3 ways to improve your e-mail response rate

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This is your reward for reading this post

E-mail newsletters are a great way to stay connected with your supporters and invite them to engage more deeply– but only when they read what you send.  Here are three simple ways to avoid the delete key.

Stop sending without permission

If you add people to your newsletter list without express permission–stop.  First, it’s illegal.  Second, it doesn’t help your cause.  The best-case scenario is most people will simply ignore you.  The worst case is they will mark your messages as spam. If that happens often enough you won’t be able to e-mail anyone.

Why take the risk?  Your organization is incredible– there is no need to resort to tricking people into receiving your messages.  Plus, spamming people doesn’t actually help you.  Sure, you will send fewer e-mails if you ask for permission first–but that’s a good thing. The benefits of e-mail newsletters don’t come from the number of people who receive them, but from the number of people who respond.  If a supporter cares enough to respond to your e-mail, she cares enough to subscribe on her own.

Make every message worth reading

The key is to focus your messages on what your readers most care about– not what you most care about.  For every article ask yourself  “what benefit does this article have for my readers?” If you can’t come up with a great one, cut the article.

Next,  reward readers for opening your messages.  The reward doesn’t have to be big.  It could be heart warming  photos of a child the organization is helping to save.  Maybe it’s a factoid that helps them feel smart at their next dinner party.  Maybe it’s  a public acknowledgement of previous support.  The key is consistency.  By providing this small reward every time, you train your readers that opening e-mail from you is worth it.

Make subscribing (and unsubscribing) painless

Now that you aren’t guessing about who wants to read your newsletter, your goal is to encourage every person who visits your website to choose to sign up.

First, make the subscription process easy and obvious.  Include a big invitation to subscribe on every page of your website (See the goody box up there?  That’s my newsletter  invite).  Next, require as little information as you can from the subscriber.  You must have an e-mail address.  A first name is helpful for personalizing your newsletter.  After that, every piece of information you require makes it more likely the potential subscriber will abandon the form.  I require only an e-mail address to sign-up and ask for a first and last name.  Most people fill out the whole form, and the ones for whom that is a problem, are still able to complete the process.

The final step toward painless sign-ups is to make sure subscribers know what they are getting, when they will get it, and how easy it is to change their mind.  “Sign-up for e-mail updates” provides no information. “Get each month’s success stories delivered straight to your inbox.” works much better.  By also including a sentence like:

“We never sell or rent your e-mail address and only want to e-mail you as long as you want to hear from us, so it’s always easy to unsubscribe.”

you also ease fears about signing up today only to be buried in e-mail tomorrow–and for the rest of your life.

Your turn

Does your nonprofit have an e-mail newsletter?  Tell us why it’s awesome and how to sign up in the comments!  Wish you had an awesome newsletter?  I’d be happy to help!

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