With the right tools, a good knowledge and segmentation of your contact bases and a suitable content strategy, email marketing can give you many joys. But let’s go by steps.
Email marketing is one of the four columns on which your digital fundraising is based. All that happens in the digital channel, all the interactions with your audience, occur in one of the following environments: web environment, email environment, social media environment or digital advertising environment.
In addition, email marketing is the main tool you have for increase the loyalty of your social base and, as you know, keeping a collaborator is much more interesting for your organization than capturing a new one. If you compare the ROI of your retention and recruitment efforts, you’ll find that retention always wins.
However, loyalty actions are not so obvious or easy to measure, and we run the risk of focusing on what is easier to see, recruitment, while we hope that the retention rate will be good just because we deserve it 🙂
Don’t underestimate email marketing. It is one of the few channels you have to create an authentic connection with the people who keep your organization alive. If you use it correctly, it can be a key tool both for strengthening the relationship with your social base and for attracting donations.
This post will help you to establish a good email marketing strategy that improves the retention rate, satisfaction and engagement of your social base. Let’s see which are the steps you should take into account, how to better understand and segment your contact bases, and how to establish an appropriate content strategy.
Is not about your organization
Maybe this title is a bit confusing, but I’ll clarify it. The focus of your emailing cannot simply be to report on what your organization does indiscriminately. Your emails should explain things that interest your subscribers. This is more about them, and what they need, than about your organization. You must build a relationship with your social base and potential collaborators, providing them with really relevant and valuable information, which will help or please them in some way. If you put it like this, your subscribers will not only read the emails, but they will be looking forward to receiving them.
Design your email marketing strategy
We receive more than 100 emails every day. That means that if you don’t take the time to think and develop an effective strategy, your organization’s emails will get lost in your inboxes or worse, they will end up in spam. But do not be alarmed, you just need a plan. And if you follow a series of key steps, you can deploy an email marketing strategy that will make your subscribers fall in love.
Think of the following points as the basic outline to define your strategy. You will not need to write a very detailed plan, but it is very important that you think about each of these aspects before you begin. We will delve into some of them in a moment.
- Define your audience and goals.
- Choose the right software.
- Define the editorial line and the calendar.
- Measure the results.
Define your audience and goals
Depending on the goals you have defined, you can approach your organization’s email marketing in very different ways. To establish these objectives, it will be useful to think about the different audiences or segments of your contact database. Some of the most common segments are:
- Users (and family).
- Subscribers to the newsletter and / or blog.
- One-time donors.
- Regular donors (or memberships).
- Major donors.
The subject of segmentation can be very sophisticated. For example, you can establish rules about people who have more than one relationship with the organization, work with interactions, etc. In any case, you will need to establish a different editorial line and calendar for each of the groups that you define. And you’ll need to set your goals, too, in a personalized way for each of those groups. Here I share a list of objectives that you can consider:
- Build relationships.
- Increase knowledge of what the organization does.
- Promote blog content or materials such as ebooks, guides, etc.
- Increase the donor base.
- Convert on-time donors in regular donors.
- Increase the average of donors contribution.
- Encourage participation in activities.
- Increase the volunteer base.
- Loyalty regular donors and major donors.
Everyone who receive an email from our organization has to feel that the content is designed for she/he. You will need to describe your prototype person, make a profile of your target in each of these groups, understand what they want and adapt your editorial line to send them content that they consider relevant.
Choose the right software
Choosing the right tool can save you tons of time and money. In the market there are different options. You can see the most interesting in this directory of resources for the third sector.
Email marketing software will not be isolated within the toolkit you use. At a minimum, you will need to feed from your organization’s databases. For this reason, choosing the most suitable one for your organization will depend a lot on the CRM software you are using, and the integration capacity you need to establish. Also regarding your website and CMS (content management system).
But leaving this issue aside, in general, you have to think of a tool that allows you to design and send emails in a completely autonomous way (no customized designs from a provider every time you have to send an email). A software that adapts to the volume of your audience and allows you to grow in number of users without disruption. One that has a suitable learning curve and good online support. For all these reasons, my recommendation is MailChimp.
Mailchimp follows a freemium business model that offers up to 2,000 subscribers and 10,000 monthly mailings for free. With MailChimp, in addition, the people of your audience can manage their subscription (update the information provided, unsubscribe) and always generate Opt-in mailing lists (people who have given us permission to receive communications).
It will allow you to work on design and communication at a high level of quality, without the need to hire designers or programmers. No html layout is required. From layout, device compatibility, etc. MailChimp takes care of it.
