You’ve got some deadlines and goals to meet right around the corner you want to meet, better yet, exceed this year. Hopefully you already have a year-end fundraising plan already in place.
Here’s a few quick ways you could tap into real-time in your email marketing efforts to really take it up a notch:
- Countdown. Feature # of days left until December 31 so that when they open the email they see the days ticking away to give online by midnight on December 31. It’s also a great idea to have another countdown for time left to mail in a check (with an address based on the time of year to expedite processing so they don’t miss the annual deadline).
- Matching gift companies have their own deadlines – many are 90 days, but some have some pretty strict deadlines that also say the matching gift request has to be submitted by an annual deadline (ex., December 31, March 31).
- Number of thank you gifts left in stock.
- Dollars left to raise for your goal.
- Number of people who have already supported that fund/cause today/this month/this year.
As always, don’t forget to test these in real-time before implementing them.
Got more ideas? Share them in the comments.
Think there are no e-commerce applications in higher education? Think again.
Dictionary.com defines e-commerce as “business transactions conducted on the internet.” Wikipedia goes on to say that this includes products or services on electronic systems such as the internet or computer networks. The sales aspect of the business cycle. In higher education we sell “stuff” textbooks, campus gear (clothes, dorm supplies, flags, jewelry, and so on…) and solicit donations, also considered “services” to support current teaching, education, research and scholarships so that current students have the same or better opportunities that our alumni have already reaped the ROI on. Engagement with our alumni helps increase our list (student population) with a diverse and competitive student body that builds our brand and helps distinguish us among other universities across the globe.
There are tons of e-commerce applications in higher education. It’s not just limited to your student bookstore, paying tuition, or online giving. In a research study by Kleen & Shell, they found more than 50% of institutions provided e-commerce applications for services on the university website (or through a portal) such as online directories of faculty, online directories of services, online academic catalogs, and online applications for admission. The researchers expect that universities will have adopted selected elements of e-commerce that (a) are simple to adopt, (b) have favorable cost-benefit, (c) are clearly connected to the institution’s mission, and (d) have direct benefit to students. Public institutions, larger institutions, and institutions offering higher level degrees were more likely to have various e-commerce applications. According to the study, of the institutions surveyed, more than 67% reported some of these e-commerce applications for more than a year:
- Complete an application for admission
- Search the online faculty directory
- Search an online directory of university services, and
- Search academic catalog online
The most significant e-commerce activity by region was auditing academic performance online (checking grades).
The more technology improves and is cost efficient to the university systems, e-commerce systems are becoming more prevalent. Just in the last year, my institution upgraded our alumni & donor records database to connect with other campus wide e-commerce systems such as our online giving site, the annual fund calling center, and the online student information system (SIS) later this month.
I support permission based email marketing 100%.
Not everyone wants your email. Or maybe just not right now.
Next week at my institution Annual Giving is sending out a direct mailing to all alumni with a mailable address. Since it’s also our 125th anniversary year that’s a really special thing, and with a capital campaign coming up we don’t want to leave anyone out of this very special celebration. Historically, though, they have never sent a mailing to every alum all at the same time. Usually the mailings are targeted and segmented for a specific group of alums and contain an “appeal code” in the return slip which tells us what mailing they were responding to.
With email, though, managers always want to see that “everyone gets our email”. Why?
The common school of thought is that “email is cheap, we can send to everyone, so why not?” And then of course the idea that the more people we mail to, the more donations we’ll receive. There are hosts of best practices and deliverability (see previous post for tips) issues that come with “just sending to everybody”.
- Not everyone wants your email, or sometimes not at that time. They might mark you as spam. Other messages from your company/institution might get blocked or end up in junk next time.
- They will probably get annoyed! These are real people on your list.
If you have unengaged contacts on your list, you could:
- Send to them less frequently, send to more engaged contacts more frequently – offer the engaged contacts to connect with you on social, mobile, SMS, and for private sales for engaged customers.
- Find out if they are still interested in or still using your product or service.
- Find out if they are still interested in getting email from you. Everyone appreciates an uncluttered inbox. Breaking up is hard to do, but promise no hard feelings and they can re-subscribe at any time. Assure them it’s all about them!
Here’s some more tips to improve the quality of your list.
Time to sharpen up your skills to reach your customers when and how they want.
Have some more ideas?
Do you want to make sure your emails get to the inbox? Of course you do.
On Wednesday, I attended Triangle Interactive Marketing Association’s (TIMA) member only subject matter expert lunch on email deliverability with Brad Gurley at Bronto. He shared some hot topics and a few tips on how to improve your email deliverability. Here a few keys he shared to making sure your customers get your email:
- Engagement is really important. As thought 4-5 years ago, “spam words” are not as important. Higher engagement increases the likelihood that your email will go to the inbox and be read. Spam assassin gives a point value for symbols in the subject line, use with caution (and testing, of course).
- Shift your focus to providing relevant content.
- Set clear expectations on (1) what content they will get from you, (2) how often they will receive it, and (3) their area of interest. The more you make this clear, the more they will remember why they are getting this email and it will less likely end up in spam.
- Place the unsubscribe button in a prominent location. The spam button is really easy to click, especially on mobile devices. Email that doesn’t look good or is unreadable (broken CSS, bad design, small fonts, etc.) on a mobile device could potentially be marked as spam. So make it easy to unsubscribe, and they will be less likely to mark your email as spam, which results in less complaints.
