I was playing around on Mashable yesterday and happened on The Key to More Successful Email Campaigns: Time. Since I recently offered you Top 10 Tips for Successful Nonprofit E-Appeals (and the big 11th is coming on Monday – you’ve still got time to guess what it is and win a free e-appeal review!), I thought I’d share this with you as a nice complement.
It’s something that should be a no-brainer; but, as Pooh describes it, sometimes we all can be “a Bear of No Brain at All.” How can we be the Best Bear in all the World?
In a nutshell, Jeanne Jennings exhorts you to do one simple yet essential thing: Make sure your production schedule allows enough time to develop great creative.
Stop for a minute to let this sink in. Sinking? How often have you had a whole campaign planned; then not thought about the design, graphics and composition until the very last minute (if at all)? Too often we think a lot about the copy; then send it off to an administrative assistant or IT staff person the day before launch and say: “Can you please set this up to go out?” Sometimes we don’t even spend much time on making the copy compelling, simply putting something on the calendar like: May – Send special e-appeal about feeding kids, tying in Mother’s Day. Then we sit down to write something a few days before launch date. Sound familiar?
The standard production schedule for a brand new email campaign is six weeks. This is according to Jeanne, and it rings true based on my experience. Can you do it in less time? Of course. And sometimes you need to. But why wouldn’t you schedule sufficient planning time in advance? Things happen. People get sick. They go on vacation. You need stuff you don’t have… approval from your boss… a signature from the person you want to sign it… permission to use a photo… And, inevitably, it takes longer to get the technical details worked out than you had anticipated.
Here’s the suggested work plan to cover all your bases in advance:
Include the folks who will be involved in the creative. Get everyone on board with the goal of the appeal. (This may mean including your boss, if they’re the type to care about this and possibly torpedo the whole idea after you’ve worked on in for the next month). Brainstorm campaign strategy together. Determine what you’re going to need to do to make the campaign sing. Anticipate all you’ll need. Clarify assignments.
Develop your outline. What benefits will you offer up to your prospects? How will they get them? This is where you think about the donor’s journey – from receiving the email… to opening it… to reading it… to clicking on internal links… to acting on those links. This is the place to really get inside your reader’s head. Would you open this if you didn’t work for your organization? Having opened it, would you act on it? Having clicked on “donate,” would the landing page you’ve come to assure you you’re in the right place (or would it be a generic landing page, not specifically tied to this campaign)?
Jeanne says “For most emails, copy is king. It, not the design or the coding, is what will motivate readers to action. I typically include five business days for this when we’re talking about multiple audiences, emails, and landing pages.” If you’re doing a single email to one audience you can use less time. If you’re segmenting your audience (perhaps by recency, frequency or size of gifts) you’ll need more. Most good copywriters at least sleep on it.
Design, Programming, and Quality Assurance
There’s an art to putting the email together, and good design helps. Designers need time. If you think design is no big deal, check out Nonprofit Email Design: 20 Tips for More Effective Emails. You’ll also want to check all the links to make sure they work. And set up the landing page. It all takes time. Give your team the time they need to pull off a winning campaign from A to Z.
There’s still time to win a free e-appeal review from yours truly. No one has yet guessed the tip I left out of Top 10 Tips for Successful Nonprofit E-Appeals. So guess! You stand a good chance of winning. You can’t win if you don’t play. I’ll reveal the answer next week. Contact me with your guess.