An excellent way to communicate, email has become so efficient that it has the U.S. Postal Service trembling in its boots! But seriously, if you're still doing direct mail only, you need to add email marketing to your mix of online fund raising tools. And to get the most out of your email fundraising or email marketing program you need to implement the following four strategic steps to success:
1) Build Your Email House File
The most successful professional fundraisers are using email marketing programs to solicit their house files. I know this may be a long process to develop these lists, but once you have a robust house file acqusition process in place, your email lists will grow and your efundraising or emarketing communications to those lists will deliver for you maximum results, way above any external list file rentals.
Typically, your house file consists of various sublists like your customer file (first or two time buyers); your best customer file (regular, large or monthly donors, for example); and your prospecting file of requestors who have asked for call backs, downloaded white papers, signed up for your newsletters, etc.
In as much as your email success will mostly be measured in dollars raised, or as a conversion rate percent of the overall send, it stands to reason that a larger size internal file will deliver you a greater number of positive replies, once you've found ways to convert the list into sales or gifts. In other words, make a commitment to building your house file, and then ensure that's an ongoing part of your marketing efforts.
2) Test, Test, Test
There are several ways to proceed in this realm. First, you will want to conduct a basic Email Split Test. This is where you send out two or three different versions of the same email to determine which one(s) give you the best results. You can test different subject lines, different email creatives, or different landing pages. By determining which ones perform best, you can fix the underperforming ones and/or concentrate instead on the ones that were productive and successful.
A basic protocol we use as a basis for testing fundraising for nonprofits is the following:
1. Short cause-centric email to longer cause-based landing page
2. Long cause-centric email to shorter cause-based landing page
3. Premium-centric version email to basic premium (ie product Offer) landing page
3) Evaluate Your “Core Metrics”
Your "Core Metrics" are your central pieces of data that help you make primary decisions regarding your email sending. There are three major ones, and numerous secondary ones. The majors we use are the following:
a. Opens (How Many Emails Delivered Were Opened)—This metric is not completely accurate but as a guide it's good to help you determine the effectiveness of your Email Subject Lines. When your open rates are low concentrate on improving your subject lines.
b. Clicks (How Many Opened Emails Clicked Through to Landing Pages) —This metric reflects the effectiveness of the email creative itself. If your click through rates are low concentrate on improving your email content (ie creative). Usually a good ESP will also provide data on which elements of your creative were clicked on, giving you insights into those things that drive click throughs for you.
c. Conversions (How Many Clicks Became Sales or Gifts) —This metric reflects the effectiveness of your landing pages at converting the visitor into a buyer. If your conversion rates are low concentrate on improving your landing pages.
An sub-item to consider regarding conversions is the average amount of each sale or gift, which, will also affect your overall results and thus can help you determine the over-all value of your various Split Test groups and online funraising efforts.
…And a Bonus Step to a Successful Email Fundraising program:
4) Fuss Around to Optimize
I can't emphasize enough how important it is to continue tweaking your programs, looking for pockets of opportunity in the data, and searching for ways to optimize your efforts and their results. Figure out what people are clicking on and accentuate the positives, then eliminate the negatives! Keep a document of lessons learned as well, so you can refer back to things you have gained over the years that you can build on in the future.
Email marketing is a proven and effective way to enhance your ephilanthropy, so use these four principles to accelerate your email marketing efforts, and call Pathmaker Marketing in Phoenix at 623-322-3334 if we can be of any assistance to you. Or read further about this topic on our blog about email fundraising.