In addition, it has a good metrics module to analyze and segment based on the results obtained. And, also, it offers you a great capacity in automating messages and workflows, and all the advanced functionalities that you will need to deploy your email marketing plan..
Define the editorial line and the calendar
As we have seen previously, the editorial line of your campaign can follow very different guidelines depending on the objective and the audience you are targeting. Deciding between the different options that are presented to you can be difficult: should I send a weekly newsletter? When and how to send information about the fundraising campaigns we launch ?; What blog posts are worth sharing?…
These are questions that affect all those responsible for communication and fundraising, and the answer is different for each case. I recommend that you start by looking at examples from other organizations (do a little market study) and then decide which is the best line for your audience. You will also need to define different lists for the different segments and editorial lines, so that the people in your social base can register only to receive the emails that they consider relevant to them.
Lastly, it’s important that you establish how often you plan to communicate with your audiences, and inform subscribers in advance so they know what to expect. From there, you should maintain a constant shipping calendar to build trust and not forget about your organization. Ah! And don’t forget to open channels to receive feedback. Subscribers must have some way to influence what we say to them, how we say it, and how often. These options to interact and the information you will extract from them will be key to fine-tune your editorial line and increase the satisfaction and engagement of your audience.
Measure the results
As specialists in digital fundraising, we are fortunate to be able to measure it all. Defining a measurement plan will help you to make changes to your emails that will greatly improve the results.
NYou will need to establish a table of KPIs and, for each KPI that you define, you must mark a quantitative objective that allows you to evaluate if you are doing well, or not, with respect to the forecasts. To do this, you may find it useful to consult third-sector email marketing statistics. They will serve as a reference and will offer you very interesting context information to make decisions.
MLater we will stop to explain in detail which are the KPIs that you will need to monitor. Now that you’ve seen what steps you need to define an email marketing strategy for your organization, let’s get down to getting started.
Design and start sending emails
At this time, you have a defined strategy, an editorial line and a first segmentation of your database. You have also chosen the tool (mailchimp or similar) that will allow you to start sending emails. Well! Let’s start communicating with them.
Email marketing is very rewarding in terms of return, but it demands the attention and affection of an artisan. To launch an email, you will need to take into account some things such as the time of sending, the format, the devices from which they read us, the amount of text, the subject … All these aspects will have a very notable impact on the results. Let’s see the points that you will need to work to make successful emails:
- Copy: the text of your email must be consistent with the communication style of your organization and, as far as possible, stick to a single topic. Use a personal, confident, close, pleasant tone. As for quantity: less is more. If you can express an idea in 3 words, don’t use 4.
- Images: It is important to spend time looking for images that best illustrate your message. They are an element that clearly affects the results. Choose images that are optimized for all devices, that are eye-catching, and that reinforce the idea of the text.
- CTA: the best thing is that we only use a Call to Action that leads to a really interesting offer. It should be clear, concise, and stand out from the rest of the email.
- Timing: in general, the best days to ship will be Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday first thing in the morning (7:00 am) or at noon (1:30 pm). Regardless, I recommend that you test different times of the week with your audience to determine what works best for you.
- Mobile first: Most emails are opened from mobile devices. Therefore, your emails should be designed for mobile first, and then for other devices.
- Subject: its function is similar to a news headline. You need to grab the reader’s attention and arouse their curiosity to get them to open your message. Use clear, direct and attractive language.
- Personalization: your email marketing software will allow you to add custom fields. Do not miss it. You can use the custom fields to add the recipient’s name to the subject or greeting; to add a reference to your geographical area, to refer to an interaction that you have starred in a previous email…
Set up different mailing lists
As we have seen before, the more you segment your list, the more trust you will generate with your audience and the easier it will be to later convert them into valuable relationships for your organization.
Email marketing platforms like MailChimp allow you to segment your lists by contact and behavior data to help you send the right emails to the right people. Here are some targeting options:
- By type of relationship with the organization
- By level of involvement and response to communications
- By seniority of the relationship with your organization
- By geographical location
- By language
- By sector and professional level
You can split the list in many ways, but the most important thing is to make sure you are as unique as possible when emailing each subgroup. Within the maelstrom of day to day, it is easy to send practically the same things, a little adapted, to all those people. Try to avoid it and, if you can’t, reduce the level of segmentation.
Add automation processes
Automation will allow you to send very specific emails in response to your audience’s interactions. There are two ways to do this:
Autoresponders are emails that are sent automatically in response to a certain action, such as when someone downloads a guide in pdf format from your website.
To define them you have to apply the same advice that we have seen previously, and decide with what time frame it is more appropriate to send them.
