Answers to Common Email Marketing Questions (Vol. 2)

Associations, marketing automation // With all the tools and technologies available, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the things that can be done when marketing to association members. That's why we are answering some of the most common email marketing questions.

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With all the tools and technologies 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. 

In volume one of this series, we provided answers to a series of common questions we hear regarding email marketing. Today, we continue with answers to four additional questions.  

Do open rates matter anymore or does this Apple rule make it a useless metric?  

Ah, yes, Mail Privacy Protection. It’s something Apple has deployed to block tracking pixels, which are little images you can’t see that download so you can tell if an email got opened. That trick is frustrating, but even before Apple, the open metric had problems. For many years now, you’ve been unable to tell if a plain text email was opened (because it doesn’t have images), and if a user has image downloading disabled, their email open won’t be counted unless they click on a link. But Apple’s move was more publicized, not only because those products accounted for a huge amount of email opens, but because other providers appear to be following suit.  

Where does this leave you? First, don’t feel too bad. Because of the limitations described above, open rate metrics have always been a little suspect. Organizations were gauging engagement and things like subject line effectiveness and list health on it, when in fact the “learnings” they were getting were probably misleading.  

This new development is actually just moving us away from vanity metrics. You can still track more accurate, more meaningful KPIs like clicks, conversions, and ROI. And, to get good marks on those metrics, associations will need to up the importance of member profiling built off multiple data touchpoints so emails can go out that yield success with these deeper metrics.  

Is there a best day and time to send emails?  

The good news is, yes there is. The bad news is, it’s probably different for every member. Not association, member.

Some only check email once a day. Others leave their email open and jump on each one as they come in. Many see emails in their inbox and think to themselves, “I’ll get to this later,” but then that email slides further down the list and into oblivion. So, as you might surmise, the best time and day to send an email depends on the individual receiving it. And again, being able to track and identify member behavior is your magic key to finding out when those days and times are.   

Over time, the trends you see about your own members can be very helpful. But assumptions based on industry benchmarks and/or “marketing averages” may not benefit you if your members aren’t typical 9-5 desk jockeys. As with all benchmarks, your own history and experience is the best judge of the future.   

This answer might be frustrating because it involves countless variables and there is no industry standard. But, that’s a good thing, because it moves you deeper in the direction of individual member profiling, segmenting, and delivery. Researching and testing will reveal the best days and times in pursuit of your KPIs. And as we’ve already discussed, there’s less cause to chase the “email opens” metric anyway.   

How can I use email marketing to generate non-dues revenue?  

You’re asking the right question. Associations get almost 60% of their revenue from non-dues revenue. This encompasses paid opportunities like advertising, events, webinars, courses, and certifications.  

Using email to communicate and sell these opportunities is little different from using email to communicate value propositions to members and member prospects. It’s about target-segmenting, personalized content, setting up a series of emails in automation triggered by recipient actions, and closing the deal with a solid CTA. Generic emails focused on your need to sell them something won’t cut it.  

Members must be “courted” with emails that speak to topics they’ve shown interest in and might be willing to pay more to learn more about, or get certified in. To do that, you have to know them. Are they generally engaged? Are they clearly interested in a particular aspect of the industry? These are the members most likely to convert. It’s not about volume of emails, it’s about relevancy of emails. You’ll have more success with warm leads then using spray-and-pray email tactics on cold leads who’ve shown no prior interest in what you’re selling.   

Some emails may be the direct source of non-dues revenue as well. Newsletters are a staple of associations, and newsletter advertising can mean added money if you take the time to target both your newsletters and your advertising accordingly.    

How can I prove to my organization that a marketing automation tool is worth the investment?  

Most leadership look at any expense with a cost/benefit analysis. Therefore, the benefits of a marketing automation tool must be made clear and obvious to justify the cost. But the cost of not upgrading and modernizing your email marketing efforts needs to be considered as well.    

Without a marketing automation tool, many organizations are just “winging it,” sending out sporadic mass emails to poorly segmented recipients. For the member, it’s a bad experience that often leads to lack of engagement, unsubscribes, and loss of renewals and dues revenue. It also reflects poorly on the association’s brand and how it’s perceived by its members.   

As for benefits, a marketing automation platform amplifies the efforts of a good marketing team. Marketing automation allows for scale, so small teams can do more proactive work while automation takes over tedious manual processes. In short, it helps ensure that the right person gets the right message at the right time.  

Make it clear that this is far beyond just something to schedule emails. Fully realized, marketing automation provides reactive marketing at just the right time to help increase retention, engagement and revenue, while reducing email fatigue. It also frees up marketers to do more proactive marketing to drive further revenue.  

If your association cares about its members, then a marketing automation platform that helps you care for members is absolutely worth it.   

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 

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