Why Email Deliverability Is Critical For Your Community’s Success

Email Deliverability in Associations and Nonprofits

As a non-profit organization you want to build, maintain and encourage everyone’s involvement; staff, clients, supporters and donors. One major avenue that non-profits use to engage those groups, and the individuals within them is email. Getting to that point demands strategy, standards and processes. In this article, let’s discuss how you do that today.

Email Deliverability Importance

You’ve probably seen a lot of email service providers advertise “98% deliverability” or “high deliverability” or “the best deliverability ever,” and you might be wondering what it all means. Deliverability is a way to measure the success at which an email marketer gets a campaign into subscribers’ inboxes.  Senders affect their own deliverability, too—so if you create good content and maintain a clean list, your campaigns will be more likely to reach your subscribers.

Your Community Email Strategy

According to various reports, 18% of permission-based email in North America never reaches the inbox: 5% is classified as spam, and the remaining 13% simply goes missing. While 82% inbox placement is not a horrible number, marketers would agree that there is certainly room for improvement.

There’s no question that email software and the people who use it are getting better at filtering out spam. This is good since it makes it easier for engaging emails to get through — but without a strong focus on deliverability, sometimes even quality, permission-based emails can get filtered out of your subscriber’s inboxes.

You want every email your organization sends out to be welcomed by the community and, where appropriate, responded to. Like most projects, you have to have a vision for how you get there.

Your non-profit must communicate with each group and sub-group found in it. You want to keep information flowing freely in both directions for your communications such as a:

  • Welcome message introducing a new staff member or new sponsor.
  • Weekly or monthly newsletters.
  • Events that are being planned, organized or reviewed to get maximum attention.

An email strategy underpins everything to do with successful email communication. You must ensure that:

  • Each email supports and enhances your goal of building, engaging and encouraging involvement.
  • Each email goes to the correct recipient.
  • Each email is both expected and welcomed by the recipient.
  • As many emails possible are opened and responded to.
  • Where it applies, you want emails which are created by group members to be accurate and appropriate.

To the point, you have to make sure that each email goes to the right person. They must open them. They must respond to them, and even add their own content for further distribution. In this personalized way, community involvement is maximized.

Ensuring Standards of Deliverability

Community software technology enables and ensures that required standards are met, so your strategy succeeds. Using a specialist company to manage standards of delivery, means you can focus on your organization and its community. Standards you want in place include:

  • The right subscription settings, to keep members’ preferences paramount.
  • Opting in and opting out are simple.
  • Emails are delivered correctly to authenticated addresses.
  • User-generated content is checked to make sure it is both authentic and appropriate to its recipients.
  • Servers and the network, itself, remain secure.
  • Feedback is continuous so any complaints, permanent blocks, etc. can be handled properly and problems get addressed.
  • Client monitoring, help desk access, etc. are under client control, and reports are produced so it is easy to review and respond to anything.
  • Application features can be customized to suit the organization’s style, feel and look.

Standards like these mean that staff and members can focus on the community, rather than worry about security or unwanted communication. When teams are planning or running a fund-raiser, for example, they have neither the time nor the desire to keep “looking over their shoulders” to see if everything is working as it is supposed to. This brings us to the processes.

System Processes

The technical details that are built into the software, and into the user interface are what enable the your community’s standards to be met. The email software must be able to continuously monitor email activity and content. This process then reports the results so everything is clear and obvious. The reports mean the community managers can either positively confirm that everything is deliverable or that they can order up improvements to fix minor problems before they become major problems.

Best Practices For Deliverability In Your Community

Trust and engagement matters in email best practices in your community.

First, your community should give your subscribers a good reason to opt in and set clear expectations about what’s to come. Then, follow through on your promises with timely, targeted, valuable emails.

Second, choose a solid email marketing service provider. Make sure the vendor you choose is sophisticated enough to provide:

  • Bounce codes, feedback loops, and connection optimization.
  • Has email technology which is up-to-date and compliant with today’s legal requirements.

A good provider must also cultivate good relationships with receivers by applying proactive issue resolutions, feedback loops, and whitelisting practices.

A modern email marketing service provider will ensure deliverablity. It will allow you to segment your contact lists into sub-lists so that you can target specific customers with specific messages. This is essential to keeping your audience engaged with relevant content and making sure the right person gets the right message at the right time.

Until next time, keep SmartThoughts in mind.

