Module 11: Ten tips to help your sport organization blast off with e-blasts
If you read last month’s email on how to maximize your newsletter, you have mastered the basics of email communication. Now, it’s time to introduce you to the newsletter’s shorter, nimbler cousin: the e-blast. An e-blast is a concise, persuasive message sent to your subscriber list. Your sport organization can use them to sell tickets to big events or fundraisers, increase program registration, encourage donations, and much more.
Given that 122 billion emails are sent per hour, however, many e-blasts get lost in the shuffle. To create e-blasts that get opened, try these 10 tips.
1. Follow legal requirements
If you have an email inbox, you’ve probably waged war against spam. In an effort to combat spam, the Canadian government has introduced anti-spam legislation. Luckily, however, these laws actually align with best practice. If you want to build a robust email list, you need to treat your members well. Most email marketing laws are simply common courtesy.
To stay on the right side of the law you must:
- Ensure that the people on your email list have given you permission to put them there. It’s not enough to allow them to opt out. They must opt in.
- Include an ‘unsubscribe’ or ‘opt out’ link at the bottom of each email.
2. Communicate with a purpose
To keep your members engaged, ensure that every e-blast offers them some benefit. This value doesn’t have to be tangible, though it could be. Early bird registration, contests and ticket/merchandise discounts are excellent ways to grow your email list.
More often, however, your e-blast will offer your members some valuable information. Sometimes this information will be designed to make them feel special and included, such as when you offer a behind-the-scenes peek into your organization or the world of high-performance sports. Other times, however, your e-blast will offer your members practical information that will improve their experience with your organization, such as a reminder about league registration deadlines.
You should also be able to indentify exactly what you want your readers to do after reading the email and communicate this specifically. If you need your readers to take an action, be sure to set it apart from the rest of the text in bold or put it in a button. For example, if you sent out an e-blast to drive ticket sales to a tournament, you could create a button at the bottom of the email that says ‘Order Your Tickets Now’ with a link to the online ticket outlet.
3. Turn your ‘Call to Action’ into a goal
Once you’ve determined the purpose or “call to action” of your email, set a concrete goal around it and use analytics to measure the results. For example, if you are trying to sell ticket sales, you might set a goal of getting 5% of your email list to click on your online ticket sales link. Try different strategies and adjust your approach based on the results.
4. Get your timing right
When it comes to email marketing, timing can make or break an email. Two factors impact timing:
Frequency of Emails:
Many email marketers believe that as long as you’re offering value, frequency is of secondary importance. Other marketers, however, say that you should test the frequency of your emails to find the engagement sweet spot. If you don’t send emails frequently enough, you might miss a chance to engage your members and they might forget about you. If you send too many, they will be annoyed and opt out. Use analytics to monitor how your members react to different email frequencies and adjust your schedule accordingly.
Some email subscriber lists have higher tolerances for certain types of messages. For example, many subscriber lists have a very low tolerance for donations asks, but will tolerate an email every day when a national team is competing at a big event.
Seasonality also plays a role. Your members will be more receptive to your emails in your sport’s peak season.
Timing of Emails:
In general, there is a three-to-five day window when you can expect your emails to be opened. This “open tail” has actually gotten longer thanks to more people checking social media more often than their email accounts.
According to a recent Pivotal Veracity study, early morning e-blasts had the lowest open rate. Mondays and weekends were also slow times. Research shows that Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursdays at lunch hour were the best times to send emails, since people often check their email over their lunch break.
Every subscriber list, however, is different. If you use an email service like Constant Contact or Mail Chimp, you can use analytics to determine when your emails are most likely to be opened. To find the ideal time to send your emails, consider doing some A/B testing. Send one batch of emails at one time, then send the other batch at a different time. This can be done either by dividing your list or half manually or by using the A/B testing functionality on MailChimp.
5. Keep it short
Did you know that the average person only spends 5.1 seconds reading an email? To capture your audience’s attention, keep your message concise. Many email marketers suggest that you should design your email so that it can be read in a single screen on a computer or cell phone. The more often your reader has to scroll or swipe down, the more likely you’ll lose them.
6. Link up
We’ve discussed in several other modules how important it is to link up your communication pieces. Make sure that your readers can easily find your website and social media channels through your e-blast. Email marketing experts also suggest that if you want your readers to click on a link, you should put it in a button that has an area of at least 44 X 44 pixels. This is especially important for any information that makes up the “call to action” of your email.
7. Consider mobile needs
Up to 66% percent of readers will view your email on a mobile phone. To design your email with mobile needs in mind:
- Put important links in buttons.
- Preview your email on different mobile phones before you send it.
- Add descriptive text to image links.
- Compress images so that they load quickly.
- Keep your email to 600 pixels in width so it will load well.
- Use a mobile template.
- Use lots of white space so that your email does not look cluttered when shrunken down to a mobile screen.
- Use horizontal bars not sidebars to separate information.
8. Edit your subject line
Did you know that many email marketers spend just as long on their subject line as they do on the content of the message? Your subject line can make the difference between your email getting read and your email ending up being deleted…or getting caught in the spam filter. Research shows that the most popular subject lines were 10 characters or fewer. Emails with subject lines of 50-59 characters were the next most popular. Since Android cuts off subject lines at 24 characters and Apple cuts them off at 31, some experts speculate that long subject lines that get cut off make people click on the email to read the full title.
Your subject line should also contain a clear call to action. If readers don’t know exactly what information your email contains, they’re unlikely to open it.
9. Create a community
E-blasts are a great opportunity to show the ‘human face’ of your organization. Your emails should make your readers feel included in your sport and your community. To foster a sense of community:
- Include some behind-the-scenes information or a special offer to make your email list feel like it’s an exclusive club.
- Ask for member quotes or stories that can be shared at the bottom of the next e-blast. For example, if your e-blast encourages parents to sign up their children for your beginner program, you might ask your subscribers to send in stories about how their child enjoyed the program last year. (Bonus: research shows that personal testimonials dramatically increase an email’s success rate).
- Encourage communication. Ask your members a question or solicit feedback.
- Use casual language, humour and emojis to create a friendly, positive tone.
10. Showcase your brand
As with all of your communications pieces, your e-blasts should have a look and feel that’s consistent with your brand and with all of your other communications pieces. Consistent branding reassures your reader that he or she is familiar with your organization and can trust its message.
Have a success story to share? Have a question about email communication? Get in the conversation by tweeting @viaSportBC or by emailing email@example.com.