Email marketing is an essential component of a successful fundraising strategy – it is relatively inexpensive, has immediacy, can be personalized and allows for testing and experimentation of messaging.  In short, it is a great way to engage and build relationships with constituents.   But to create, execute and optimize email campaigns you must pay attention to the details. 

To help you avoid some common pitfalls, we’ve put together our top 10 tips along with some interesting supporting stats:

  1. Get a good email service provider.  A recent survey found that companies that use an email service provider are more likely to be satisfied with their email marketing than companies that do not.  Outlook is good for emailing 1-on-1, but it is not an email marketing tool.  There are a lot of reasons why you shouldn’t use Outlook (or a similar email client), ranging from the look-and-feel of your emails, to managing mass sends, bouncebacks and autoreplies, to even potentially breaking the law (CAN-SPAM).  Most importantly though, you won’t be able to track who is opening and clicking on your emails. 
  2. Invest in your database.  The most effective email list is the one you earn, but even then you will probably need to append it with additional detail in order to prioritize and effectively target the right donors with the right ask.   A Wealth Intelligence provider can help here.
  3. Personalize your outreach. Get to know your donors; not just in terms of their giving capacity but also their lifestyles, interests and affinity.  Data and analytics can assist by helping you understand what characteristics your best donors have in common.  Again, good Wealth Intelligence solutions like WealthEngine can help, allowing you to dramatically increase the open and click rates on your email campaigns.
  4. Move them along their education and decision journey.  Not only are your donors all different but they are all at different stages in their decision to donate; the most successful email marketers figure out what content is valued at each stage and tailor their email content to educate them appropriately.
  5. Get their attention. Sixty-four percent of people say they open an email because of the subject line (Chadwick Martin Bailey).   You have to stand-out from the hundreds of other emails they receive and you have to be specific about your message.   Shorter subject lines get read more, as a lot of email software restricts the subject line in the ‘view’ window. Interestingly, subject lines fewer than 10 characters long have an open rate of 58%. (Adestra July 2012 Report).  
  6. Be informative, but not overly provocative.  Get their attention, but don’t go crazy!  A unique and provocative subject line may get them to open once, but if you don’t follow-through with content of real value you will lose the recipients trust and they won’t click again.
  7. Get to the point.   After the subject line, recipients often only read the first few lines of an email, so include your call-to-action (CTA) - the thing you want the recipient to do (e.g. contact you, download a study, watch a video, make a donation) - early on in your email copy. 
  8. Keep it simple.  Rather than asking for name, address, company, and so on, keep it simple. The fewer fields you ask someone to complete the higher the chance of them giving you any details.   You can always use an append service to add the details you don’t have later.
  9. Timing is everything.  When you send your email can be a big factor in open and click rates.  For example, stats show that Monday emails have the highest financial return per email. (Experian 2012 Q4 Email Benchmark Report) and the highest number of email opens and clicks on a mobile device occur from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. (The second-biggest peak occurs between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m.) (Source: TailoredMail 2012 Email Marketing Trends)
  10. Figure out what works for you.  Test and track results. At the end of the day, you need to determine what works best for you.  For example, try A/B testing – split your audience into two (or more) groups and try different subject lines, different CTAs, different content to see which has the best open and click rates.  By testing and tracking often you’ll find the optimal model for your organization and constituent base. But don’t test too many things at once.  Only by keeping it simple will you be able to tell what worked, and what didn’t.

Our goal here is to give a brief outline of some pitfalls and best practices to be aware of.   If it seems daunting, don’t worry!  Remember you can start as small as you need to and learn and evolve your efforts as your confidence grows.  

And of course, WealthEngine is always here to help.  We are a full service provider able to assist with everything from email appends, prospect list generation, email creation and campaign optimization.   Just let us know when you are ready to talk and one of our experts would be happy to discuss your needs.

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