5 ways to transform your email marketing effectiveness

28 June 2018 by Becky Reid

A lot has changed since the first email was sent by Ray Tomlinson in 1971. Today, 196 billion emails are sent daily to 4.3 billion email accounts. With all that email traffic you’d be forgiven for thinking that your time would be better spent focusing on other communication channels to get your messages heard by your audiences.


But you’d be wrong. Despite all the noise, email still works for membership marketers across a wide demographic (even millennials...).

Email is still a very effective channel

Did you know that email converts three times better & generates an average order value 17% higher than social media? And how much more effort do you spend on your social activity compared to email? I bet it is loads more effort, as social is regarded as hot, while email is seen as old school.

But sentiment can often be misleading - results are what we really need to measure. According to the 2018 DMA Marketer email tracker report, the average ROI for each £ spent on email marketing is £32. Clearly, email continues to work well in generating revenue.

For membership organisations, it’s not just about revenue generation, although that should feature in your objectives somewhere. It’s about maintaining & increasing member engagement, member retention and loyalty as well as promoting the association’s activities, not just to members but to wider stakeholders.

So how do you make the most of the opportunity email presents?

1. Spring clean your data

You are going to send emails from your database lists.  So you need to understand what data you have, how old it is, whether it has any use any more and, most importantly, whether you have permission to store and use it. Now is the time to spring clean your data - as the phrase goes ‘garbage in, garbage out’.

Hopefully you will have done this exercise recently, what with GDPR coming into force last month, but if not you need to decide on your ‘lawful bases of processing’ your various types of data and then make sure you have the right permissions. I won’t labour this point; I’m sure you’ve heard it all already.

Suffice to say that now is the best time to clean your data, deleting any old, unwanted/unusable data before you move to step 2 and integrating your email marketing platform with your CRM system. Think of data in terms of quality not quantity - engagement comes from relevance.

2. Integrate your email marketing platform with your CRM

If your membership CRM system can’t handle bulk emailing, then you do use an email automation platform like dotmailer, MailChimp or similar, don’t you? Please don’t say no… I’m sure you do and you need to make sure your platform is connected to your CRM system. Why? Because, in order to be able to get insight from all your contact data (so you can tailor your emails to them and increase their engagement) you need to have all your data in one place so you can tell who is engaging with you, how often and about what.

The ideal situation is for data to flow between your CRM and email marketing platform with the CRM being the master source. Once you have this in place (using an API connection set up by your CRM provider) you will be able to see your contacts’ email behaviours (what they open, when they open it etc.), put their behaviours into context of what they do offline and then segment accordingly. If your membership CRM is like smartmembership and has a GDPR module, this also makes GDPR management and compliance far easier.

3. Segment your data

So now you have lots of lovely clean, up-to-date data located in one place but what are you going to do with it? Use it to segment your contacts.

dotmailer’s 2018 ‘Hitting The Mark’ benchmarking report revealed that 66% of the brands researched are not using segmentation at present, missing out on a huge opportunity to personalise and tailor emails, resulting in them lacking relevancy.

Segment your contacts by membership type (or lack of), by behaviour (email opens, clicks), subject (the content they clicked on/engaged with), geographic location, type of association/charity activity and more.

4. Set up automated re-engagement programs

You should now have lovely clean data, stored in one place, providing extra insight into all your contacts’ behaviour. Make the most of this by setting up automated email programs to keep them engaged and loyal.

Think about what the various personas you have in your membership base, what you want each persona to do and where people tend to drop out of your circle of awareness. Think along the lines of, for example:

  • Onboarding: New members should be full of enthusiasm and will communicate well – so email them to say hello and give links to a spread of content and services. Track what they click on. Then send them a series of other useful emails over their first few months, tailoring content and cadence based on the information you are getting back about open rates and what is of interest.
  • Member renewals: your membership is due to renew in two months, renew now and get xx% off or xx months extra. Reminder of the benefits and what they used in the last year etc.
  • Lapsed membership: why didn’t you renew, what could we do better. Did you mean to renew but forgot?
  • Repeat fundraising/donations: you ran the marathon last year, what will you do for charity this year?

Don’t wait for your contacts to disappear, keep them engaged and loyal and encourage them do go one step further (up- or cross-selling).

5. Think omni-channel

Having eulogised about email at the start of this article, I’m now going to say that it might be that email doesn’t resonate with all your members or stakeholders. You need to think omni-channel - social media, direct mail, SMS etc. as well as email.

If email isn’t engaging them, maybe another will. Interrogate your data to find out what channels your different contacts like and use your CRM and marketing automation platforms to reach them via other channels.

Reinforce the message whatever the channel, both in terms of what you say as well as the imagery used and make sure that landing pages for each channel match the message.

If you need proof that email can work for NFPs, take a look at the British Heart Foundation’s ‘Restart the Heart’ campaign, which won a 2017 dotmailer dottie award for encouraging schools to train up to 100K young people on how to perform CPR. The email element of the campaign delivered 120% of its target. Now there’s something to think about.

In summary...

Email is still a very effective tool and easy to do well if you have the right tools and approach.  At smartimpact, we can help you get the most out of this channel.

I’ll be covering this subject in much more depth at Chase25 on 5 July – please come along and say hello.