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The Tech for Social Change Baltimore Meetup Message Board Meeting Logistics, Details, and Notes › 2012 February - Amy Hollomon - Email Newsletters

2012 February - Amy Hollomon - Email Newsletters

Kate B.
Baltimore, MD
Post #: 17
Amy Hollomon, Senior Strategic Account Manager at WhatCounts, told us how to improve our email newsletters.

Email marketing is a targeted way to support sales and donations. A successful email campaign gets subscribers' attention and causes them to take action.

Build Your List
Before you add someone to your list, ask their permission. Do not purchase or harvest email addresses. These subscribers will be less engaged and may think less of your organization. People and Internet service providers will mark your messages as spam, which means your newsletters will be delivered to spam folders more often. You may also be fined for violating the CAN-SPAM Act. To learn more about the CAN-SPAM Act, check out CAN-SPAM Act: A Compliance Guide for Business from the Federal Trade Commission and Permission-Based Email Marketing: Privacy, Preferences & Best Practice, a Blue Sky Factory CAN-SPAM Webinar.

You can ask people to subscribe to your newsletter in many ways: presenting an opt-in form on your website or Facebook page, asking phone callers for their email addresses, or having a sign-up sheet at public events.

On your website, display your sign-up form on every page. Make it short, let people know what to expect, and tell them what's in it for them. Once someone subscribes, show them a thank you page and then immediately send a welcome email with a prompt to whitelist your email address, a link to opt out of future emails, and information on how to find you on social networking sites.

Clean out your email list regularly. Before removing people, try running a re-engagement campaign. Find email addresses that haven't engaged in the last 90 days. Send them an email, asking them to confirm they are still interested and warning them they will be removed if they don't respond. Send another more urgent email the next week. Send a final notice the third week and then remove anyone who hasn't responded.

Deliver Emails to Inboxes Not Spam Folders
You want to make certain that your email is delivered to as many of the people on your list as possible. You, or your IT staff, need to monitor deliverability and IP address reputation, subscribe to feedback loops, and set up authentication records (sender ID, SPF, domain keys, and so on).

Get Your Emails Opened
A good open rate is between 13 and 25 percent. A good click-through rate is between 3-5 percent. (Check out industry benchmarks to get an idea of how other similar organizations are doing. Convio puts out a yearly report for nonprofit organizations: The Convio Online Marketing Nonprofit Benchmark Index Study.)

Subject lines matter a lot: 45.2 percent of people open emails because of the subject, and 69 percent say they mark something as spam or junked based on the subject. Good subject lines are a lot like headlines on magazine covers. They should be less than 35 characters, include your brand or company name, and describe what is in the email. Avoid using the word "free" or capitalizing the entire subject line. When you've created a subject line, step back and test it.

Plan the design of your newsletter carefully.
  • Design it for the email inbox and not a website or mobile device.
  • Make it less than 650 pixels wide.
  • Be consistent across campaigns.
  • Keep important elements, like your call to action, above the fold (the top 300 px).
  • Make your content brief and use teasers.
  • Balance your text to picture ratio.
  • Include pre-header text; links to view in a browser or on a mobile device, to forward to a friend, to share with your network, to opt-out, and to change preferences; and a physical mailing address.
  • Code your HTML by hand. No WYSIWYG editors.
  • Don't use media, scripts, or background images.
  • Use inline style sheets.
  • Use your company's name or the name of the person who is sending the newsletter as the From address and not ""
  • Monitor replies and set up role accounts for the domain (postmaster, admin, info, and so on) where people might try to contact you.

If you don't know how to design your email newsletter, look to tools like Constant Contact, MailChimp, or VerticalResponse, which have templates.

You can check out the WhatCount's Email Marketing Best Practices Guide for a complete list of tips.

Test Your Newsletter Before You Send It
  • Do a five-second test. Glance at the newsletter. What do you see first? Was it the most important item? If it's not, redesign the newsletter.
  • Test different email services. Each has its quirks.
  • Try some A/B testing. You can A/B test subject lines, date and times to send your newsletter, the frequency of your newsletter, creative design, imagine placement, call-to-action variations, call-to-action placement, landing pages, and so on.

Amy talked about a client, True Citrus, who wanted to increase their open rates. WhatCounts helped them divide up their email list into seven groups. Each of the seven groups received the newsletter on a different day of a given week. Based on the results, they found that they should send their newsletters on Saturday because that was when the most were opened.

Before you send our your email, you need to decide on a goal and then collect the metrics to measure that goal. You can measure open rates, click-through rates, complaint rates, sales, client rentention, and so on.

  • Visit Baltimore - They have a sign up on every page of their website, present a thank you page and message to subscribers, and segment their list by areas of interest. They use a captcha, but most WhatCounts clients aren't.
  • Irvine Nature Center - They have four designs for their newsletter to correspond to the seasons. This connects subscribers back to nature and their mission.
  • Visit Vallejo - They include a monthly trivia question to encourage action.
  • WYPR - Deborah Davis reported that they've reduced their 7-day on-air membership campaign to 4 days because of targeted email marketing. Their list has more than 15,000 names with about 8,000 of those being members. She sends different messages to members and non-members. Members get a thank you for being members and asked to renew. Non-members are encouraged to give for the first time or renew their lapsed memberships.

    Materials from this session are available online:

Kate B.
Baltimore, MD
Post #: 18
Michael Sola posted more information on industry benchmarks from Constant Contact.
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