September 9, 2008 | Categories Nonprofit Technology

Improve Nonprofit Email Marketing Results with Testing

Testing and measuring the results of direct mail is one of the most basic concepts for mailing success. Small changes, like the size of the envelope and use of a stamp vs. metering actually have a dramatic impact on your results. Only by experimentation and then comparing and analyzing your results can you find the most effective direct mail piece.

Well the same principal applies to constituent email messages, as well as the design of your website, but many nonprofits don’t do the same type of testing for these media. It’s ironic because electronic media actually make it easier to quickly and easily measure performance.

Email Marketing Key Performance Indicators (KPI)

Email open % – Though not a perfect measure due to differences in email systems, this is one of the simplest way to evaluate subject lines and mailing times

Click thru% – Most emails should have a desired action such as visiting a page of your website. E-mail marketing systems like Constant Contact track the % of recipients that click each link in your email.

Marketing Email Test Variations

Subject line – The decision to open your email depends on it. The recipient wants to know who it is from and how it is relevant to them, but it also needs to be short (less than 50 characters including spaces).

Day & time of email – Conventional wisdom suggests sending emails during the day and avoiding weekends and holidays — so the recipients are at their desks and your message isn’t among dozens of other emails. Truthfully, there is no sure rule for what will work best for your audience, so try different schedules and measure the results for yourself. Also consider varying the timing occasionally.

Text vs. Graphical emails – Although graphical emails are more attractive, simple text emails can work better at times, particularly when you want a personal feel and want a specific action (respond or click a link). Typically text-based emails don’t allow you to measure open and click-through rates easily, so evaluating them might require measuring the end result (e.g. track number of donations generated within 48 hours of mailing — if you test a text and graphical email solicitation with a link to your online donation page). If you use Constant Contact, they actually have a “text template” that looks and acts like a text email, but still includes the HTML graphic “beacon” to track open rates.

So for your next broadcast email, do a test one of these aspects first, compare the results and then send the version that works best to your broader list. Let me know if your results improve — I bet they will.

Written by Amanda Foran
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