Every time you send a message, you are telling your users how much you value them, because you’re asking them to put their time and energy into what you have to say. Yet all too often, colleges blast out emails without putting half a thought into it and then wonder why their users don’t respond. I’m not talking about fiasco’s like UC San Diego - that was a reasonably well-planned email (as far as I can tell) that got the wrong mailing list attached to it, a mistake that can happen to anyone who’s pressed for time and trying to get a message out the door. Instead, I’m talking about messages that are ill-advised from conception.
Next time you’re contemplating an email marketing message, ask yourself the following questions:
Is there something for your users to do? One of email’s biggest benefits is the fact that users can take immediate action on what you’re asking them to do just by clicking a mouse. If you don’t have something for them to do after receiving the message, then think twice about sending it. The most common mistake I see colleges making in this category is the “hurry up and wait” email. It goes something like this: “Be on the lookout for this thing we’re sending you in the mail!” Why on earth would you send me an email to tell me that you’re sending me something in the mail? Send me an email when you want me to go fill out a form on your website, or you need to articulate some important information to me, or you have a special offer for me that I can fulfill today. But do not send me a message telling me to be on the lookout for a message you’re going to send me. That’s ridiculous and a total waste of your users’ time and good will.
Would you send the same message in a print mailing? Print marketing takes both time and money to execute, so marketers tend to be mindful with it when they are considering their tactics. Because it’s cheaper than print, oftentimes people confuse email as less valuable. But email is not the red-headed step child of print mail! If executed correctly, your return on investment in email will be staggering. Of course, I would hope that you wouldn’t send the EXACT same message over email as you would in print - it has to be optimized for the medium - but the point with this question is to assess whether or not this is really something that is valuable enough to be sent at all. If you wouldn’t send it over print, then don’t make an email out of it.
Would you respond to the message if you were on the receiving end? It’s such a simple question to ask, but one that is so often overlooked. If you got this same email from a school, or any organization you’re loosely affiliated with, would you open it? Read it? Click on the links in it? If you can’t honestly answer yes to any of those questions, then why would you expect you audience to behave differently?
Email needs a long-term vision. Every time you send a message, you are impacting whether or not your users will open and respond to future messages. I call it “creating a promise” with my users. If you keep your end of the bargain with them by only emailing when you have something of value to offer, then they will keep their end by opening and responding to your messages. This doesn’t happen overnight, but if you are disciplined about when you hit the send button, it will happen over time.