POST HASTE: Tips for Writing Effective Marketing Emails

577377091_e541a6f180So, you’ve set-up your email list and you’ve got some people to sign-up… so what now?

There’s a range of things that you can do to increase the chances of engaging with the most amount of people.

So, here’s a run through of things.

This list is for the helpful email newsletter or regular email that people have opted in for. It’s not for unhelpful spam, okay?

Consider your variables.

These are the things you can change around and adjust to see what works best. Adjusting one can have a big impact.

Subject line: That’s the line that accompanies your email. You’ll need to think of something interesting and eye catching that entices an open. Avoid ‘Weekly email vol 1.’ It has all the allure of a soggy novel. Vary it.

Timing: Think about what time you’ll send it. When would it get most attention? Would people be busy with their own jobs mid-morning and straight after lunch to spare time? Often, using an email provider you can pre-schedule a time to send your email out. Fridays and Monday are often bad days to send out an email. You get lots more out-of-offices on those days.

Pictures: Think about whether an image would work. But remember, that these can’t always be opened and big email lists rarely use them.

Merge tags: This is a way you can open up your email with a personal address to your audience. So, it’s ‘Dear Dan’ if it’s to Dan and ‘Dear Vera’ if it’s to Vera. You’ll need to have uploaded your list as a spreadsheet or similar format so the database knows to pull out the right first name.

Start the email: Tell them the reason you are emailing. They may have signed-up to the museum events list, for example, and you are letting them know of the summer events.

Links: Chances are you’ll want people to click through to a webpage. Pay close attention to the number of links you have and see how they perform. The first link tends to be the one with most click throughs. Don’t over stuff it. You can see what content works best by checking to see who opens what.

A call to action: Round-off with a call to action. This is the thing you’d like people to do. For instance, ‘click the link’, ‘donate’ or ‘buy one for your holidays’.

Sign off as a real person: People prefer talking to people. So sign off as one. When Barack Obama first won the election he didn’t sign all his campaign emails. Why? Because people cottoned onto the fact that he would be too busy. So, the regional organiser John Smith or someone else was fine.

Make sure you experiment endlessly. Your audience is pretty unique to you and the only way you’ll find out what works is by experimenting with your variables. You’ll see what works through studying your analytics.

Other top tips

Use a mobile-compatible template: Most email providers will shape your email and give you a template. There’s often a range. Try and start with the simplest one and one that will open on a mobile phone.

Add an address and an unsubscribe button: By law, you need to do this, so add one.

Sign-up: Follow political parties from the UK and the USA and online retailers. You’ll get a free education in how to write engaging emails. Pick the ideas that feel right from the look and feel.

Relevant content: It goes without saying that the content you provide will make or break your email list. Sending beef recipes to a vegetarian cookery list won’t work.

Style: Be light and engaging if you can. You’re asking people to sign-up and be signposted. Don’t make it a chore.

Test it: Before you send your email, test it. Most email providers allow you to send a test email first. This will allow you to check the links you’ve embedded as well as allow you to review your content. Don’t ever send it blind. Send it to a colleague to get their feedback. When you do send it, try and look at it on a mobile phone. Ofcom in 2015 says that 66 per cent of people have a smartphone and it’s where they check their emails.

Evaluate, evaluate and evaluate: When you’ve sent an email wait a few days and go back and see what worked and what didn’t. Don’t be afraid to send out test emails to small groups to see what the stats say works before you send the bulk list.

This post is part of the LGA’s email best practice guidance that you can read here.

Picture credit: Emilano / Flickr: https://flic.kr/p/T2d6r

 


MUSTARD MAIL: 20 things to learn from #govd12

Okay, so here’s three things that may just help you fall off your seat a little bit. Or at least raise an eyebrow.

Boom! Email can be a bit sexy. Not shiny hipster Apple sexy but in an effective way of communicating with people kind of a way.

Boom! I’m seeing one of the key roles of public sector communications is to point people at more efficient ways of contacting them that’s going to make them happier and save the organisation a stack of money.

Boom! Somebody somewhere in a restaurant had a service so very bad they spelt out their complaint in mustard and ketchup.

Here’s 20 things I learned from the excellent Govdelivery Delivering Real Value to the Public Through Effective Use of Digital Communications 2012 event at the National Audit Office.

