NTEN Webinar Roundup: Stepping Up Your E-mail Marketing, Part 3
In Part 3 of the NTEN four-part series of seminars — Storytelling Via Email — Heather Fignar, a managing partner with NPAdvisors, began by going over her top three "four-letter words" of e-mail marketing: blast, monthly and newsletter.
The word blast makes her think of buckshot and demolition of a building.
“A word like that changes the way you approach e-mail marketing," Fignar said. "Makes you forget it's a conversation."
And the connotation of "monthly" is that an organization is mailing something on the first day of every month regardless of what’s going on in the world around it. This could lead to a strange juxtaposition of real-time events and e-mail messages coming into a constituent's inbox," she said.
Better options she suggested are communications, messages and appeals, all of which keep in mind that there's someone reading your e-mails.
Fignar said when it comes to e-mail marketing, organizations all too often have the junk drawer syndrome, symptoms of which are that every department in your organization is represented; printing the e-mail requires a ream of paper; your e-mail newsletter is just information; and you e-mail on the first Tuesday of every month, with a subject line like "July newsletter" that doesn't tell recipients what's in it.
To determine if your organization is suffering from junk drawer syndrome, Fignar recommended doing a diagnostic test of one of your e-mails or e-newsletters to determine if it's clear which story is most important and what readers are expected to do next.
- Start thinking in terms of campaigns.
- Establish a goal for each e-mail. This can help weed out what should be in an e-mail and what shouldn't, Fignar said. Do you want recipients to understand a specific part of your mission better? Do you want them to donate?
- Decide how you will measure success: open rate/clickthroughs; or conversion rate (e.g., donations, petition signers)
For cultivating online donors, Fignar recommended NPAdvisors' Donor Development Model, which lists the stages of cultivation as:Acquire: In
- Introduce new visitors to your mission
- Involve: Build trust, offer knowledge
- Convert: Enable visitors to take action
- Retain: Broaden and deepen the relationship
The three-legged stool for any campaign involves the brand/mission/story, a goal and measurement tools, Fingar said.
1. The brand/mission/story
Ask current donors why someone would want to interact with your nonprofit above all others, and use their answers. The reasons they give you are the core of what your messaging should be. And communicate what you can do with their $50 that you couldn't do without it.
Your story is not your life story or your organizational history; it is the specific thing you want to say today.
Driving traffic isn't the right answer, Fignar said. Understand what people want to do and what you want them to do.
3. Measurement tools
Determine what metrics you'll look for and what measurement tools you'll use to tell whether or not you were successful.
Think in terms of a campaign:
- What is your goal?
- Who is your audience?
- How many messages will you send, and what types of messages?
- Develop a landing/transaction page that is not your homepage. Drive prospects somewhere much more specific.
- Develop a thank-you page. Once prospects hit submit to sign a petition or give a gift, have a thank-you page open up. Think about the level of commitment they're giving to you, Fignar said. They made a massive commitment to you giving you their e-mail address and credit card information. "If you're not paying attention to the thank-you page, you're leaving so much relationship ability on the table," she said.
- Thank-you e-mail. This shouldn't just be an e-mail that says, "transaction received." "Thank them graciously for interacting with you, and try to get them to take a second action," she said.
Finger shared examples of three e-mails sent by Livestrong, the campaign of the Lance Armstrong Foundation, for its Presidential Cancer Forum campaign.
The goal of the first e-mail was to get constituents to participate. Sent on Aug. 9, 2008, the e-mail — from Armstrong with the subject "It's Time for Answers" — featured calls to action to get tickets, submit questions and spread the word. Tactics used: Important information was featured in the top line of the e-mail; text was linked; important information was bulleted; and there was a deadline.
The purpose of the second e-mail — sent on Aug. 24, 2009 — was to promote the forum. This time the subject read, "Your voice has been heard." The e-mail drove recipients to watch Armstrong on “Meet the Press”; watch the candidates; spread the word; and download materials.
The goal of the third and final e-mail — sent on Sept. 13, 2008 — was to take part in the campaign's next action. The subject of this e-mail was, "Cancer will not run unopposed in '08," and the call to action was to sign thank-you cards to the candidates.
If you're looking for call-to-action ideas, Fignar shared the following 10 things organizations can ask online supporters to do:
- Sign a petition. This can work whether you do advocacy work or not. She said Bideawee built a viral acquisition campaign around its animal bill of rights and the simple question of whether recipients believed in its mission
- Send someone else an e-mail
- Go to an event in real life
- Buy something to support the cause
- Give money
- Refer a friend
- Send an e-card to a staff member or child
- Watch a video, listen to an interview, read something (online or off) to learn more about the issue. "At the end of the video, drive them somewhere to learn more about content in video," Fignar suggested.
- Write a story or otherwise contribute relevant content
- Call someone on the phone to express an opinion
She concluded the webinar with the following bullet points of advice:
- Communicate and develop community online.
- Give every e-mail a primary goal. Fignar said newsletters must have a ranking and prioritization of stories.
- Always be able to answer the donor question, "What can you do with my gift that you couldn't do without it?"
- Remember that e-mail is about the reader. Reading online is harder. Include bullets and text links, and be sure the images you use are relevant and linked.
- It's about the psychology, not the technology. Fignar advised thinking about your readers first; using engaging subject lines that tell recipients what they're opening; creating clear goals and calls to action; pointing the reader to the next action you want her to take using graphics, bullets and text links; sealing the deal with the landing page; and taking advantage of recipients' undivided attention on the thank-you page and in the thank-you e-mail.