Five E-mail Design Recommendations
The Convio whitepaper “The Basics of E-mail Marketing for Nonprofits: Using E-mail Communications to Build and Strengthen Constituent Relationships Online” is a 19-page, information-rich guide that covers the gamut of e-mail marketing, touching on everything from building an e-mail address file, performing list hygiene, gaining permission, offering opt-out options and executing a successful e-mail campaign.
The whitepaper also addresses tips for creating compelling e-mail messages. First off, it stresses the importance the of “message envelope,” i.e., the e-mail header. The message envelope is made up of the “To” and “From” lines, the date and the “Subject” line.
* Subject line — should be intriguing. Its goal is to get the message opened. The whitepaper recommends the subject line should be no more than 40 to 60 characters in length and should communicate something about the e-mail’s message. Short, actionable words or words that draw on emotion work well. And avoid excessive punctuation and capitalization.
* From — should be a familiar sender. “Capitalize on the strong affinity supporters have for your nonprofit by putting the organization’s name in the ‘from’ line,” the whitepaper advises.
The design of the body of your e-mail can influence response rates. Convio recommends the following:
1. Use HTML to send graphically rich e-mails that include photographs, images and neat fonts and colors. Include your organization’s logo and other recognizable visual elements. Also keep in mind some people might not be able to view HTML e-mails or might just prefer to view e-mails in plain text. Be sure to give all e-mail recipients the option of choosing to receive your e-mail in either HTML or text format. Convio recommends choosing e-mail marketing software that supports multi-part e-mail distribution, an e-mail delivery process that automatically will display the format — HTML or text — most suited to a recipient’s e-mail environment.
2. Keep key points above the fold, i.e., above the part of the e-mail body that is visible to recipients without scrolling. Inundated as they are by numerous messages daily, many constituents will only read the top 25 percent of an e-mail message, either because they won’t scroll down or because they have their e-mail set to view in preview mode. Therefore, Convio advises organizations put “the most compelling elements of your message and any calls to action in this top portion of the e-mail.”
3. Keep the message brief. Your e-mail message should focus on one or two key points and be less than two screen lengths to minimize scrolling.
4. Drive recipients to your Web site. Rather than taking up space within the e-mail to explain the details of a campaign or program, feature a teaser and then include a trackable link to your Web site where recipients can learn more and take a specific action, whether it be signing up for your advocacy group, making a donation or signing up to participate in an event.
“This tactic has the added benefit of allowing you to track the links that are most frequently clicked, which will help you evaluate supporters’ interests and the impact of your message,” Convio advises.
5. Personalize your message. The simplest way to do this is in the salutation. More sophisticated, compelling uses of personalization involve customizing a sentence or a paragraph or images, or even the donation form based on what you know about a constituent’s interests.
Be sure to test your e-mail internally before sending it out to masses of constituents. Convio recommends designating and training a few people within your organization to be the official e-mail testers. Testers should check to see that e-mail messages display properly in various e-mail clients like Microsoft Outlook, AOL, Hotmail, Yahoo! and Gmail, and check to make sure the technical components — links, landing pages, donation transaction, registration, etc. — work. You can also send an external test to a select group of recipients before blasting your entire e-mail file.
To view the complete whitepaper, www.convio.com/site/DocServer/EmailGuideJune1_04.pdf?docID=2600033