1. Bad customer service can be repaid in ketchup

Gerald Power from Trapeze used this rather fabulous slide that told a rather splendid story. Person or persons go into restaurant with wipe-clean tables. Nobody comes and talks to them for half an hour. They spell this out in condiments, take a picture, post it to the web and leave. It’s a perfect tomato-based illustration of where we are with customer service in the social web.

If people just ain’t happy they’ll tell their friends. In creative ways that will go viral.

2. Email is…. sexy?

Actually, bad email is always bad news. The sort that clogs the inbox. The cc to far. But cutting through the rubbish, email does have results as a comms channel. Clearly, govdelivery are keen to stress their product which helps government deliver opt-in targeted emails on request on a whole bunch of subjects. But actually, there’s some pretty good results. Thinking it through,  wouldn’t mind opting in as a parent for child-friendly events in the borough where I live. Or winter school closure updates.

3. Comms is essential

As one speaker said, the role of comms in delivering the changes needed in local government is central, fundamental and essential. That made me think a little.

Research by accountants PWC has worked out the cost of local government contact by residents to resolve a problem. For face-to-face it’s £10.53, for telephone it is £3.39, while post costs £12.10 and online just 8p.

One of the roles of comms teams is to help point people at the channel that’s most effective to help save money.

So point people at more efficient ways of talking to the council and you’ll earn your worth as a comms team. That’s just a bit important.

Here’s some other things from the event:

4. There are 650 UK gov services (bar the NHS) costing up to £9bn a year but 300 have no digital presence at all.

5. The new gov.uk domain has saved £36m savings pa by moving from directgov and businesslink.

6. There’s a government target to save up to £421m from #localgov by digitisation.

7. The UK gov could save up to £1.7bn by digitising more.

8. Investment in comms is critical for local government.

9. There’s no need for fancy emails. Simple, to the point and effective for MHRA audience.

10. The digital by default line for UK government isn’t just coming from digital people. It’s coming from the heart of civil service too.

11. There’s no universal best time for an email as each campaign is different.

12. Don’t automate social content. Re-shape it.

13. Only way to realise cashable benefits from digital is headcount reduction and estate rationalisation.

14. A quarter of UK adults and half of all teenagers with smartphones and 77 per cent have broadband.

15. Love @geraldpower‘s idea of avoiding digital ‘magical thinking’. Don’t copy for the sake of it. Think it through http://bit.ly/cOFmkl  #govd12

16. Look to put #digital in BIG areas. Not little. Digital wedding bookings will save pence. Go to where you spend most cash.

17. LGA estmates £67.8m spent by #localgov on print public notices.

18. Public notices are an anachronism in a digital age.

19. 76 per cent of #localgov in an LGIU survey want to publish public notices online only while just 4 per cent want print.

20. There’s a debate about public notices being a subsidy to the print media. There a report.

Creative commons credit:

Bike: Kamshots http://www.flickr.com/photos/kamshots/193501258/sizes/o/


ICE INNOVATION: Ten case studies and ideas to innovate in the winter

Oh, the weather outside is frightful but the idea of doing cool things is always delightful.

Last year, the idea of tweeting when your gritters was going out was revolutionary.

Around half a dozen councils were leftfield enough to do it and the idea spread.

Public sector web standards organisation SOCITM picked up on it making it mainstream with their report for subscribers.

Is that enough?

Can we stand still now?

The fact is local government needs to innovate like never before.

Someone famous once said when you innovate, you’ve got to be prepared for everyone telling you you’re nuts.

So, where’s the innovation this year? Here’s some ideas and pointers on how straight forward they are…

1. MAP YOUR GRIT ROUTES

In the West Midlands, there’s some amazing innovation from mapping geeks.

Bright people from Mappa Mercia including the excellent Andy Mabbett last year built a grit map on Open Street Map to show grit routes in Birmingham. They dug out the routes from pdfs on the council website.

Now, they’re adding Solihull and Walsall too ready for the winter onslaught.


Birmingham City Council have linked to it from their transport pages and we at Walsall Council are tweeting it when the weather gets bad.

That’s a good example of working with a talented and community-minded online community.

Advantage: Community engagement.

Disadvantage: You need mapping geeks to be grit geeks too.