- Use authentication to control your reputation.
- Use a shared IP or a dedicated IP. A shared IP is like the carpool lane. You benefit from other senders with better deliverability and there is little or no warm up time; however, other senders might also hurt your deliverability. It’s ideal for smaller senders (less than 6 million). With a dedicated IP, you’re driving alone – better for a larger volume sender but a warm up is needed (starting with sending one email to your list every 1-2 weeks). You control your own IP, signups, and lists.
- Remove non-engaged addresses addresses. You could also do a test and segment your engaged and non-engaged contacts to see how well deliverability improves. If someone hasn’t opened the last 20-50 messages, you should probably remove them, said Gurley.
- Keep your complaint rate below 0.5%. Definitely take action for any complaint rates above 1%.
Afterwards there were a lot of questions for Brad in the Q&A session and discussion afterwards.
- Is deliverability really declining? No. According to a Return Path study in the second half of 2011, deliverability dropped to 79%. However, Bronto did the same seed path study and shows over 99% deliverabilty. The difference may be due to higher average complaint rates (4%) than the average Bronto customer complaint (0.2%) rate. Combined with Bronto’s professional services, Bronto customers have better overall practices, as demonstrated with the lower complaint rates.
- Someone mentioned they had a 8% lift in opens when they used symbols (hearts) in the subject line.
- noreply@… addresses carry a deliverability disadvantage.
- How do you avoid dropping wanted contacts? Try using an attention grabbing subject line, strong call to action (CTA) – like a “less chance to engage” type of subject line. For non-responsive contacts, remove them or send to them less frequently.
Thanks to TIMA, Brad Gurley and Bronto for another great informative session!
Did you attend? What key points did you enjoy the most?
This year marks the five years that I have been doing email marketing with Bronto at NC State. I have learned a lot about email marketing in that time, and I have also been able to share that knowledge with many others, including many of my coworkers and fellow Bronto Users. This year I also organized a Bronto user group at NC State.
This year also marks Bronto’s 10 year anniversary. I have seen so much progress since then!
I graduated from NC State University in 2005 with a degree in Communication Media and Arts Applications (Music). I took my passion for music (classical) and non-profits with me and volunteered at a variety of non-profits including WCPE Radio 89.7 FM, NC Symphony, Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Triangle Chapter, and the American Marketing Association (AMA) Triangle chpater.
In 2006, I started working at NC State University as Matching Gifts Manager. I manage the $1 million matching gift fundraising program and work with matching gift companies, donors, alumni, colleges and departments across campus, and development officers and staff. I increased fundraising dollars 17% in the first year that I was hired. When I started, we would send matching gift reminders and thank you notes through postcards, direct maill, and I even called some donors to check on their matching gift forms. For larger gifts, I sometimes sent a personal email asking them to complete the attached form (attached to the email) or complete the form online, directing them to their company’s matcching gift website.
In the spring of 2007, we started using Bronto to send these reminders and thank you notes via email. Creative Services developed a template for us. Since 2007, I have made a continuous effort to learn as much as I could about Bronto and email marketing so that I could reach donors and get more matching gift dollars in for NC State. In 2008, I joined the local chapter of the American Marketing Association (AMA) and volunteered on the marketing communication committee. From 2006 to 2008, I also volunteered on the marketing committee for the AFP Triangle chapter. I have been nominated almost a half a dozen times for NC State’s Award for Excellence for our division since then. In 2008, I joined Pathways, a year-long leadership program for staff at NC State. For my individual project, I completed our derparment’s (Advancment Services) website redesign project, working with five directors and refining my HTML, CSS, and web design skills. I recieved many compliments from our users about the site (and the secure intranet I created for staff) being easy to use and navigaate. I have also been able to create and modify email marketing templates in Bronto. I also created a few email marketing templates on my own from scratch.
I pioneered the A/B testing program for our email marketing program and integrated Bronto with Google Analytics to manage our email traffic to the matching gift company lookup tool on our website. I have worked hard to continuously improve our email marketinng program through testing and presonalization. I have also helped out a few departments at NC State with their email marketing including the Chancellor’s Office, Annual Giving, College of Engineering, University Planning & Analysis, and University Donor Relations & Donor Communications. I also helped send out email invitations for the Chancellor’s Installation in October 2010 totaling almost 60,000 emails.
I’m also an active blogger for The Email Guide and write about non-profit email marketing. I’ve also contributed some of our samples to Supporting Advancement, HEP Development, and on the CASE matching gifts listserve. In 2011, I received the Rising Star Award from Red Pill Email and joined Only Influencers, a private invitation-only network for digital marketers. I have learned so much about email marketing and digital marketing from participating and from the Only Influencers membership, and I will always look forward to learning as much as I can from others. I attended the Marketing Sherpa Email Summit for the last two years. This year I received my certification in email marketing from Marketing Sherpa.
In December, I also completed my MBA in Marketing. I also tweet (at @erikaroe and @thegoldenlasso) regularly about email marketing and while I’m at email and digital marketing events, like Marketing Sherpa or the Bronto Summit. I enjoy connecting with others to talk about email.
This year (next month) marks my six year anniversary with NC State.
Please subscribe to my blog and I will gladly share my knowledge of email marketing and Bronto with you.