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Association Email Marketing Strategies and Trends

Email is one of your association’s most powerful tools, but there are both smart and risky ways to use it. 

How to Maximize the Potential of Email Marketing

In today’s digital age, email remains a powerful tool for associations seeking to engage their members effectively. However, maximizing the potential of email marketing requires more than just sending out periodic newsletters or announcements. It demands a strategic approach backed by a deep understanding of audience behavior.

Amber Worthen, CEO of Email Maven, shared some invaluable tips with us on a recent episode of The Member Engagement Show for how associations and staff tasked with email communication can best leverage the channel to foster meaningful connections and drive engagement.

You can listen to the full episode for all the tips and trends Amber covered, but here are several things that stood out.

Embrace Automation

Automation is the cornerstone of efficient email marketing for associations. It streamlines processes, saves time, and ensures consistent communication with members. But, more than that, by harnessing data-driven insights, associations can tailor content to individual preferences, delivering personalized experiences that resonate with members. Worthen emphasizes the importance of fully migrating to a unified email platform to optimize the benefits of automation.

“Staff have a lot of work to do and not a lot of time. An email most of the time is just tacked onto another job. For large associations, it’s about automating process procedures they don’t need to spend their time doing.”

Personalization

Gone are the days of generic mass emails. Today’s members expect personalized experiences and communication tailored to their interests and preferences. Worthen advocates for a humanized approach to automation, where members feel valued and heard. By segmenting audiences and delivering relevant content, associations can cultivate stronger relationships and drive higher engagement levels.

Automation makes it so we’re humanizing our members…The automated campaign is asking the member questions. How would you like this information? Based on their answer, they get follow-up emails on certain tracks. Automation helps us show that we respect what they want. And it’s been out there for so long, it’s socially the norm. So, embrace it and give members the personalized experience they want.”

Data-Driven Decision Making

Email metrics provide valuable insights into member preferences and engagement levels. Worthen stresses the significance of using data to inform decision-making processes. Open rates, click-through rates, conversions, web tracking – every interaction with emails offers valuable feedback that can guide your content strategy and campaign optimization. By leveraging data effectively, associations can refine their approach and deliver content that resonates with their audience.

“Email is king because it’s very tangible. You can see member X, Y, Z did X, Y, Z, with the data. You can clearly see what people like and don’t like via stats, then harness those stats to do more. Whoever is doing email regularly at your organization should be in the data.

Continuous Optimization

Successful email marketing is an iterative process that requires constant optimization and refinement. Worthen emphasizes the importance of analyzing campaign performance and iterating based on insights gathered. Whether it’s testing subject lines, refining content blocks, or experimenting with AI-generated ideas, associations must stay agile and adaptive to meet evolving member needs.

“One of the most underutilized features from Higher Logic Thrive Marketing (aka Informz or Higher Logic Marketing Professional) is web tracking. You can grab this web tracking code from the marketing platform and drop it in your website. And from there, you can see what any known user is doing on your website and use that to create audiences. My favorite way to use it is to have basic automated campaigns always running off user behavior.”

“When we talk about AI as an emerging trend, one of the most tangible examples of how to be using AI today for email marketing is to help improve your testing of things. We should be A/B testing subject lines, preheaders, and blocks of content often. And for busy association staff just trying to get email out the door, maybe A/B testing a subject line in a hurry, tools like ChatGPT can whirl out a bunch of subject lines for you real quick and they’re pretty good! Or at least they can jog your ideas… You can also feed AI your ideal member profiles and ask ‘What would they think about this email? What questions would they have?’”

Respect Member Preferences

Respecting member preferences is key to maintaining a healthy email list and fostering positive relationships. Worthen suggests allowing recipients to pause or opt out of specific campaigns, ensuring that communications remain relevant and non-intrusive. By giving members control over their email preferences, associations demonstrate a commitment to respecting their time and preferences.

The biggest misstep is emailing everyone all the time. It hurts your email list over time. Be strategic with segmenting and dynamic content and automated campaigns. Associations can’t be exhausting our lists and exhausting the staff.”

Two Fundamental Things to Keep an Eye On

Finally, Worthen advises associations to stay abreast of emerging trends and technologies in email marketing. She also encourages associations to think about ADA compliance and people using dark mode.

“Two fundamental things that associations should always keep an eye on are ADA compliance and people using dark mode. Those are foundational, but I think we forget sometimes. For ADA compliance, it’s really important to make sure that everyone accessing our emails can read them, listen to them, or do whatever they need to do to consume the information. There are lots of ADA guides out there you can check – the biggest things are to watch color contrast, font size, and spacing… And for dark mode: over 80% of people now use dark mode. So when you’re designing emails, make sure you’re checking what it will look like in dark mode. Higher Logic Thrive marketing has a feature that gives you a snapshot.”

We’re All Selling Something, and Selling Involves Conversations

Thoughtful email strategies play a pivotal role in driving association engagement and fostering meaningful connections with members. Connections require conversations, and conversations require listening as well as talking.

By embracing automation, leveraging data insights, and prioritizing personalization, associations can elevate their email marketing efforts to new heights. And members who are used to and expect personalization will appreciate you rising to those heights.

With a strategic approach and a commitment to continuous improvement, associations can forge stronger connections with their members and drive sustained engagement.

Kelly Whelan

Kelly Whelan is the Content Marketing Manager for Higher Logic. In this role, she develops content to support association professionals and advise them on member engagement and communication strategy. She also hosts Higher Logic’s podcast, The Member Engagement Show. She has ~10 years of experience working in marketing for associations and nonprofits.