2. TWITTER GRITTER

Everytime you go out you tweet the fact. If you’re not doing it you should. It’s not enough to provide a service at 2am. You need to tell people. Why? Because they won’t know your council tax is being spent in such a way and they may well ring your harrassed staff at a time when they are thinly stretched.

It’s something I blogged about last year with a case study mapping more than 70 tweets.

Advantage: Community engagement. Cuts down unneccesary contact.

Disadvantage: You’ll need some kind of rota or it’ll all fall on one person’s shoulders.

3. YOUTUBE

A short clip to explain what the gritting service is all about. Shot on a Flip video It’s a good way of communicating what is being done.

Embedding the video in the service’s pages should be straight forward. Linking to YouTube and posting via Twitter and Facebook is easy. Tweet the link when you’re team are hitting the road

Advantage: Creates blog-friendly web 2.0 video content.

Disadvantage: You need a Flip video. The process isn’t instant.

4. MAP GRIT BIN LOCATIONS

Publish grit routes as open data? Why not.

But beware the perils of derived data that quicksand argument that means anything based on Ordnance Survey is mired in dispute.

Advantage: Publishing open data increases transparency

Disadvantages: It can’t be based on OS maps.

5 FACEBOOK

As local government Facebook sites mature and grow there’s more reason to post grit updates there too.

Drawbacks? Not all phones will allow you to post to fan pages and you may have to log on at a PC or a laptop.

Advantage: You reach the massive Facebook demographic.

Disadvantage: Your Facebook fanpage is harder to update than a profile.

6. LIVE TWEET

A trip around the borough in a gritter with a camera phone geo-tagging your tweets. It works as a one off and builds a direct connection.

At Walsall, we tweeted the testing of the gritters in a dry-run for winter including geotagged shots from the cab itself as it trundled around the streets.

Advantage: A service from a different perspective.

Disadvantage: Labour and time intensive.

7. TEXT AND EMAIL ALERTS

Sometimes we can be so struck by new gadgets that we can forget the platforms your Dad and mother-in-law have.

Simply speaking, there are more mobile phones in the UK than people.

Many councils are charged around 8p a text to issue an SMS. That’s a cost that has to be picked up from somewhere. But using the standard costs per enquiry of around £7 face-to-face and £5 over the phone the 8p charge starts to look viable.

Advantage: You can reach large numbers of people and cut down potentially on unavoidable contact.

Disadvantage: It costs.

8. BIG SOCIETY TWITTER GRITTER

Not every council has the resources to tweet its gritting. In Cumbria, the community of Alsthom high in the dales regularly gets cut off in the snow. Fed-up with the council response the town clubbed together to buy their own gritter.

Community and digital innovator John Popham floated the interesting idea of the community stepping in to tweet gritting activity. In effect, a Big Society Twitter Gritter It’s a fascinating idea, would share the burden and may fill the gap where a council doesn’t have the digital skills or the staff.

Advantage: If there are residents willing it’s a good partnership potentially.

Disadvantage: It’s dependent on volunteer power.

9. QR CODES

What are they? Funny square things that your mobile phone can identify and can download some information about. I don’t pretend to fully understand them and I’m not sure if they’ve reached a tipping point in society just yet. However, Sarah Lay of Derbyshire County Council is looking at adding QR codes to grit bins to allow people to report problems. It’s a fascinating idea that needs looking at.

Advantages: Tech-savvy citizens can use them to pinpoint problems.

Disadvantages: A format that is still finding traction amongst the rest of the population.

10. OPEN DATA

What can you publish as open data? Wrack your brains and consult the winter service plan. There’s grit routes themselves. There’s the amount of grit stockpiled. There’s the amount of grit spread day-by-day.

Advantage: Open data is good for transparency.

Disadvantages: Day-by-day updating could be tricky as engineers are snowed under. If you’ll forgive the pun.

Links:

Creative commons:

Walsall grit pile Dan Slee http://www.flickr.com/photos/danieldslee/5087392858/

Four Seasons bridge http://www.flickr.com/photos/fourseasonsgarden/2340923499/sizes/l/in/photostream/

Twitter gritter Dan Slee http://www.flickr.com/photos/danieldslee/5115786276/

Road m4tik http://www.flickr.com/photos/m4tik/4259599913/sizes/o/in/photostream/