Take Candidates’ Lead for Email Wins for Your Nonprofit

Take Candidates' Lead for Email Wins for Your NonprofitI’ve been noticing distinct trends in the presidential campaign email I’ve received. Short subject lines top the list, but the flood of campaign email showcases several other powerful email tactics as well, many of which are great inspirations for powerful nonprofit marketing.

So I was pleased to see Karen Gedney’s summary of the best in presidential campaign email techniques on ClickZ.  Here they are:

1) Short Subject Lines
The shortest range from one to four words. Less is more, I always say. Here are a few recent examples: Appalling; Imagine; Last-Minute Attacks; Running Track.

Gedney cites recent metrics from MailerMailer that subject lines under 35 characters motivate 5% more opens. I suggest that you need to get under 20 characters (no more than four short words) for any real boost. The best way to understand how/if shorter subject lines make a difference in your campaigns is to do an A/B test of two subject lines of varying lengths (try one running 40-50 characters, and the second 20 or less characters).

2) Letter-Format Email Messages, Longer and More Personal than the Norm
Candidates are fleshing out short subject lines with messages that follow the traditional fundraising letter format and run 250-350 words. The narrative is usually supplemented by a graphic banner featuring a tagline and a visual sidebar, with a action button (Donate! being the most popular) and a video link.

According to Gedney, longer, more personal messages outperform short “ad” copy every time.

3) Stay on Message with Consistent Branding
Typically, the banner on these emails features a tagline summarizing the candidates position, which is repeated in the letter itself. That position is each candidate’s brand, the sound bite takeaway that needs to be highlighted, and conveyed consistently, in every email.

4) Video, Video, Video
Almost every email I’ve received from the candidates includes a video link. That makes it easy for me to “go live” and really get a sense of the candidates.

Gedney cautions that metrics don’t show that online video increases opens. Find out how video works for your audiences with another A/B test. Take a brief online video (3 minutes or less) to feature in the first version, delete it in the second and see which generates more opens and clickthroughs. And, if you don’t have a well-edited, brief video on hand, link to a brief slideshow of high-impact stills, like this timeline from EDC.

5) Multiple Senders, Celebrity Endorsers
Vary things for your audiences, so they stay interested. Otherwise, repeated messages from the same sender can get boring (my 5-year-old’s new favorite word, since when are kindergarteners bored?). Obama’s campaign emails come from him, from Michelle Obama, campaign manager David Plouffe and other staff members, celebrity endorsers and, most recently, VP candidate Joe Biden.  The variety keeps it fresh!

Sign Up Today for Free Email Campaign Training: Simply subscribe Obama’s and McCain’s email lists
I recommend you subscribe to a few campaign email lists (presidential  plus)  to get a constant flow of new ideas for your nonprofit email campaigns. I promise that the ideas just won’t stop (until November 5th). Don’t forget to let me know what you harvest and put into play for your nonprofit.

Strengthen your nonprofit brand with the Getting Attention Nonprofit Tagline Report. Subscribe to the Getting Attention e-newsletter (in-depth articles and case studies on nonprofit marketing) to get the free report on publication in mid-Sept..

Nancy Schwartz on September 11, 2008 in Branding and Messages, Campaign Marketing Models & Tips, Email and E-Newsletters, Nonprofit Communications | 2 comments
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  • Nancy, you are absolutely correct about shorter subject lines. We are just about to release our newest metric report which will have more data on this. The shorter, the better.
    Raj Khera
    CEO, MailerMailer

  • Melanie Guin MNM

    Thanks for the ideas!
    http://www.charitynetusa.com/blog

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