To the Point: Keep Your Year-end E-mails Off the ‘Naughty’ List
I have a really good piece of advice for you. Send a fundraising e-mail the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Dec. 30 and 31 are the biggest online days of the year, in my experience. All those generous procrastinators are just getting their acts together, so your timing is perfect if you send a last-minute reminder at year’s end.
But make it a GOOD e-mail. How do you know the difference? We have a great new e-mail partner at Network for Good called Emma, and that company’s experts have agreed to share 10 big e-mail no-nos, based on their time in the trenches with electronic communications.
So before you hit SEND on that all-important, last-minute e-mail in December, remember to AVOID these sins:
1. Using generic subject lines.
You know your latest e-mail campaign is the December newsletter. And you know it’s great. But it’s up to you to tell your constituents just why December is so darn special. Consider using your subject line to tease your favorite article or whatever you decide is the most enticing part of your newsletter. Also, try including your brand in the subject line. It’ll let people instantly recognize your e-mail at a glance and can help with inbox sorting down the road.
2. Getting freaky with Comic Sans.
Fonts and colors and formatting, oh my. Keep your campaigns easy on the eyes with simple, intentional style choices. Avoid switching fonts every few lines, and choose your colors with an eye for readability. After all, a well-formatted campaign will catch your readers’ attention and make it easy to keep reading. And isn’t that the whole idea?
3. Sending e-mail to people who didn’t ask for it.
While it’s important to make sure your e-mail looks great, a successful campaign really starts with a solid, permission-based list. Only e-mail people who have asked to receive your updates or are directly affiliated with your organization. If it’s a rented list, purchased list or list of people who’ve never heard of you, avoid it.
4. Using an invalid ‘reply to’ address.
Since permission-based e-mail marketing is all about staying in touch with your members and customers, giving your recipients a way to continue the conversation is a must. Otherwise, you’ll miss the follow-up questions from your subscribers, not to mention those rare (but important!) unsubscribe requests from people who choose to reply to you instead of using a built-in opt-out link.
If the “from” address you currently use doesn’t exist, consider asking your e-mail administrator to create it, or change it to an address that does exist and is monitored by someone who can manage the replies.
5. Ignoring those results.
After all the work of the big send-off, don’t forget the fun of watching the results roll in. They’ll tell you a lot about what your audience is interested in. Did you have an overwhelming clickthrough response last month when you linked to your blog? Consider adding more links like that in this issue. Did 62 people click to learn more about your newest program? Sounds like follow-up phone calls might be in order. Make sure you learn from the way people respond, and apply those lessons toward even greater success next time.
6. Sending one big image.
I know it’s tempting to take that gorgeous flier your designer created for print, save it as a JPG and plug it into your e-mail campaign. But sending one big image is risky. Servers are more likely to filter e-mails with large images, and recipients may move on to other things before your image fully loads. And some e-mail programs, like Gmail and Outlook, block images by default, meaning a percentage of your recipients might see the original e-mail you designed as a big, broken image. Yikes.
7. Forgetting to test.
By taking a few minutes to send a test to yourself and a few colleagues, you can have peace of mind that your links work, your copy is typo-free and everything looks just the way you thought it would — all before you send it to the big list.
8. Writing — and sending — a novel.
Don’t send a really flippin’ long e-mail. When you send a campaign that goes on and on (and on), a typical subscriber — with a typically short attention span — probably won’t sift through lots of text to find the content that interests him. Instead, he might delete your e-mail at a glance.
9. Sending too often or not enough).
Finding your ideal frequency depends on a few factors, like what your organization does and who you send to. Just keep in mind that sending too frequently may annoy your readers and increase your opt-out rate, but long lapses of silence may cause some readers to just plain forget about you. Aim for regular contact that keeps your brand in front of your readers, and make sure each send-off has a purpose.
10. Not personalizing.
Sometimes being one in a million isn’t such a good thing, and you certainly don’t want your readers to feel like they’re just one e-mail address in a giant list. Use your e-mail campaign to connect personally with your readers, but don’t just stop with a personal, first-name greeting (although that’s a great place to start). Look for other ways to extend a personal touch, whether it’s through sending targeted messages based on your readers’ ZIP codes or interests, or keeping a friendly, personal tone as you write your content. FS
Katya Andresen is vice president of marketing at Network for Good.