Go Ahead And Send – Email is Not Dead

Email Deliverability Is Critical For Your Community’s Success

To email or not to email, that is the question organizations are asking themselves more often. Do people really read marketing emails anymore? Or do they go straight into the virtual trash can? In this article, we discuss the continued value of email in all facets of your nonprofit today.

Email: An Untimely Death?

We do know that email is not dead. In fact, according to this article from zdnet email readership is up, especially among Millennials.

“It discovered that Millennials–consumers ages 18 to 34–spend the most time with email of any age group. 90 percent of them rely primarily on their smartphones to access their emails.”

This group is far more likely to open a marketing email than to click on an ad on a social media page. While your social media pages are definitely the place to communicate on an individual level and create a community space, email is still a powerful marketing tool.

Engagement Matters to Deliver-ability

How your recipients engage with your emails is a major factor in future deliverability. For several years now, engagement data has become a prominent measure of deliverability at some of the major ISPs.

Big league email providers, such as Yahoo!, Gmail, Hotmail, and Outlook, have made it clear that they analyze which emails their users open and click through to gauge whether emails from a particular sender are spam. If users are not opening and clicking certain emails, to the spam folder they eventually go.

Per many industry experts, mail providers and mail clients are going to have more sophisticated filters that measure user interactions with mail and preferences for content. This is why it’s so important to figure out how to tailor email content to the audience.

Yahoo! has acknowledged that as it more precisely analyzes user behavior to weed out spam, therefore some genuine senders might find themselves facing deliverability challenges. And, time will tell, but odds are that if a consumer always engages with emails from a particular sender, then Gmail will eventually move those emails from the Promotions tab to the Primary tab, just as they did with the older Priority Inbox. This is why engagement matters even for deliverability.

How to Resuscitate Your Efforts

So what do we do with this information? Like anything, we put it to work with a few ideas to help.

  • Make it Smart phone friendly. You may have heard this before, but a lot of people have neglected to follow this advice. So it bears repeating. If you put too many high-resolution images in your digital communications, it will take longer to load on a smart phone, leading to it being deleted before it even gets read. Some email programs send text in a format that will not adjust to the smaller screen to be read easily. Unless you have some very compelling content, your recipients will not take the time to wade through that message. Send test emails to a few smart phone users to find out what happens on different phones. Then switch your format until a variety of phones show the email in a readable manner.
  • Enrich your content. On its own, bad content won’t prevent your communications from being delivered, but if your content is boring or irrelevant, people won’t engage with it or, worse, will mark your emails as spam. People like to learn new things. Consider using your email to send a regular blog that teaches new skills, highlights interesting new things going on at your organization, or introduces your readers to employees and volunteers they may never get to meet. If you are selling a product, consider expanding the information about it. Don’t just tell your readers your coffee maker makes coffee. They can see that. Give a full product review and offer a discount only available to email recipients.
  • Personalize your sales pitch. No matter how fantastic your association is, if you keep sending emails about it to someone who is not and never plans on becoming a member, they will stop opening your emails and eventually unsubscribe. Invest in a program that allows users to get emails based on interest.
  • Don’t overshare. Be careful about how many emails you are sending. Flooding someone’s inbox is a sure way to get an unsubscribe and have your email address blocked. Millennials may spend hours reading email, but they would like it to be concise. We live in a world where people are increasingly looking to communicate via short text message. Emails can be longer and include more details, but keep your audience in mind. If they can’t read it in a few minutes or less, they probably won’t get to the end.
  • Validation and Authentication. It’s important to find a service provider and email software solution with features that ensure success too. A solution which provides one primary domain, a validation tool for checking all email addresses,  & DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) are some features to be sure to investigate. Further, feedback loops which alert you to bounces, rejected email (such as spam) and complaints are critical.  

Keep calm and carry on with email marketing 

Go ahead and compose your email. We promise that a good number of the people in your address book will take a look. If it’s time to upgrade your ability to send effective emails, please contact us to help you get set up.

Email Marketing Automation Software for Nonprofits

How To Use Database Segmentation to Stand Out

Marketing Segmentation for Nonprofit Organization

In it’s simplest form, database segmentation is the process of dividing up your data population into groups so you can isolate the group to best focus on, or the best tactics to attract particular groups. In this article, I offer essential points when using database segmentation practices and the impact benefits of implementing them in your organization.

