How Email Impacts Society

I want to share something inspirational that’s happening in the email industry (Oh, and you can learn some best practices too!). It’s a recap of the Email Experience Council’s current Nonprofit Project. The project originated as a manner to enable peers and competitors in the email marketing industry to put business aside and work as a team to create the best email efforts for a good cause.

In 2007, the eec selected the Women’s Bean Project as their project focus. Stephanie Miller, from Return Path, volunteered countless hours to lead this initiative and its team on behalf of the eec. I spoke with Stephanie about this effort to get the inside scoop on the project:

WHO IS THE WOMEN’S BEAN PROJECT?
The Women’s Bean Project (WBP) helps women break the cycle of poverty and unemployment by teaching workplace competencies for entry-level jobs through employment and by teaching job readiness skills in their gourmet food production business.

WHY WERE THEY A GOOD CANDIDATE?
The WBP was sending one-off donor and volunteer announcements from a database created in FileMaker.

The WBP came to the eec with the following needs and goals:

1. Efficiency: Communicate effectively and efficiently with donors, volunteers and buyers (online and offline).

2. Impact & Choice: Retain donors and buyers through a higher number of touch points—ensuring that each touch is meaningful but also reducing costs and the amount of staff time required for each. Also, allow each customer/donor to select the method of communication (online or offline) that works best for them.

3. Cost Savings: Continue to reach every customer, even as the number of buyers increases by 30% each year (raising the costs of printing and postage significantly).

4. Practicality: Launch and manage a program on a very small staff—literally one-quarter of one person was dedicated to email marketing for all three audiences (donors, buyers, volunteers).

HOW DID THE EEC VOLUNTEER TEAM LOOK?
It is a testament to the email industry and the eec membership that very quickly we had 15 talented professionals volunteer to help, and several vendors step forward and to provide tools and services free of charge. ExactTarget provided a free basic sending license and also graciously donated nearly 15 hours of support throughout the project. Return Path donated a free rendering and deliverability account. Other companies represented included Blackbaud, BlueHornet, Future Integrated Marketing, Industry Mailout, Leapfrog Enterprises, Merkle and Wolters Kluwer Financial Services.

WHAT WAS ACCOMPLISHED?
The team focused on six specific areas to create the program—content, design, infrastructure and list growth.

Content Strategy:
● Identified ways that email can support the WBP mission
● Developed a content strategy
● Debated and finalized permission standards (DOI)
● Developed a calendar for promotions around the holidays, including promoting some local events and fundraisers
● Advised on sending an email counterpart for the annual appeal to donors (direct mail)
● Promotional content recommendations: (1) special offers: 10% discount for National Soup Month; (2) developed concept, copy and photography for a Valentine’s Day email that would have viral impact; and (3) developed a year’s worth of promotional themes based on holidays in order to boost sales during non-peak months (e.g., soup sales in summer are very slow)
● Set up Google Analytics so WBP could measure success of the email program for driving sales and page views
● Helped train the WBP team to review campaign results with an eye toward optimization

Design:
● Developed wireframes for four types of emails
● Designed templates for newsletter, postcards, DOI/welcome and donor appeals
● Loaded the templates into ExactTarget and tested them
● Helped launch an inaugural issue—which included list hygiene and deliverability with an old file, as well as an opt-out strategy for the existing database

Infrastructure:
● Worked with the team to set up an ExactTarget account
● Upload the templates; Access the self-service training
● Testing and mailing
Course Correction: Aligning with with Yahoo! Store and cleaning up templates

List Growth:
● Starting point: 75% valid records
● Developed organic, offline and viral list growth ideas
● Recommended ways to optimize data capture on the website
● Reviewed the subscription flow for permission clarity and growth optimization

Wireframe Sample:

HOW DID IT TURN OUT?
Here’s a quick rundown of the results:

1. We launched a program! It is practical, earns results, garners the praise and kudos of subscribers, donors and the WBP Board of Directors and has legs—the WBP can continue this email program when the volunteer team disbands.

2. Subscribers love it! The inaugural issue of the newsletter generated:
● 32% open rates
● 15% clickthrough rate
● 3.1% bounce rate on new data (25% bounce rate on old list data)

3. Subscribers are great WBP customers! Page views from email subscribers are two times higher than other sources.

For more details on our work with the Women’s Bean Project and past Nonprofit Projects, visit the Nonprofit Project page on the Email Experience Council’s website.

—Jeanniey Mullen of the eec