Email marketing masterclass: How to drive deep member engagement – and fast
Cut through the noise with these eight expert tips
Membership organisations can often feel like they’re fighting against bigger players when trying to get the attention of their audiences. At work during the day, they’re up against urgent calls and meetings. At home, there’s Netflix, social media notifications, and the sunshine outside. Almost every organisation we’ve spoken to has said that cutting through the noise is one of their major challenges.
So how do you do it? Of all the comms channels available, email helps marketing professionals provide a highly-personalised experience for members. To look at what works and borrow some of the learnings from big commercial brands, we ran an hour-long Q&A webinar with our very own customer-journey expert and email consultant, Adeola Sole. Here’s what we found out.
1. You need to do less stuff
It sounds too good to be true, right? But every team we speak to says that they don’t have enough time to do all of the things. The answer is simple. Don’t do them.
It can be all too easy to be ruled by your content channels, schedule or the immediate needs of a specific department, rather than driven by your objectives. For example, how often do you find yourself being overloaded with ad hoc email requests, only to then have to rush to fill a member update round-up newsletter? Just because email is a straightforward channel to use, it doesn’t mean you should always use it. If you can take a step back and think critically about where you’re spending your time and energy, you can stop box ticking and start creating truly effective comms.
Doing less is not just about what you think you should stop doing. By adopting an audience-first approach to communication and really understanding the needs of your existing members, stakeholders and potential members, you can create more targeted content that builds and nurtures relationships, moving people forward on their customer journey.
2. Build a solid data acquisition strategy
Your data acquisition strategy is actually just as important as the email itself, so you need to make sure you’re acquiring as many subscribers as possible if you’re looking to grow membership numbers without having to rely on your existing database. But how do you do this?
Adeola advises leveraging social media to funnel as many people as possible to your website, and to improve your keyword search term game so you’re more discoverable. Research and understand what search terms and keywords bring people to your site so that you can start curating and customising certain pages based on these keywords. From here, you’re able to gain email addresses from data capture prompts on your site like pop-ups or sign-up forms at the end of articles.
Adeola also adds that pop-ups are essential for building a database. While your Digital team may feel apprehensive about how this affects user experience, you can implement tests to show other teams how effectively these are performing. A/B test by segmenting, say, 50% of your traffic to the pop-up, so you can see how well this delivers new sign-ups.
Finally, don’t forget to actively encourage visitors to sign up to your newsletter. You can also entice new sign ups by enhancing the footer at the bottom of your website – but do make sure that you’re A/B testing the wording of this to monitor how well it performs.
Need a hand? Download our free email health checklist below.
3. Capitalise on intent
As the saying goes, make hay while the sun shines!
The point when a member signs up to a membership is when their intent is highest; they’re much more likely to give you information and feel positively about you at this stage. So, make the most of a favourable situation while it lasts; use this timeframe to give them information about how to get the best out of the organisation and their membership. Send them through a preference centre so you can pick up more data; invite them to sign up to newsletters, or simply use it as an opportunity to make their experience as a member better. A new member is much more likely to offer you their data, so now’s the time to make the most of it.
With this in mind, think about your welcome email programme. How quickly does your new contact go from being welcomed to being added to the mix of the general emails – and then renewal emails? Adeola recommends taking a completely different approach, creating a bespoke programme that introduces and promotes all aspects of the organisation. And, if your first welcome email is little more than a code of conduct (you know who you are), it’s time to think about how you can best sell in the benefits of members from day one.
To give you some inspiration, here’s an idea of how to approach this:
4. Avoid contact fatigue
How do you share content and engage your membership audience without overwhelming them? Adeola shares her top tip: make sure you have a formidable acquisition strategy.
What you’ll typically find is that 20% of your database is actually generating 80% of your engagement, so if you’re constantly relying on that small cohort to bring you email clicks and open rates, you’ll inevitably invite contact fatigue. This is why it’s so important to ensure you’re building your database incrementally. The more people you funnel into your database, the larger that 20% section of your database becomes, creating a bigger group to which you can tailor content. This 20% can then eventually increase to 30% or 40% over time.
5. Utilise the power of automation
Automation can often be ignored and undervalued, but Adeola highlights how automated messages actually deliver in really good revenues for organisations. For instance, last year automated messages generated around 30% of all email marketing orders – but only accounted for 2.2% of email sends. Plus, Omnisend stated that 34% of consumers who click on an automated email go on to purchase, compared to just 7% of campaign email clicks.
With this in mind, Adeola underlines how highly useful, relevant and reliable automation is when contacting both members and new leads. Map out your customer journey, like we have done below, so you can note any trigger points that could benefit from a bit of automation. Also, think about automating your business-as-usual campaigns to free up spare time; if you have evergreen content, for instance, you can effortlessly share this with your year-one subscribers via automated email sends.
6. Segment and personalise
Receiving irrelevant content from membership bodies is both a frequent member complaint and the cause of poor engagement stats. But while segmenting helps you to deliver the right messages to the right members, we discovered that half of consumer membership organisations don’t segment their email sends at all! However, research shows that brands that do use personalisation see 27% higher unique click rates and 11% higher open rates.
Every organisation has a wealth of data that can be used to segment their audience and personalise the content they send. For example, year-one members will act differently to those who have been members for 10 years, so an email programme built with a specific segment of your audience in mind can increase renewal rates and deliver a solid return on investment. The brand PetPlan does this well by having a really robust segmentation and design strategy. By using their data to segment and personalise, they’ve found they get better engagement when sending emails featuring imagery of the recipient’s pet breed.
To begin segmenting your audience and personalising content, start with the most obvious segments like different member types or geographical locations. Then, infer what subscribers like to read by using click data. Track where your members click within emails to discover what they’re interested in and interacting with, and you can then create additional segments based on this to ensure you’re serving relevant content.
Adeola also recommends focusing on key metrics like delivery and click to open rates (CTOR), non-opens, and views and forwards, as these offer a deeper insight into how your emails are performing.
7. Don’t be afraid to steal great ideas
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time. Take inspiration from the emails produced by giants like Amazon and Apple – if they’re sending out certain types of content, it’s because they know that it works. These organisations have tested their emails, language, send frequency and design thoroughly and by borrowing from them, you will bring the expertise of international digital leaders to the membership sector.
We also recommend taking a look at the Really Good Emails website. It’s a really good resource for checking out examples of great emails from a variety of brands, allowing you to look at design, language, tone and imagery. Look at the language brands similar to yours are using and cultivate a sense of community and inclusion by doing the same – after all, there’s nothing wrong with taking inspiration from those you admire.
8. Conduct a health check
You can follow all of the handy tips laid out in this article – but none of that matters if your emails are going straight to your members’ junk boxes!
There are a lot of things that need to be done in the background to ensure your emails are arriving in your members’ inboxes effectively, and these can change depending on which email providers your members use. For instance, you want to avoid sending emails to people who frequently don’t engage, as this will affect email deliverability. Likewise, you’ll need to consistently adhere to the 60/40 ratio – 60% text alongside 40% imagery – as too much of either will make your emails flag up as spam.
If you’re not sure whether your emails adhere to best practice, it’s probably time to take a step back and do a health check. We’ve created a PDF –which you can download for free from the form below – to help you check off what you need to do for this and supercharge your email programme. Alternatively, send us an email or call us on 020 3771 7216 so we can take the pressure off and do it for you.
Remember, email is only part of the answer; it needs to work alongside your other communications to be effective. If you want to learn how to keep your members engaged, read Think’s Re:member reports.