In September we talked about how the quality of your list is more important than the size.
Then in October we talked about the need for great content, segmenting, and timeliness.
And guess what? They more than doubled their online ticket sales by doing so, and then grew the list back. They have a smaller list, sure - but it's WAY more responsive to the messages they receive. Read all about it.
This study is available for open access until November 19, and there are links to some creative samples that you can peruse.
No doubt, it's a daunting thought to think about getting rid of most of your list. But what opportunities are you missing by not taking this kind of drastic action? Simply cutting your list back by itself isn't enough - you'll need to rethink your content and engagement strategy. But as the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra proved, it can be worth it! And that's music to my ears.
Last month I talked about how the quality of your email list is rapidly becoming more important than the quantity of folks who are on it. You need to make sure that people on your email list are opening and reading your emails, lest you get tagged as a spammer by internet service providers.
So how do you get your constituents to open and read your emails? Well, by sending them content that they WANT to read, obviously. But how do you know what they want to read?
To answer this question, I like to look at one of the best examples of commercial e-mail marketing that I've ever experienced as an end user - babycenter.com.
BabyCenter has a highly motivated audience of people who are hungry for the information and content they provide. Pregnant women and new moms are the target audience. And when I say they're HUNGRY for the information, I mean it because I've lived it. Consider a newly pregnant woman who is SOOOOO excited and wants to know what's happening week to week with the development of her child-to-be AND a brand-new mom with her first baby who might be feeling a little overwhelmed and has a million questions.
BabyCenter has answers - both official content that they provide themselves, and a wealth of user-contributed content on the message boards. The site receives its funding from paid advertisements, so they have a vested interest in getting subscribers to open their emails and visit the site - and also to click on the ads. And they're good at it. (For example - subject line from yesterday's BabyCenter email: "Is my baby normal?")
There are two main target audiences for BabyCenter emails:
For BabyCenter, the beauty of how the emails are constructed is that the article's title appears in the newsletter, but you have to click through to the site to actually read the content. Ergo, they are continually driving traffic back to their site. That's great for them and for their advertisers.
Beyond the weekly emails, BabyCenter also sends occasional emails about specific topics. How do you handle teething? What age is the best to start solid foods? How do you choose a great caregiver for your child? By magic, the emails almost always touch upon a topic that has recently become top of mind. Again, this is content where the email itself can be considered a teaser - you have to click through to the website to read it. But you can bet that I'm opening the email. IS MY BABY NORMAL?
What does this mean for nonprofits? Well, I think it means that you have to find your baby. What is the THING that your organization works on that provides emotional ROI to your members? What do they care about? What do they want to read? (Note that this might be different from what YOU want them to read.) So here are some lessons we can take from BabyCenter:
The always-prescient MarketingSherpa has a similar post, by the way, about crafting relevant e-mails and how to learn from your audience with some interesting ideas. Open access till October 28 so click now - unless it's after October 28, then you'll have to become a member.
P.S. BabyCenter also is one of the best examples of both personalized web content AND user-contributed content that I've experienced, as you might imagine. That's a story for another day - but something to keep in mind, because it goes together with relevant email content like chocolate goes with peanut butter. Mmmm, chocolate.
Fall is in the air, leaves are starting to change color, temperatures are cooling down and, although it may be a bit hard to believe, year-end really is right around the corner. What does that mean for your organization's online fundraising strategy? Now is the time to start planning your fundraising campaign for December. While you may be thinking to yourself, “Ehhh..It’s only October. I’ve still got time.”, it really is a good rule of thumb to get started now and plan for success.
If you traditionally have not run an end-of year fundraising campaign, now is the time to start. Don’t wait until next year. If you have struggled with this type of campaign in the past, now is a good time to sit down and determine what did not work (and what worked) so that you can see more success this year. Don’t wait until next year. Think of December 2010 as your golden opportunity.
Why is running an end-of-year fundraising campaign so important?
1. People really do want to give at this time of the year. So, ask them.
OK...This makes sense. But, how can I structure my appeals for success?