Automatic responses allow you to interact in a very personalized way with your audience without the need for great dedication: once they are configured, you can enjoy the results.
Workflows allow you to take autoresponders one step further. The graphic representation of a workflow is a tree with branches that define what happens if our audience performs, or not, a certain action or fulfills, or not, a certain requirement.
The workflow tools are sophisticated enough to know if a user has opened an email or responded to a CTA, and will allow you to activate a series of actions based on that behavior. That means you can send a series of emails or even modify a user’s targeting based on their responses to your messages.
The key difference with an autoresponder is that the workflows take into account more factors and we can establish a much more complex logic on them, which allows the series of emails to adapt to the itinerary of your audience. In an autoresponder, a user receives a specific set of emails at specific time intervals regardless of how they behave upon receipt.
Analyze results and establish continuous improvement processes
If you’ve made it this far, you already have practically everything you need to launch, or relaunch, your organization’s email marketing. However, you still have a fundamental step pending: the analysis of results.
The only way to really know, what best suits your audience is: test actions, measure them, draw conclusions and improve the following actions based on the conclusions you have drawn.
Here are the best ways to analyze the effectiveness of your email marketing campaigns.
Not all email lists are the same. Some audiences prefer bold CTA buttons, and others prefer a more subtle call-to-action. Some prefer a sober and direct language, and others, a poetic and ornate style.
To get to know the people in your audience you need to test different variables in your emails. And that’s where A / B testing will come in handy. A / B testing allows you to see which type of email works best with your audience: you can analyze the results of email A compared to email B. The step-by-step process to perform A / B testing is the next:
- Select only one variable to compare in each test, for example, subject line, CTA, images.
- Create two versions of the email: with a big difference in the application of the variable.
- Sends, simultaneously, the two versions of mail on a part of the total audience.
- Analyze the results and keep only the version that worked best.
- Try a new variable and repeat the process.
Most email service providers have A / B tests built into their software, so you can compare results and establish these types of processes without the need for a great deal of data processing effort.
Design your KPI chart
There are four key metrics that you need to pay attention to in order to evaluate the effectiveness of your email marketing campaigns.
- Deliverability: The percentage of emails that reach subscribers’ inboxes, and the time it takes to do so.
- Open rate: the percentage of people who open the email once they have received it.
- Click-through rate (CTR): the percentage of people who click on one of your CTAs.
- Unsubscribing: The number of people who choose not to continue on your email list after receiving an email.
There are many factors that affect your KPIs, and you will need to experiment to discover which adjustments will produce relevant improvements. If your numbers are not good, try modifying the following variables:
- Deliverability. Make sure that the software and systems you use follow best practices to avoid spam filters. Remove inactive people from your list (for example, those who haven’t opened an email in the last two years) to keep only engaged subscribers. Check which emails were bounced and remove those email addresses from your list.
- Open rate. Work with the creativity of your subjects to entice people to click on your message. Adjust the time and day you send the email to see what works best.
- Click-through rate (CTR) Evaluate the CTA to make sure it adds value to the chosen segment. Work on the writing to make sure it is clear what you want the reader to do. Try different CTAs, for example: button, graphic text, in-text, bold.
- Unsubscribes. Find out why these people are being removed from your list. Throw hypotheses and try to confirm them. Make sure that the periodicity of the messages is adequate, and that you are not overexposing your audience. Make sure the editorial line is fully aligned with the segment, and provides them with relevant content. Check that you are not sending unclear CTAs, or that generate frustration to your audience: that they generate an expectation that has not just been fulfilled.
It is important that you spend some time designing your KPI chart, so that you can analyze the data in an organized way. An email marketing report is a spreadsheet that allows you to record all your performance data, draw conclusions, and take action to improve it. At a minimum, you should reflect the following information for each delivery:
Total number of emails sent
Number of emails delivered
Open rate (on delivered emails)
CTR. Number of clicks on delivered emails.
Unsubscribe rate (on delivered emails)
Amount of text
Graphic template type
CTA layout type
All ready to go
The biggest advantage of email marketing is that you are the owner of the channel. The effort to grow your distribution lists and build a solid relationship with your subscribers will clearly pay off for the value it will bring to your organization. Use the techniques of Inbound Marketing or Content Marketing to attract a potential audience and grow your contact list. And remember to take into account the regulations on data protection.
Your social base wants to hear from your organization, receive information and establish a stronger bond. If you treat them like people, not lists, and make an effort to offer them relevant, original content and adapted to what they need, they will be looking forward to receiving your emails.