Improve your union’s email campaigns (part 2)

This post is the second part of two articles focused on how unions can improve union emailing campaigns. Email is the “killer app” for online campaigning, and it is important that unions get this element of their online campaigns right.

Read part 1 here.

Do:  Use a third-party email system.
Don’t: Try to manage your email lists yourself.

Third-party email marketing systems are highly advanced, mostly easy to use, and are relatively inexpensive. They let you manage your email list, track the open-rate and click-through rate, manage subscriptions and unsubscribes, help ensure deliverability and avoid spam-filters, handle bounce-backs and most of them increasingly link to other online campaign services, like Google Analytics and social media. They can also take care of split testing and A/B testing, automated responses and CRM integration.

There are a range of services out there — these days I recommend MailChimp as one of the best “starters” — but there are many more out there for advanced purposes.

Trying to manage all of this yourself is probably going to use up a lot of your time and resources that could be better spent. I know a lot of unions use outdated email software — and worse, I’ve seen unions that rely on Outlook or Lotus Notes! Quite simply, you should be using a third-party email service.

Do: Include promote your campaigns in email signatures.
Don’t: Miss an opportunity.

Most unions (like most organisations) have standard email signatures for union staff. These are important and useful opportunities for your union to promote its major campaigns. Every email that an organiser or industrial officer sends can become a small part of your campaign communications effort.

Simply by including a targeted, embedded link in all your union staff emails, you can be targeting your campaign communications efforts. This is because the routine emails your union staff send are between people who know each other or have an existing relationship — and are thus going to open and read those emails (remember, most campaign emails have an open-rate of less than 20%). By using a specific, trackable link, you can measure the impact of your regular daily emails.

Do: Sign-up for the emails of other unions and organisations .
Don’t: Underestimate the competition.

The easiest way to get “intelligence” on what employers and other people in the movement are doing is to sign up for their newsletters. Most businesses have an email newsletter — often specific ones for investors or business analysts. Signing up for those lets you keep track of what they’re up to and saying — especially if the employer you’re targeting has an “investor relations” website. Similarly, signing up to the email lists of other campaigning organisations is a good way to keep up on how they’re crafting their emails, calls to actions and implementing best practice.

Do: Include strong calls-to-action.
Don’t: Make it difficult for subscribers to get more information or act on it.

You not only want your subscribers (members, supporters, etc) to open the emails you send them, but you want them to take action! Calls to action shouldn’t be mealy-mouthed or weak, and they shouldn’t be buried in the last line of your email. You’re sending your enewsletter or campaign alert for a purpose. Make it easy for members and supporters to support you!

Most people skim emails they receive as part of a list — so including your call to action in the opening paragraph helps them make their choice — support your cause — in the first few seconds.

And of course, your calls to action should lead to a campaign landing page or microsite.

Do: Test, test, and test again.
Don’t: Get complacent.

The great thing about email marketing services is that they allow you to test things.

What works for me, may not work for you. What worked last year may not work this year. You have to test and continue to test, and make changes as a result, to get the best result. Things you can test include, the subject lines, time of day you send the email, what day of the week you send, the images, the name of who is sending the email, the wording of your call to action and more.

By testing, you can determine what is most effective for engaging your members and supporters, and what is most likely to get them to take action.

There’s lots of advice out there on what you can test, and services like Mailchimp will let you try it on a small proportion of your subscribers, so if it doesn’t work, you won’t have lost much.

This last piece of advice really sums up the point of these two blog posts. By trying different things for yourself, you’re going to get a much better idea of what will work for your union campaign than anyone else ever could.

You can download my Introduction to Digital Campaigning for Unions here.

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