One of the best approaches you can take is that of a multi-part campaign. Do not think of end-of-year fundraising as a single email message sent somewhere in the timeframe of December. Think about the whole month of December as an opportunity to send a series of cohesive messages that go out during different, planned times of the month. You’ll want to do this by crafting at least three messages: a kick off, a reminder message and a last chance message.
The kick off message should be used to introduce your end-of-year fundraising campaign. Tell your constituents why you need their gift and what you intend to do with it. The date of kick off can be flexible, but as a general rule it is a good idea to send this message around mid-December. The closer to the holidays, the more warm and fuzzy people are feeling and the better.
The next message in the series should be a reminder message, also referred to as a “stewardship” piece. Your constituents may not have been ready to give upon that first kick off message, or they simply may have intended to and have forgotten. Send them a lovely little reminder a week or so after the kick off or just before Hanukkah or Christmas. You may even want send it in the style of an eCard, giving the appearance of a holiday card they would receive in the mail. This is a nice touch.
Sticking with the three message approach, your third and final message should be one that expresses a sense of urgency. It’s December 31st and this is your last chance to donate this year! You’ll likely see the most donations come through after this appeal. This appeal should be sent on December 30th or the 31st. December 31st has shown to be the optimal date, but the 30th fares well, too. This gives those procrastinators a chance to get their donation in and serves as one last reminder to those who may have simply meant to but forgotten to give after receiving your first two messages.
What kind of tone should I take with my campaign?
There are various options you have in terms of what tone to take when presenting why you need donations. There is a nice model from “The Influential Fundraiser” that my team and I like to present to our clients when talking about end of year fundraising. It looks like this:
Do you want to present a positive opportunity you could take advantage of at the present moment, or perhaps a vision of what you could do in the future if given a generous donation? Or, do you want to present your case in a light that states the negative impact of not receiving donations, such as “We need your help or we cannot feed the homeless this Christmas”. The tone is up to you and you may choose your tone based on your organization’s current situation. Is there a crisis you need to avert, or do you have a unique and exciting opportunity you want your donors to take part in?
Regardless of the tone you take or the number of messages you send, the most important take-away here is that you do run some kind of end-of-year fundraising campaign and that you plan for it ahead of time. Don’t let the months of October and November get away from you without thinking about what you will do in December. If you get started now, you’ll find the month of December much less stressful. Planning those messages early will help ensure that you and your marketing team are not up until 1am on December 30th making edits to an email that has to get out the door on December 31st. If you plan ahead, you’ll be able to sit back, drink some egg nog and enjoy the holidays.
Another day, another new feature of Gmail. This one is called Priority Inbox. It's a new feature that will promote messages to the Priority level based on your behavior around certain types of messages - like whether you open them or click on them, read messages with similar keywords, and so on. It also allows users to designate which messages should be treated with importance. Here's some more info from Google about how Priority Inbox works.
What does this mean for nonprofit email marketers? This is certainly something that could impact your open rates and click-through rates. There's a good post from OtherInbox that all you nonprofiteers might want to emulate for your Gmail users to encourage them to mark your messages as Priority.
Speaking of open rates and click-through rates, there's a fascinating new study from Return Path that Sean Donahue from MarketingSherpa breaks down for us. The title is "Take the hint from unresponsive subscribers" and it is definitely worth a read. Even though the study is from for-profit emailers, we can learn from the results. You should read the entire post, but I'll summarize uber-briefly here:
Other Email Service Providers are likely to follow suit with gadgets like Priority Inbox to keep up with the competition. That combined with ISPs dinging you for having non-responsive subscribers means you should start doing some things differently. Size is not the only thing that matters - it's about the quality of your subscribers.
Segment, segment, segment. Don't send the same content to everyone on your list. Target people based on their level of engagement with you, their status as a donor or non-donor, an advocate, or a social media super user. You can use their behavior as a clue for this. Here's a gem of a post from Peter Genuardi in 2008 that addresses this exact point.
Send the right content. More on this in a post to come later this month - make sure you send people the things they want to read. Bonus points if you've asked for their interests online and then actually send them content that matches up with what they want.
