Email marketing has been around for over 20 years and yes, it still works incredibly well. There were 3.9 billion email users in 2019. That number is expected to reach 4.3 billion by 2023. But with a deluge of emails arriving in consumer inboxes, 45% of marketers say the most difficult email marketing objective is maintaining an engaged email list. 34% of marketers say their biggest difficulty is increasing email list size and another 33% say it’s achieving measurable ROI. So how do you optimize your email list? We’ve put together some best practices to boost your email game.
Develop Your Audience
Before launching a successful email campaign, you must first develop your list. Advertising your email list on social media is a cost-effective way to grow your audience. Additionally, segmenting your emails based on subscribers’ past actions, location, occupation, and industry are low-lift ways to resonate with subscribers.
There are many email service providers (ESPs) out there for sending messages and collecting subscribers’ information, including NGP 8, ActionNetwork, and MailChimp. Here at A+G Digital, we typically recommend ActionNetwork because of its strong deliverability practices and suite of tools custom to political campaigns. Whichever you decide to use, it’s important to use an email platform that does the heavy lifting for you by allowing you to seamlessly target different subsets of your list and easily manage contacts. Smart segmenting, especially by regularly sending to active universes, can reduce emails ending up in promotions, or worse, in spam.
Eye Catching Subject Lines
This may seem obvious, but subject lines are arguably the most important part of an email. It’s the first thing people see, so it’s important that the subject is attention-grabbing to boost your open rate. 35% of email recipients open emails based on the subject line alone.
For subject lines, 41 characters is the optimal length. Including merge tags like a recipient’s name, city, or state is also a great technique to increase open rates. Many of these tactics will vary from campaign to campaign that’s why it’s important to test different strategies and glean insights from those tests.
Develop Personalized Messaging
The average email open rate is 17%, but emails that include a customer’s first name in the subject line have a 50% higher click-through rate than those that don’t. With supporters expecting campaigns to speak directly to them, customizing your greeting and subject line is non-negotiable.
Leveraging contribution history is also an effective tactic to maximize your email fundraising numbers. At A+G, we customize suggested contribution amounts in an email based on past supporter contributions.
Why is this level of granularity important? If a supporter gave $100 in the past, asking them for $5 means you’re leaving money on the table. Given their history, we know their willingness to give is much higher than that. If a supporter has never given, that data point is equally insightful. A smart email fundraising program might target them with a smaller fundraising ask to move them up the ladder of engagement from a non-donor into a small-dollar donor.
Now that you’ve got your subscribers to open your email, let’s talk about what they’re looking to get out of the experience. A majority of people who sign up for political emails do so to learn more about a candidate and their story. That’s why emails should include relevant, engaging content that your supporters will find interesting and care about — not just incessant fundraising asks. A balanced email program rooted in substance will help build good faith with your subscribers and raise more long-term than a non-stop barrage of fundraising appeals.
Even in the thick of battle on a competitive campaign, non-fundraising emails are important to sprinkle into your email calendar. Supporters don’t want to feel like you see them as just an ATM to constantly hit up for money. Good examples of non-fundraising emails include surveys, petitions, pledges, and policy spotlights.
In some cases, even non-fundraising emails can have a soft ask and a “contribute” button in the wrapper of the email. Sometimes, an email with a daisy-chained donation ask following a non-fundraising ask will even raise more money than a direct fundraising appeal.
Lastly, interactive emails are the way forward. They increase the click-to-open rate by 73% and adding videos to your email can increase click rate by 300%. Engagement is high when it comes to interactive content. Use more graphics, images, and GIFs to make your email more engaging. Add Google Annotations. Utilize HTML5.
Make Your Call To Action Stand Out
Having a clear call to action (CTA) is a major driver of success for email programs. Along with being persuasive and compelling, your call-to-action should be more than simply “click here”. Using CTAs with command verbs makes it clear what clicking on a button will lead to:
- Act now
- Keep reading
- Learn more
- Find out how
- Be the first to know
- DOUBLE your IMPACT
When using CTAs, it’s important to keep a balance between options and simplicity. Too many CTAs can reduce your conversion rate. Generally, emails should only have one CTA. If more are needed, differentiate the secondary CTAs by making them a different color and placing them elsewhere in your email.
Always test your CTAs. Small changes can make a huge difference! Even a city council candidate leading their own race can test their CTA through A/B testing. Work backward from your goal. Is your goal to increase conversion rate, newsletter sign-ups, or open rates? For most political lists, the primary goal is always donations.
It’s important to identify your goal before you begin your test. Ideas for things to test can include changing the layout or design of your email, the text of your CTA, text color, or subject line. As a best practice, only test one element at a time.
Frequency and Timing
Knowing how many emails to send will vary from campaign to campaign, but for most smaller campaigns two to three emails per week is a good starting point – you don’t want to bombard supporters and you certainly don’t want to exclusively send them emails asking for money.
As an important campaign milestone approaches, such as an FEC end-of-quarter deadline or election day, you can increase the cadence of email sends. Some factors to consider when increasing your cadence is the competitiveness of your race and your deliverability rating. At A+G, we keep close tabs on our list health and domain reputation for our clients to ensure high deliverability of emails. If your emails are going to spam, you should take steps to fix your deliverability before increasing your cadence of emails or adding new names.
Design For Mobile
53% of emails are opened on mobile devices so there’s no excuse not to design emails for mobile use. When designing for mobile, keep this in mind:
- Single-column layouts work best and are easier to read on small mobile devices. Multi-column layouts are prone to error on mobile unless you have capacity to test your responsiveness on every device.
- Per Apple guidelines, links and buttons should have a minimum target area of 44×44 pixels.
- 13 pixels is the minimum font size for iPhones. If you use anything smaller, it will be upscaled and could alter your design.
- Always keep your message concise, and place all important design elements in the upper portion of the email.
Email is here to stay.
For campaigns, it’s the lifeblood of online fundraising. There’s more than one way to run a successful email campaign. If you find that your email campaigns aren’t performing to the level you would like, switch things up and try incorporating some new tactics! Don’t be afraid to try new things and take risks: but be sure your strategy is rooted in data and helps you meet your goals.