Many associations spend a lot of money and time developing what they call “consistent branding.” They have a look, they choose a stylebook, and everything they send out — print, email, online — follows the guidelines to a tee.
Unfortunately, it’s completely irrelevant. It may sound good in a meeting, it may make a nice checkbox in a strategic plan, but it doesn’t mean a damn thing. The point of sending something out is not to make you look good — the point is to get someone else to do something. (And a logo, an email template, a stylesheet are NOT a “brand” or even components of one.)
Take email, for example. Associations build nice templates and stick with them. Yes, this makes sense for a regularly-produced newsletter. But for other messages? Not so much. Many associations forget that click-thrus matter a lot more than consistency.
For example, a certain association holds a lot of webinars and classes, and they send out a lot of marketing messages about them — each of which follows the exact same template, with the exact same look, written in the exact same style. I get them and before I even read them, I know exactly what each email is about.
And I delete every single one.
Despite what some people have been claiming for years and years, email to an opt-in list is still the best way to reach an audience and get it to do something, right now. But only when you do it right. Doing it right means —
1) Knowing what you want the audience to do.
2) Getting them to do it.
Based on many years now of using email successfully, the one thing I’ve learned is — there’s no one way to do it. Trying to always do it the same way may be a lot easier on you, but it doesn’t get maximum results. When it comes to email marketing, you should —
- Send really short one-sentence emails.
- Send really long three-page emails.
- Send plain text emails.
- Send emails with no text and one catchy picture.
- Send emails with imperfect grammar and run-on sentences.
- Send emails that include coupon codes or special offers.
- Send emails with no coupon that make a point of saying there’s no coupon.
- Send emails that come from real people, not the association. (Actually, you should always do that.)
- Send the exact same email to the same list three times over the course of a few weeks.
- Send a series of emails that are related, but different.
- Announcing something big? Send an email that says you’re going to announce something big and offer a sign-up link for people who want to be the first to know what it is.
- Send an email promoting something you’re not charging for.
- Send a one-question survey about something that your audience is interested in and tell them you will send them the results. (As opposed to a survey about something you want to know about your audience that’s of use only to you.)
- Send an email that contains info you forgot to include in a previous message, or corrects a link. (Use that one sparingly.)
- Launching something new? Send a teaser email with a quiz or puzzle that is related to what you’re going to announce.
- Send lists — done right, lists are damn near irresistible. Don’t make them lists of 10 or 5 — make them lists of 4 or 7 or 12. Like “Top 4 Questions We Get About…” or “7 Ways People Are Solving X Problem.”
Now, this is all off the top of my head, but my point isn’t that you send out all these different kinds of emails every week (heaven forbid), or about every single thing you are trying to do. The point is — for every single thing you want people to do, you should approach it individually and craft an approach that will get people to do it. Don’t say, “This is the template we use to promote classes so since we’re going to promote a class, we will use it.”
And of course the most important thing here is who’s getting the email — stop sending emails out to everybody. Use your data to figure out who is most likely to be interested in something, and who is least likely to be interested in something. Don’t bother the people who probably aren’t interested. They will not feel grateful for the chance to marvel at the consistency of your branding.
Remember — consistency, hobgoblins, etc. Get people to read, push them to click, move them to do. The rest is noise.