The Essential Points of Database Segmentation

The act of segmenting your market is, on the surface, a relatively simple task that involves grouping like advocates – and potential supporters – with more of the same. A database is simply a storage repository for your information. In order to benefit from the database, you have to be able to use the insights derived from its use. And, using that data to market better is a big deal, right? Segmenting your data is essential in that goal.

How do you do that? Well, beyond just having the data in one place (or integrated nicely), it is important to utilize segmentation best practices. I recently read a white paper & an ebook from marketing automation providers which underscored some important items to consider when slicing and dicing your constituents data which prompted my thoughts on this topic.

Pulling it all together, here are the essential points you should consider when using segmentation practices:

  • Seek the Best: Analyze your current best and most involved constituents to determine the population groups they belong to and what population segments they share. In order to be successful in attracting more donors or members, you must know what group or demographic characteristics characterize your ideal supporters in order to segment effectively.
  • Focus on Interests: Prospective supporters expect relevant communication and will respond best when communications are directed at their individual interests.  Focus on what kinds of interests or behaviors do your best supporters have in common? Examine communications and backgrounds of your best donors or members to see what behavioral traits they have in common.
  • Explicit and Implicit Data: Profiling your current customers to create and define your marketing segments can easily be done when you can capture information about your supporters through explicit or implicit means. Use the explicit information your members give you, like job title, age, or IP address. You can even get such data when a member fills out a form.
  • Continuous Progressive Profiling: Constantly be gathering more information about your customers to determine some defining characteristics you can use to find new business. The fancy term for this is “progressive profiling“. But, it’s simply put an approach to gathering as much information as you can from your supporters every interaction that they have with your nonprofit. You can ask website visitors to fill out a form online to help you find where they might belong in a market segment. Make the form short and easy to fill out. Your inquiry can be progressive. Store information in a unique file and keep adding additional information with each contact. Using a sequence of short forms builds a more complete profile over time.
  • Persona Behavior: Demographic information is very important. But, when used in concert with a specific set of “behaviors”, you can truly get down to the nitty gritty in segmentation. You can take that demographic information and then segment by a supporters digital body language: received messages, opened messages, visited a specific page, downloaded a piece of content, or submitted a certain form or forms.
  • Website Visitor Tracking Segments: You can get information from implicit sources, such as web pages they visit or data from a visitor tracking tool. You can determine something about socio-economic status and personal concerns by analyzing visitor tracking data. You can take advantage of online tools designed to track and analyze traffic, or you can ask your supporters for information directly, such as gender, occupation or age.
  • Data Relevance Checks: One thing that is for sure. Data management and curating the right data is critical for organizations of all sizes and types. Unfortunately, like most things in life, at some point there will be diminishing returns for the amount of data being collected. The data that you need today may not be the data you need tomorrow. As you add more data to your collection efforts, so be sure to stop collecting data that is no longer needed.
  • Don’t overwork it! One word of caution, which is easier said than done. You do not want to overwork it. Simply put, this means keep it simple. There is a fine balance between gathering information for segmentation purposes and going overboard. You will know you are there when you find that some of your members or donors may ask for you to stop asking all the questions. Further, your staff may be taxed by the data they have collected or input. In other words, you may gather so much data that you won’t know where to begin analyzing it. The old adage of “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should” applies here.

When you have the right data on a suitable sample of your most targetable constituents you will see the value of using your database to provide a measurable impact on your communications and engagement.

Here are some impactful benefits in having a solid marketing automation technology to help:

  • Ease of Repeating Process: With the ability to store the right data along with the right segmentation tools in place, your staff can begin to define donor or member segments with ease.
  • Unlimited Variables: You are more prepared to create impactful marketing campaigns which target specific segments (or segments of segments) in order to zero in on new and returning constituents on a multitude of variables (behavior, demographics, personas).
  • Relevant Insights Faster: Focusing a campaign on a tighter segmentation allows you to gauge the results of your campaign easily, so you can learn what works and what doesn’t for different segments of your persona population. Then, repeat the success over and over again.
  • Smarter Campaigns: Better segmentation means smarter use of marketing dollars. The benefits include stronger supporter and prospect relationships, higher email open and click-through rates, increased contributions, and enhanced Return on Mission!

If you are interested in learning which marketing automation software technologies and which solutions may be best suited to help you in your database segmentation best practices, please contact us to see how. Until next time, keep SmartThoughts in mind.

Marketing Automation Software for Nonprofits