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August 17, 2022

Answers to Common Email Marketing Questions (Vol. 1)

Make sure you have the basics covered when starting any email marketing campaign.  

With all the tools available in today’s email marketing automation platforms, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the things that can be done when marketing to association members. But whether you’re just starting to build your email marketing strategy or looking to better leverage your existing email marketing, it helps to make sure you have the answers to some of the more common questions we hear at Higher Logic.  

Here are some common email marketing questions we get: 

What can I do to ensure email deliverability?  

Deliverability is all about your IP address and how legit it is. IP warming helps build a good reputation for your IP address. On the receiving end, most email platforms and clients use a variety of tools like SPF and DKIM to make sure emails are coming from legitimate senders. On the sender side, you’re hopefully using DMARC to make sure your domain isn’t used to spoof, phish, and commit cybercrime. Once your domain gets tagged as “risky,” it’s very hard to get your emails into recipients’ inboxes instead of their spam folders.     

You help your deliverability by avoiding the things that endanger your reputation as an email sender. To keep your deliverability up:  

  1. Don’t use purchased/rented/leased/shared lists. Even if they’re validated, they might contain a spam trap. 
  2. Don’t do a sudden email blast to a lot of addresses you rarely send to. That’s seen as suspicious.  
  3. Give recipients a clear unsubscribe option. You don’t want them to use it, but if it’s not there, they’re more likely to mark you as spam. Most email platforms won’t even let you exclude an unsubscribe link.
How do I stop email unsubscribes?  

It’s probably best to start with the question of why members might be unsubscribing. This can involve some common sense as well as applying how you yourself react to the marketing emails that you get. When reading through your own email, you probably delete emails that you never subscribed to in the first place, or that you thought would be useful but turned out not to be, or that weren’t relevant to the things you care about, or came too often, or some combination of the above. 

Association members are no different. They’re busy. They get hit with a lot of messaging. And they apply rapid mental filters to determine what should and shouldn’t get their attention. Keep your emails useful and relevant by better segmenting your lists, letting members set preferences based on topic, giving members a mute option to silence emails on a singular topic (like an event they can’t attend), setting up follow-up emails based on reader triggers, and offer non-email content options like RSS. 

How do I re-engage an unsubscribed member?  

Some members are going to unsubscribe. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t still members of your association, and it doesn’t mean they don’t get value out of their membership. Unsubscribes are, at their root, a communication issue. If you can, try using transactional emails to make sure the member knows they’re unsubscribed and can update their preferences if it was a mistake. Sometimes they realize they miss getting the information and re-subscribe—and sometimes someone else unsubscribed them from a forward.  

Ideally, you spot and reach unengaged members before they unsubscribe and address their unspoken issues with an effective re-engagement campaign. These campaigns can be automated and triggered to send an email only to those who say, haven’t opened an email in 45 days. These re-engagement emails should have strong, catchy subject lines and remind the member of the value to be had from the information they’re getting. Create “FOMO”—the “Fear of Missing Out.”  

If they’re unwilling to re-subscribe, listen attentively to their reasons. They probably aren’t the only members who feel this way and you can get tipped off about things you need to fix that will prevent additional unsubscribes.  

How do I know if we’re sending too many emails?   

While this is a common question, it’s one that’s easily answered. When you struggle to populate all the emails you want to send with quality, worthwhile content, you’re sending too many emails. When you see open rates trending down, you’re sending either too many emails or emails of poor relevancy. When you see engagement trending down, your emails are being increasingly judged as “not worthwhile.” When you’re hearing complaints about too many emails and unsubscribes are trending up, you’re obviously sending too many emails. 

The issue is that every member’s definition of “too many” is going to be different. It isn’t about quantity so much as it is usefulness. Someone might want an email several times a day about stock tips, but at the same time regard one email a week from their association as too many. Your best strategy is to offer members as much control over both email volume and what kinds of emails they get in their preferences. Sometimes the mere act of making that customization available signals to the member that even if you’re sending too many emails, you’re sensitive to that issue and care about their experience. You’re empowering them.   

Beyond that, you can run email sends at varying frequencies throughout the year or do A/B frequency testing to see what effect each strategy has on engagement. But be warned, the whole message of email marketing automation is that one size does not fit all. Different segments will prefer different frequencies. Lastly, see if you can spot cause and effect situations. Are people unsubscribing more after getting offer emails than they do after getting blog emails? That’s telling you something.  

What makes a great email template? 
  • Targeting. The better your targeting the better your results, whether that’s just the targeting of the overall email, or specific targeting of each individual story and zone.  
  • A short, clear subject line that doesn’t mislead the reader as to what the content is.  
  • A preheader that shows up in the preview pane of email clients. Use it to expand on the subject line. 
  • Personalization wherever possible. Just make sure the data is updated and correct.  
  • A physical mailing address and an unsubscribe link. You need these to be CAN-SPAM compliant. 
  • A way for recipients to reply. It’s seen as deeply shady when you can’t reply to a marketing email. But when they do reply, make sure you don’t ignore them. 
  • A CTA that tells them what they should do about this email they’re looking at.  
  • Media embeds that are small in kb, but make the email more engaging, visually pleasing, and entertaining. 
  • Responsive design so that the email will look good on the vast majority of devices.  
  • Links that work and that you can track.   
There’s a class for that.  

If you’d like to get a bit more in depth as you’re getting serious about email marketing, you can take our free 2-week Email Marketing Course, delivered daily via (what else?) email!  

Contributing Higher Logic All Stars: 
Beth Arritt, Association Evangelist 
Sarah Spinosa, Product Marketing Manager 
Vivien Swertinski, Sr. Manager, Strategic Services   
Amanda DeLuke, Information Security Assurance Specialist 
David Jovel, Director of Sales