New Year’s Resolution: improve your union’s email click-through with triggered campaigns

The new year is the perfect time to start to try more advanced techniques for your email campaigning, and one that will have a big impact is the use of triggered email campaigns.

Triggered email can substantially increase the click-through rate of your union’s email campaigns — by as much as 40%.

What’s more, triggered email with two or three links converts at higher rates than just a single link.

One of the things that I try to do with this blog is provide practical articles on what unions can do to improve their campaigns, digital or real-world.  If you read my articles from last year, you’ll know that conversion rates are the single most important digital metric that you should focus on.

This blog post looks at something very practical you can start doing in 2014.

A triggered email campaign is one where you pre-write emails that are sent based on a person’s behaviour. The member or supporter does something (such as sign up to your list, join the union, send an email to an MP or company, etc), and this triggers an email. 

You would be familiar with triggered emails from e-commerce sites like When you buy something from Amazon, not only do you get all the transactional emails, but you also get subsequent emails with product recommendations. Some online shopping carts will email you if you add something to your shopping cart but never actually buy it. Others will send triggered emails to you on your birthday with a discount code.

If you regularly sign Get Up or petitions, then you’ll also be familiar with triggered email campaigns. I vividly remember signing a World Wildlife Fund digital petition, and then receiving an email asking me to adopt a Siberian leopard. (I did end up “adopting” it, which amounted to a donation.)

Setting up triggered email is something that almost every email campaign tool should be able to do. If you’re not sure where to start, a good place to start will be under list segmentation.

Triggered email wins over regular (blast) email almost every time.

The table below from Vero, which looks at over 8000 email campaigns, shows the open and click-through rates for the two different types of email, blast and triggered.

Average openclick rates by campaign type

Triggered emails are 42% more likely to be clicked than regular campaigns.

The likely reason for this is that because triggered campaigns are behaviour based, they are more targeted to the individual receiving the email. They are effectively a segment of one.

An email written with a specific ask for someone who’s just signed a petition, or joined their union, or made a donation, is far more customised than a general blast email campaign. In many cases, the recipient may even be expecting an email, and has “primed” themselves to receive a follow-up ask.

The other reason is that general blasts and newsletters — even when segmented and targeted — are still less customised than something that is deliberately behaviour based. Using behaviour based triggers is based on the recipient having actively done something (or not done something); the biggest predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour.

The number of links in the email also matters.

When I was in Chicago last year, I met with a number of the digital campaign directors for Organising for Action, the successor to Obama’s campaign.

Their strong recommendation to me was to limit the number of asks in an email to just one.

But how many times do you put that ask in the email?

Average open and click rates by link count

As you can see from the graph above, 2-3 links in the email is the sweet-spot to increase click-through rates.

This is not multiple asks. This is the same ask, with two or three links to the landing page.

For example, if someone signs your union’s petition and you have a triggered email campaign that thanks them and asks them to click on a link to share the petition on social media, you will have a higher click-through rate if you have a link repeated twice or three times in the email.

You can also see that having four or more links in the email has a higher click-through rate than just a single link.

The data above is based on emails with a single call to action in the body of the email; that is, the same call to action once or repeated 2 or 3, or 4 or more times.

The number of links you have in your email campaigns affects the click-through rate.

It especially affects the click rate for your primary link.

I’ve seen many unions send an email blast with a primary call to action, and then secondary calls to action for different activities.

If you do this, you are reducing the click-through rate for your primary CTA.

A better path would be to have those secondary calls to action in a triggered email. You will lift the click-through rate for your primary call to action, and your triggered email campaign will have a higher click rate for your secondary CTAs.

The point of having multiple links for your primary call to action is this: it is not enough to place the most important call to action link at the top of your email. It should be repeated, at the top and at the end of your email, and ideally in the middle as well.

What’s more, you should reduce the number of other links in your email; ideally there should be no other links in your email campaigns (blast or triggered) other than a one-click unsubscribe.

As with all of digital campaigning, the results are very transparent. You can test them to see if it works for your union.

Try setting up behaviour-based triggered email campaigns. Experiment with the number of text links in your emails. Compare them to your previous campaigns.

Make it a new year’s resolution.

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