Any association marketer in charge of email has heard it before from our members:

“You send me too many emails!”

“Why do I get a different email from you EVERY DAY?!”

“I like some of the news you send me, but it’s just too much.”

Or, simply, “Unsubscribe.”

Here are some ways to avoid getting that kind of member feedback:

1. DESIGN COOL EMAILS (WITHOUT BREAKING THE BANK)

Make sure your emails are mobile friendly and easy to read. You don’t have to employ email designers on staff to send beautiful emails. Your members know you’re a nonprofit, and they won’t expect cutting edge design because you probably don’t have the budget for it!

Consider creating one main template for most of your association’s emails, and just change out the email header depending on the email’s topic. Create another template for a special event, like your annual convention.

Here’s where you can go to find out more about creating amazing email designs:

They’re all affordable. Additionally, feel no shame in stealing ideas and templates from other associations.

2. CATER TO THEIR INTERESTS.

If you’re not using your association management system (AMS) and your email management system to track everything your members do, you need to start now. You need to know their:

  • Purchasing history from your store
  • Demographics
  • What emails they’ve opened
  • What emails they haven’t opened

This is the only way you will reach the right members with the right messages. For example, in my association, I’m not going to send a grad school professor of language and culture an email advertising our newest book on how to teach language at the elementary school level.

In addition, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over … and expecting a different result. If members are not opening your emails, there is a reason, and you need to find out what that reason is. Ask them — or use those AMS demographics and your email analytics to figure it out yourself.

Once you know these details, it’ll be easy to segment your members and plan your email marketing editorial calendar.

And in the same vein…

3. GIVE THEM OPTIONS; LET THEM CHOOSE THEIR OWN ADVENTURE.

All members don’t want the same things. You need to classify your emails into separate buckets. Members should have the option to choose which TYPES of email they receive.

This is called an Email Preference Center, and I’m sure you’ve seen it from larger companies. What you might not know is your email management system may have an option to help you do this on your own – for little or no extra cost.

Let members choose to receive advocacy emails, but opt out of getting general news emails. Keep in mind they can’t opt out of billing, so don’t give them that option!

If you haven’t heard of an opt-in campaign yet, read about it and consider running one if you’ve had MANY members unsubscribe from your emails.

4. DON’T HIDE YOUR UNSUBSCRIBE LINK/BUTTON

This is not only illegal, it’s uncool. Transparency is key to gaining the trust of your members. Make sure the unsubscribe link is large, in charge and once it’s clicked, says something like “Are you sure? Tell us what we did wrong! Come back!” You can beg; it’s fine.

5. DON’T SEND THEM SPONSORED EMAILS UNLESS THEY OPT IN TO SPONSORED EMAILS

Silence does not mean consent here.

I understand you may be able to make a lot of money by sending promotional emails from one of your sponsors, but you better be sure it’s something your members are interested in. If not, you’re going to make them mad, lose their trust and they’re going to unsubscribe.

6. QUIT THINKING YOU CAN GET BY DOING THE BARE MINIMUM.

The last time I wrote a blog like this, which was 2 years ago, I encouraged marketers to at least customize emails by putting the member’s name in it. But at this point, that’s just lazy! There are so many options available to you now and technology has advanced so you can now cater emails to each individual. Hi, NAME is no longer enough.

7. SEND MORE SNAIL MAIL

Many companies and associations are turning back to plain old snail mail to reach members. The regular mailbox is making a serious comeback. Because our email inboxes are in our faces every day, people are far more annoyed by too much email than by too much USPS mail. If you have a simple message to get across to members (like, for example, a save the date for an event), consider mailing a postcard.

You don’t have to do all of these things. Maybe just try one of them! Your members will thank you for it.

Lisa Campo has worked in the association space since 2011. She is the senior marketing manager at the American Staffing Association. She has a wide variety of professional interests, including personal branding, change management strategy, and email design that works in Outlook 2016. Lisa earned her B.A. in communications–print journalism from Loyola University New Orleans. An elderly millennial curmudgeon, Lisa loves dogs, tolerates the Oxford comma, and hates word clouds.

Lisa Campo has worked in the association space since 2011. She is the senior marketing manager at the American Staffing Association. She has a wide variety of professional interests, including personal branding, change management strategy, and email design that works in Outlook 2016. Lisa earned her B.A. in communications–print journalism from Loyola University New Orleans. An elderly millennial curmudgeon, Lisa loves dogs, tolerates the Oxford comma, and hates word clouds.

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