Many organizations are using mass email software (e.g. SalsaLabs, Constant Contact, Blue State Digital, etc.) to contact their members. These applications allow you to create beautiful HTML emails as well as examine the analytics for emails you send. Knowing the open and click-through rates will give you valuable information needed to measure the effectiveness of your email.
There are some important steps you should take to ensure your email strategy is working.
Value Your Members
No matter how many email addresses you have, you need to remember that these aren’t just names on a list – they are people who make achieving your organization’s goals a possibility. Be careful not to overwhelm them with a constant barrage of email. Analyze which emails are getting the best results – which receive the most opens, clicks, and shares – and send information in which members are interested.
Make sure that the look of your emails is branded with your organization’s logo and maintains a consistent look. This will make your email easy to recognize by members and create a positive impression. Creating specific HTML designs for different emails (e.g. General News, Action Alerts, etc.) will help to show members the level of importance of the email. Many email applications, especially on smartphones, will show members a preview of your email content. Be sure to test the look of your email template across numerous platforms.
Show Your Work
Let your members know what your organization has been accomplishing and how their actions are helping to achieve the organization’s goals. Remember, in times of crisis you may need to send more update emails to members. Set the parameters for members at the beginning by telling them you will be updating them on a consistent basis, then stick to that schedule. Even if you have nothing new to say. Rephrase what you have already told them. Too many organizations make the mistake of, not informing members what is happening during a crisis which can create a breach of trust. Keep them informed!
Use a Clear Call to Action
When you ask your members to get involved be clear about the action that needs to be taken. Tell members what you are doing, what you need and how they can help. This will result in more members taking action to help your organization to achieve its goals.
The average worker receives around 80 emails a day. The sheer volume of communication ensures that emails to your members are likely to be overlooked. Follow these simple rules to get your emails noticed and acted upon.
Limit the Number of Emails You Send
With workers receiving dozens, if not hundreds of email a day, sending too many emails to members is a good way to turn members off. Before you begin writing an email, ask yourself: “Is this really necessary?”
Is the legislation your organization supports at a truly critical juncture? Or is it simply making its way through the natural committee process? While we often view everything that happens in our organization as an urgent moment, our members may not view things with the same sense of urgency. Try and look at the issue from the point of view of the members before clicking send.
Subject Lines are Key
A good subject line will grab a member’s attention and summarize the issue. Ideally, subject lines should also be no longer than 50 characters. Any longer and the subject line will be cut off in the email browser.
Avoid using the words “help” and “reminder.” These words have been shown to negatively impact open rates.
Localization helps boost open rates. Whenever possible, include the local name or city/town in the subject line.
Keep Messages Clear and Brief
Emails need to be clear and concise. Keep your sentences short and to the point. The body of the email should be direct and informative, and it should contain all pertinent information.
Personalize the Email
Emails to members should always come from an individual they know (e.g. Local President, Representative, Organizer, etc.). By using a person, rather than the organization, in the “From” line, you will increase the chances of the email being opened.
Mass email programs (e.g. Salsa, Blue State Digital, Constant Contact, etc.) allow you to include the member’s name in the subject line and the body of the email. Personalizing the message can have a positive effect on the reader.
Three Times the Action
Emails to members often include an action step. Usually, this is a link to an online petition or advocacy page where members may directly contact a target. The most effective use of calls to action in an email to is to locate them in three places: at the beginning, the middle and the end of the email.
Contact your Senator today and urge their support for this bill.
Your Senator needs to hear from you on this important bill.
Click here to email your Senator on this critical bill today.
Rewording these calls to action will improve the likelihood of a member clicking on the link.
Check it Twice
Before you hit “send,” take a moment to review your email for spelling, grammar, and punctuation mistakes.
As you proofread, pay attention to the length of your email. People are more likely to read short, concise emails than long, rambling ones, so make sure that your emails are as short as possible, without excluding necessary information.
Mass email programs (e.g. Salsa, Blue State Digital, Constant Contact, etc.) often allow you to do A/B testing. This will allow you to create two versions of the same email and split it amongst the members you are emailing. A/B Testing can be a great way to test different subject lines to find the most effective one. This can be useful for long-term campaigns, like legislation or other issues that will require you to contact members more than once.
Whitelist is a generic name for a list of e-mail addresses or IP addresses that are considered to be spam free. Whitelists are used frequently with e-mail applications to allow users to compile lists of senders they wish to receive e-mail from. This list overrides any blacklists and spam filters and allows the e-mails to be delivered to the users inbox instead of filtered out as spam.
Conversely, a Blacklist does exactly what the name implies. Marks your email or IP address as spam and prevents your email from getting through.
So how do you ensure you don’t end up on the Blacklist? Mass email applications like Salsa, Blue State Digital, and Constant Contact are already whitelisted so rest assured if you are using one of these applications your email is already safe. If you are using Microsoft Outlook to send mass email to your members you will need to follow these tips:
Never send more than 50 emails at a time. One of the things Internet Service Providers look for to identify spam is large quantities of email (50+) being sent at once. If you absolutely have to use Outlook, set up members in groups of 50 or less and send the email to each group. Time-consuming? Yes. But better than being labeled a spammer.
Manage Your Subject Line
Subject line will be a huge determinant of your email’s ability to get into the inbox. It’s the first 35 to 50 characters of an email subject line that users see. The reality is that you should not write an email subject line that is significantly longer than that because the longer your email subject line is, the more likely it would be flagged as spam.
Remember three primary rules:
Avoid Emails that Are One Large Image: Minimize Images Overall
Emails that are one large image have a high chance of being flagged as spam. Using a large image to encompass the entire email is a frequent trick of email spammers. If the entire content of your email is in an image file, then the email spam filters have nothing to spider in terms of content and can’t figure out if your message is junk or not. We’ve all seen emails get delivered to our inbox that are one large image. However, your deliverability chances decrease if your email is one big image.
Minimize the Use of Red Fonts and Huge Headline Size Fonts
Red fonts and huge headline size fonts have also been shown to cause spam filter issues though not as frequently as many of the other issues noted here. As a general rule, it’s just a better idea to avoid using red fonts (pick an off-red color), huge headline fonts of more than sixteen pixels or a combination of both. There are plenty of design options that still give you great flexibility without using those font sizes and colors.
Occasionally you will be contacted by staff or leaders wondering why they no longer receive your emails. Often a quick check of your email system will show that they have unsubscribed from your email list. However, they insist they did not unsubscribe. What happened? When someone forwards an email that includes an unsubscribe link, and the person who receives the forwarded email clicks the unsubscribe link, the person who forwarded the email gets unsubscribed. What do you do? If possible, add a confirmation step in unsubscribing that requires the person to enter their email address in order to unsubscribe.