few common reasons I have heard:

  • "We don't normally use email marketing, however for this event/launch/announcement... we wanted to reach our customers."
  • "Email marketing software are so hard to use and expensive."
  • "My boss didn't want to invest..."
  • "I didn't know"

To summarize, "we didn't think mastering email marketing is important"

So why should you do email marketing the right way? And what is the right way?

Email marketing is essential for every business, but it's a lot different than what you think

Email marketing is currently viewed as an essential part for anyone doing digital marketing or having customer relationships. An essential part, a must have, a key tactic... Not optional, that is.

However email marketing is a whole lot different to what you think it is. Forget spamming, unsolicitated emails, even newsletters. Those days are gone. Unsolicitated email marketing, or spam, is limited by marketing laws, blocked by spam filters, hated by recipients, and just don't work. Even opt-in newsletters when the content is product or company promotion, does not work well enough to justify the effort, and businesses are scaling down traditional promotional email newsletters, at least in the B2B-scene. 

The problem with this old school email marketing is that it is not relevant nor valuable for the recipient, which leads to a very low conversion rate.

At the same time, email marketing has increased in other categories. Automated emails that are triggered and controlled by customer's activity or inactivity are gaining ground. And newsletters that are basically promoting valuable content, t.e. blog posts, are growing as fastly as content marketing itself as a tactic. Valuable content, whether blog post, ebook, webinar, marketing seminar or any other format interests people, while promotional content is not.

If it was just about ok to send promotional newsletter couple of times a year without getting too much negative feedback, people are now cool with receiving over 10 emails per month, considering the content is interesting.

Despite the rise of social media, email is now the only digital communication channel that you own. And it is often the only scalable communication channel to your clients.

With the right tools and process, it is easy, inexpensive, safe and drives sales

Email marketing is not your marketing, nor is it a separate part of marketing. Modern digital marketing is a connected system where each part has a function, and where the system does not generate results at all, if even one essential piece is missing. Every business has a bit different Minimum Viable Marketing System, but for every one it is a system. Never, ever a single tactic.

Email's role is to drive interested back, and track customer activity. When you publish new content, say a new blog posts, email promotes that content providing a link to "Read more...", and allowing you to track who were interested about that topic. This means content is first published online, usually on your blog or website platform, and email is just promoting it. Creating email to your customer is, with right tools, just selecting which pieces of content to use, and takes about 2 minutes to create and send.

Email is sent to those who have subscribed, and never to someone who have unsubscribed. Unsubscription is made easy to avoid social media storms from angry people.

Email is also a way to learn a lot more about customer interests. When a customer clicks a link to read more, you'll know that. This, and tracking on your blog and website, help you see who might be ready to buy.

Email marketing software sends email differently than regular email, when it comes to campaigns. Where a regular email client sends the whole email out as one email listing all recipients as receivers, and letting email servers route a copy of the email to each recipient, an email marketing software itself sends each recipient a dedicated email where all links are personalized so that they can be tracked. A regular email client thus sends one email to the email server whereas an email marketing software sends 100 emails, one for every recipient.

For such an operation, a marketing suite, such as Loyalistic (from 49 USD/EUR per month + vat) is the best choice as they contain content publishing and tracking tools that simple email marketing tools lack.


You can send email marketing campaigns with regular email clients such as Office, Gmail, Thunderbird and more. Just remember to use Bcc for recipients. However it's easy to make a mistake as Bcc is often hidden, and use To or Cc-field instead to list recipients. This will show every recipient the email address and name of every other recipient, effectively doing the same as emailing your entire customer list to your whole customer list. Accidentally revealing your customers decrease the value of your business, weakens customer relationships and you might break the law or two as well. You look like a complete amateur. It's not worth it.

Email marketing is essential to almost anyone wishing to communicate with it's customers. However it is very different from the email marketing in the past, and is best done with a marketing suite, such as Loyalistic, and not with email marketing or newsletter tools which are designed for marketing in the past.

Written by Antti Pietilä

Antti is the founder and CEO at Loyalistic (Simple Content Marketing Software for B2B Companies) who loves to help SaaS-companies to grow at Software Entrepreneurs (@ohjelmisto_ry) and cycle. Say hello to him anytime @anttipietila.