Month by Month: Strategic planning to maximize email communication in 2016
Email fundraising is more than just improved subject lines and catchy design. Like any other element of fundraising, email requires a strategic plan that stewards constituents from first acquisition through engagement.
This strategic plan can be called the Email Lifecycle or Email Calendar. As we start 2016, let’s explore a sample year-long strategic email plan:
January/February: Onboarding, Introductory & Welcome Emails
The beginning of the year, when everyone is considering New Year’s resolutions, is the perfect time to introduce your mission to those that may not know it, and remind those that do of the critical work you will set out to do this year. This can start with sharing your annual fundraising goal or programmatic initiatives.
Segmenting your list by how you acquired each email address or the individual’s level of engagement can shape the content and personalization of each email. This is also a great time to set up benchmarks for yourself based on open and click-through rates from last year, and implement what you’ve learned from A/B testing and data analytics.
March/April: Update & Newsletter Emails
The spring is a great time to re-engage your email constituents and direct them to volunteer opportunities, celebrate your successes thus far, and update them on upcoming initiatives and stories via newsletter content.
These emails can drive traffic to your website and are good ways to feature engagement activities like surveys or highlight new features or even video on your website or social media pages.
If you’re able to leverage your data, try a “Did You Know” email to engage constituents who have shown an interest in a specific program and remind them of how their donation can help advance your mission in this area.
May/June: Conversational & Engagement Emails
The end of spring and early summer are great times to connect with vacation-minded individuals. Promote your upcoming events, and highlight volunteer activities to increase engagement and continue driving traffic back to your website – where your strongest asks live. Videos and infographics are low-impact ways to engage digital constituents and convey your message without a lot of text.
Tip: Check out this article from MarketingProfs on creating great infographics without using Photoshop.
July/August: Qualification Emails
Now is the time to qualify your email list and speak specifically to those who have had limited engagement through the first half of the year. Leveraging the open and click-thus of your previous emails will allow you to segment your audience by engagement and deliver more targeted messaging to subgroups. This is also a good time to ask your constituents to help you spread the word, “forward this email to a friend” or help generate a number of likes on a specific social media platform.
By refining your list in late summer, you will be better prepared for more targeted communication at year-end, leveraging what you’ve learned about your constituent behavior throughout the year.
September/October: Behavioral & Stewardship Emails
Have you heard the term “Gamification”? The application of elements of game playing to other areas of activity, typically as an online marketing technique to encourage engagement with a product or service.
As you refine your list in late summer, segment out those who have given certain benchmark amounts or completed an action like a survey or social media share. Reward these individuals with game-esque celebratory email recognizing them for their contribution to the success of your mission.
Here’s a great gamification example from Canva, an online design tutorial tool. Inviting constituents to share their accomplishment creates increased engagement and promotes increasing multi-channel relationships.
November/December: Year End
If you’ve been following a strategic email campaign and collecting and analyzing data throughout the year, you’ve set yourself up for a successful year-end giving season. Your engaged constituents have learned about your mission all year, and had several opportunities to engage with you and provide additional touch points for your fundraising communications both online and offline. You now have the opportunity to leverage what worked well throughout the year to enhance your year-end fundraising plan. Perhaps it was asking constituents to share their success stories with colleagues or social media followers, or your videos and surveys went over extremely well. Whatever you’ve learned about your constituents will enable you to effectively cut through the year-end noise and reach those who mean the most to your mission.
Each aspect of your email fundraising plan hinges on the quality of your email list, and the data you can collect from it. The analysis behind analytics, A/B and multivariate testing shouldn’t discourage you from setting up a strategic email fundraising plan.
Our PS Digital Team brings more than 20 years of client experience in SEO, PPC and email marketing as well as analytics, user experience and website design. Email the team to talk about how to get your 2016 email fundraising off to a good start.