Webinar Roundup: Building Your E-mail List
In a Jan. 13 Firstgiving webinar titled "Building Your E-mail List," David Karp, director of marketing for Firstgiving, a site that offers online donation processing services, covered elements surrounding e-mail that every nonprofit fundraiser doing or considering doing e-mail should know.
Last week, in part one of a two-part series covering key points from the webinar, we touched on Karp's analysis of e-mail basics, key elements of good e-mail, and tips for building and growing your e-mail list. Here, in part two, we'll cover his points on how not to be considered spam, how much e-mail is too much, A/B split testing and segmentation.
After putting the effort and resources into building an e-mail list and creating an e-mail campaign to send to that list, the last thing you want is for your message to end up in recipients' spam folders. The key to avoiding this is knowing the rules regarding spam — and following them.
Karp went over the key things nonprofits need to know about the CAN-SPAM Act, which are:
- Keep header ("To" and "From") information and subject lines clear and not deceptive.
- Give an opt-out method within e-mails and honor opt out requests.
- Include their postal address in the body of the e-mail.
(More information about CAN-SPAM, can be found on the FTC Web site.)
But sticking to these guidelines is only half the battle. The other half is making sure your messages don't get marked as spam by recipients. To this end, Karp stressed the importance of knowing your audience.
"Whether it's legally spam or not doesn't matter a whole lot if the person who receives it gets a bad feeling from receiving it," he said. "That means you've got to know your audience, set your expectations with them, understand their expectations so you can have a mutually profitable and beneficial e-mail relationship."
As for that burning "how much e-mail is too much?" question, Karp said you won't know that you're sending too much e-mail until people complain or cancel their subscriptions. But given that, if you have no complaints or unsubscribes, you might not be sending enough e-mail. He recommends sending more rather than less, as it's likely busy recipients won't open all of them anyway.
Once you've got a good list and a good message that's spam-proof, don't stop there. Hone both with constant testing and experimentation in the form of A/B testing and segmentation.
A/B testing is a side-by-side comparison of two e-mails with different versions of one element, whether it's the subject line, message length, header information, etc. The key is to only test one element at a time and keep the e-mails as consistent as possible. Split your e-mail list in half and send the tests at the same time. And be sure both e-mails have a call to action that can be measured.
"Don't have one message that's got a different subject line and a different length and a different call to action, or you won't really be able to tell which of those things that you were playing with had the best effect," he noted.
Segmentation involves separating out groups within your e-mail list (new members, or donors above a certain dollar value) and sending them a more tailored message that relates to them more specifically. Be sure to test the messages you send to your segments to make sure they're having the desired effect.
"Remember, the more tailored, the more personalized, the more customized a message is, the better people tend to feel about receiving it. So a generic newsletter that everybody gets is certainly helpful, but it doesn't bring a whole lot of clickthrough and action," Karp noted. "Whereas a letter to a donor that specifically recognizes the amount of their last gift and requests another gift is going to do a lot better."
Finally, Karp summed up the four main points of the webinar and his keys to e-mail success for nonprofits:
- Deliver valuable e-mail and people will want to receive it.
- Obey the FTC and also "Miss Manners," i.e., listen to responses you get from recipients of your messages.
- Always Be Compiling (ABC) your list, as people move a lot.