Become a Priority. Ask your engaged Gmail subscribers to add you to the Priority Inbox. If other email providers roll out something similar, do the same with them. (In Convio, it's easy to create a group of only those constituents whose email address contains @gmail.com. For extra credit, provide these instructions to NEW subscribers who have @gmail.com in their address by putting conditional content into your welcome series or in the footer of all messages.)
Treat inactives differently. Try to re-engage your inactive list members. Ask them about their interests, send them a message that says "We've noticed that you've stopped responding to our emails," or ask them to simply respond to a simple form to indicate they are stil interested.
Warn 'em. If they don't respond to your attempts to re-engage them, send them a "We're going to stop sending you e-mails if you don't respond" message.
Dump 'em. If they don't respond to THAT, say sayonara. Remove them from your list!
Organizations used to get bragging rights for having the largest number of emails on their file. But the times, they are a-changing and these days we only offer fist pumps for the quality of an organization's list - as measured by open rate, click-through rate, and conversion rate.
Please share your war stories about list segmentation and re-engaging inactives in the comments!
When you move into a new neighborhood, you’re likely to be welcomed in some way to the community. Perhaps a neighbor stops by to introduce themselves and brings a basket of fresh-baked cookies or muffins. Or maybe the neighborhood association drops off an information packet to let you know about neighborhood meetings and what is going on in the area. Whatever the welcome is that you may have received, your relationship with that community has begun to be nurtured. You now have a familiar face or faces you can turn to if you have questions or simply need to borrow a cup of sugar.
An online community should not be any different. It is also a place where relationships should be nurtured. Take for example Susy Q. She heard about your organization recently at an event, went to your website and signed up to receive your emails. By taking that action, she has moved into your online community and said “I want to know more about what you (org) are doing. I want to be a part of this.” It is now time for you, the organization, to nurture that relationship by welcoming her and thanking her for her interest and support.
Meet the welcome series.
Now is the perfect time to send Susy a series of communications that, just like the basket of warm muffins, makes her feel welcomed and at home. Home. Your online community should feel like home to your constituents. It should be a familiar place where they know they can stop by at any time to have a conversation with you or find out what you’ve been up to lately.
It’s likely that your organization is already sending an autoresponder immediately after someone takes an action like donating or signing up for your eNews. That is a good first step and it does let your supporters know that their action has been acknowledged by you. But, why not take it a step further and roll out your welcome mat? By initiating a phased welcome series you are able to nurture the relationship with that new constituent and this can help lead to a longer lasting relationship – one in which your supporter feels important and like they really are a part of what you do.
So how exactly does a welcome series work? That is up to you! It may depend a bit on the capabilities of the email system you are using, but chances are you will be able to set up some type of recurring message(s) targeted at the audience(s) or your choice. My advice is to set up the welcome series to send to new constituents typically within the first week of moving into your housefile. Some organizations opt to send a two part series, where a “Welcome” message is sent the first week and a “Here’s how you can get involved” message is sent as a follow-up the next week. In that first message be sure to let them know who you are. Introduce your Executive Director and reaffirm your mission. In follow-up messages, be sure to let them know how they can become more involved and what’s new on the block. Some organizations like to take advantage of the newness of the constituents for up to a full month and will send a series of four messages, one per week. The frequency and amount of messages is entirely up to you.
When it comes to content, if you are considering initiating a welcome series, think about your constituents and your programs. Always welcome and thank them for moving into the neighborhood. But, also use the communication series as way to let them know about your programs, upcoming events and volunteer opportunities. If you have a welcome series already, think about evolving it. It may be that you created your series some time ago. Could your content use a facelift? Maybe you have some new programs or new events that you have started since initially setting up the series. Or, perhaps, you have started some new social media initiatives and you’d like to include a portal to those online communities. Your welcome series should be a living, breathing body of work. Re-vamp it and change things up a bit if it’s been a while since you last took a good look at the content. Keep it fresh. Just like your neighbor wouldn’t bring your stale muffins, don’t give your constituents stale news.
By nurturing your relationships from the start, you are more likely to build a strong community made up of dedicated, loyal supporters who will stay tuned. After all, home is where the heart is.
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