Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

August 07 2013

Effective Email Marketing

Jill Formeister

How do you cut through the virtual noise to entice your members to read your emails?  At a recent Association Forum of Chicagoland SIG meeting on Email Marketing: Writing Effective Emails to Maximize Results, Hilary Marsh, President and Chief Content and Digital Strategist, Content Company, Inc. and Cheryl Wilson, Senior Manager, Marketing at the American Student Dental Association (ASDA) shared their tips.  

Hilary drew on her previous experience as Managing Director of REALTOR.org at the National Association of REALTORS (NRA). She noted that most associations have a 98% received rate, 32% open rate, and 21% click rate, and .51% unsubscribe rate.  NRA’s click rate went down because they sent too many emails.  Eventually, they combined communications from 23 departments into one weekly newsletter.  

As a key component of an email, “The subject line should be something or someone easily recognizable,” Hilary said.  “ ’From the CEO’ might be ineffective.”  She also enjoined that “Shorter is better.  In our (NRA) survey, the highest open rates were for emails with subject lines of less than 10 words.”  Also, “Choose the right words” such as “alert, bulletin, new, breaking” to convey the meaning you want.   Avoid “newsletter, forecast, report, top stories, free.”  She noted that “help,” “percent off,” and “reminder” tend to trigger spam filters. 

Hilary’s additional suggestions included:

·         Get creative – share a “secret” in the subject line.
·         Use numbers, such as an interesting statistic.
·         Lead off with “something juicy in the subject line.  Think magazine cover lines.”
·         Focus on the benefits.
·         Consider where members will go on your website when they click on your
             emails.  
Remember that it’s all about the member.
·         What are you measuring?  It’s about more than opens and clicks.  Measure
             satisfaction 
and visits.
·         Mix your newsletter content well and organize into different sections or
             categories.
·         Account for different levels of knowledge. 

Cheryl provided insights from her work at ASDA, describing steps in building email marketing strategy.  Considerations include segmentation and being able to answer “What’s in it for me?”  She explained that “segments can be past attendees, members who have never attended, members within driving distance, and people who have clicked on similar content.”  

When planning content, think about what your readers care about or need to know.  Start with the Planning Committee, and tap into information from session planning worksheets.  Then tell your story in different ways, using content teasers, sharing tips, or including links to articles or white papers.  Offer webcasts on similar topics or use video to add a human element. 

“ASDA emails with videos tend to have higher open rates,“ she said.  “Mix promotions with takeaways.  Also, keep the video conversational, without a formal script.”  ASDA uses a flipcam to film their videos, especially at meetings.   Use videos post-meeting to promote the next event. 

Cheryl’s suggestions include:

·         Don’t bury the lead
·         Talk about benefits
·         Make the content skimmable (i.e., use bullets)
·         Avoid lengthy words and syllables
·         Include testimonials
·         Use media – Which photos will pique your readers’ interest?  How else can                              you tell the story?
·         Include a unique call to action, such as “Chapter Leaders: Register your group.” 

Finally, Cheryl reminded attendees to have a system to keep track of emails and analytics, such as a spreadsheet.

Greater Midwest Chapter