Email is a marketing tool that has been used (and abused) for years. Whether your Association is using it for member retention, event and conference marketing, generating non-dues revenue, membership surveys or something else, it is imperative that you have a strategy in place. During this past week, I have been doing a lot of research on email marketing strategies for the Associations that we at Morgan Hollingworth work with and I would like to share with you the following list of 7 best practices that I have developed:

Integrate Email With Other Marketing Channels. Remember that email is just one of many channels in your Association’s overall marketing strategy. To be most effective, your emails should enhance and compliment these other channels, as it will serve to create synergy and thus extend the reach of your message.

Use email as a channel driver for your:

– Website

– Social Media Pages (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn)

– Online Community (Blog, Listserv, Forum)

– Events

– Direct Mail Pieces

Don’t Blast! Gone are the days of “email blasting.” For your Association’s emails to be most effective, they need to be targeted – which means going to the right people, with the right message, at the right time.

– Right People – Segment your members by behavior, interests, demographics, etc.

– Right Message – Ensure that the message is relevant to the said segment. You don’t want to send an email regarding “Reasons to Renew Your Membership” to an individual who has just paid their dues.

– Right Time – Depending on whom you are trying to touch, there may be certain times of day, or days of the week, when the recipient may be more responsive to your message.

Learn the time that is best for your Association’s audience!

Create a Calendar. In addition to specific timing for your email marketing campaigns, the frequency (how often to send) can play a big role in helping to improve your results. Sending email too often can be annoying, resulting in recipients asking to be removed. Not sending often enough can result in your Association being overlooked. Create a calendar to ensure that you are sending an appropriate number of emails a month. As a rule of thumb, limit your general communications to once a month, and supplement only with time-dependent communications such as registration deadlines.

Be Actionable. Before you send an email, make sure the action you want the user to take is extremely clear. When it comes to the Associations we work with, I try to always use the “rule of three”: each email should have three levels of calls to action. The most specific level is the actual reason for the email (membership renewal, event registration, member survey, etc). The most general is a link to your home page.

For instance, if your email is an invite to register for an upcoming conference, the most granular call to action is the link to the conference registration page. The second-level call to action is a link to the “events” section of your website. The most general call to action is a link to your Association’s home page. That way, if the member is not interested in conference registration, there are more generalized, but still targeted, links the user can click on.

Stay On-Brand. In addition to the email design, be sure that your email’s “from address” and subject line are properly branded. Since most people decide if an email is relevant by previewing it (without opening it) make sure your sender name is visible, trustworthy and easily recognized. Do not send marketing emails from robot-looking email addresses, but rather send your marketing emails with a subject line and “from address” that triggers the feeling of “I know who sent this email.” Knowing and trusting the sender is the primary reason for opening an email.

Personalize. Most email marketing software, such as Constant Contact and Informz, allow you to generate personalized mass emails that can include a person’s name or any other personalized information that is relevant. This lets the recipient know that the email was intended for them and that it is not computer-generated spam.
To further personalize your emails, compose your message using a conversational tone (one that is similar to conversing with a close friend), and close your email with a warm salutation. Examples include:

– yours truly

– cheers

– have a good day

– talk to you soon

Test and Analyze. Take the time to test different messages, formats, timing and other email variables. Remember that when testing, it is best to isolate one variable at a time. Here is a list of some potential variables to use for testing:

– Graphics use and style

– Format (HTML, plain text, rich media)

– Subject line

– From line

– Time of day/day of week

– Mailing Frequency

– Copy Length

– Link placement in copy (top, middle, bottom)

– Personalization (presence and degree)

These are just a few best practices that we are using here at Morgan Hollingworth. Let us know what other best practices you can recommend – we would love to hear from you!