Getting Your Message Across
With an ever-multiplying field of communication platforms, email is still one of the best ways to keep in contact with your members.
Thus, it is important for associations to keep up with email-industry changes as email providers and ISPs (internet service providers) continue to standardize email delivery requirements to protect consumers. These protections are important for your members, but could mean that your emails get caught in their spam-blockers. This article is designed to help your association employ email marketing best practices to ensure your emails are being delivered and getting your message across to your members.
There are three critical elements necessary to effectively engage your members via email. These elements are clean data, strategic planning, and clear content. We live in a data-driven world; and as associations, data is critical to better serving our members and meeting our goals. Having good data will also allow us to think strategically about how to engage members, bringing them the content and programs they are most interested in. Lastly, with so much information at our fingertips, sometimes less is more when relaying your message.
In an earlier blog on communication, we stressed the importance of targeting your audience before attempting to get your message across. This is even more important as email service providers (or mailbox providers) continue to standardize and improve email delivery standards. Some mailbox providers like Gmail and Yahoo! Mail are filtering emails beyond just junk or spam. If your members aren't opening your emails, your campaigns may be filtered out of their main inboxes and sorted into less important folders or areas. Additionally, if you have a high bounce rate on your email campaigns or regularly send to email addresses that are no longer in use, mailbox providers may lower your trustworthiness rating as an email sender. This means, even if a member does not unsubscribe or mark your message as junk, it still may never get in front of their eyes.
How can your association avoid this? Protect your trustworthiness as an email sender by keeping the email addresses in your database up to date. If an email address bounces back, look to that member's profile for an alternate email address or reach out to them via phone or social media to get an updated email. Often members move to new jobs and never update their email address on file, so they may not even know they have been out of the loop.
Assuming you have looked at your data to segmented out your different audiences, also segment your marketing campaigns into targeted email marketing lists. For example, create lists for Directors, New Members, etc. and only send information relevant to their interests or career stage. This way you can allow your members the flexibility to opt-out of specific mailing lists such as the newsletter or upcoming programs, rather than globally unsubscribing to all of your emails.
Additionally, try not to think of email marketing in silos. Think holistically about how frequently different members groups would like to be contacted, as well as, what content they will engage with. A new member will likely want to hear from you! However, a new member that joined at a "recent graduate" rate may want information your career resources and networking events. While a new member joining at the "retired" rate might be more interested in your most recent newsletters full of industry updates.
The same way you should target groups for specific email marketing, it is important to also remember to exclude segments when appropriate. Our members are professionals and are constantly flooded with emails, try not to add to the flood water unnecessarily. Getting too many emails from your organization can prompt members to unsubscribe from your emails all-together. Meaning they could potentially miss important meeting invitations or renewal dates. So, if you have certain member types that can't access certain events or ballots - leave them off of all of the updates and reminder emails.
Lastly, but certainly not least, keep it simple. Make sure the content in your email is clear and uncluttered. Only include the highlights and details that matter and link to more information when possible. Your subject lines should be equally clear and concise, while also grabbing your members' attention as they skim their inbox on their phone, computer, or tablet. Consider that more and more people are using their phones and the primary means to check their email, especially in professions where works are on the move and away from their offices. Be sure that your subject line makes sense on a 4-inch screen!
Gabrielle (Gaby) Webster, MS is an Association Manager at McKenna Management, Inc. Gaby works with clients to provide premiere service and engaging programs for their members and prospects. Gaby believes in serving her community and is passionate about educating youth.