Content can drive opt-ins under new anti-spam rules

publication date: Oct 7, 2013
author/source: Alison Keys

How do you encourage more opt-ins and create e-communications your supporters cannot live without?

It’s actually simple – yet not so much!Alison Keys photo

Over the last three years, there has been a downward trend in e-mail open rates. This could be due to list fatigue, as research conducted by Inbox Marketer’s Geoff Linton has shown. According to Linton, the longer your recipients are subscribers, the more likely they are to get bored. Fatigue sets in if organizations do not engage subscribers in new ways and continue to provide relevant content.

Repetition, competition will sink your open rates

The perfect example is that new donor welcome messages have high open and click through rates, indicating that people are quite receptive to email after they have taken an action. But then they decline after donors see the same old messages coming in.

Another reason for the decline could be erosion from social media. As online fragmentation increases with the rise of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, people have more avenues for obtaining their information and communicating with a wide range of organizations and people.

There is so much traffic in everyone’s inbox that it’s hard to stand out. Typically, recipients scan the subject lines and senders. They keep the ones they trust and that grab their attention, and instantly delete the ones that don’t.

Sharpen content, subject line

That is why you need to provide your supporters with relevant content. “There must be perceived value in what you are sending them.  You have to create content that matters to the individual.  This takes some learning about your supporters – their likes and dislikes”, said Dean McJannet of Trico Evolution in Ottawa.

That part that can be daunting, but it can be as easy as knowing the region they live in or their reason for supporting you in the first place. If you know there was an oil spill nearby, for example, that would be relevant content to the people who live nearby.

Additionally, your subject lines are the reader’s first impression and must break through and capture their attention. Good subject lines influence the recipient’s desire to open an e-mail or delete it in split seconds. Be creative and more personal. For example, instead of saying “2013/14 Annual Report” you could say, “You helped save XXX lives this year. Your Donor Impact Report is attached.”

Design for mobile

Optimize your e-mails to be read by mobile – 36% email is now read on mobile. People spend a lot of time with their mobile device while waiting, riding public transit, or travelling - a great time for them to pay attention to your messages!

New rules on spam

Also very important, you must adhere to Canada’s Anti-Spam Laws (CASL) (Bill C-28), expected to come into force soon. Following these simple rules set out by CASL will only help build trust and credibility in your supporters’ eyes.

1) You must obtain recipients consent, either explicit or implied.

2) Provide recipients with a clear opt out or unsubscribe mechanism. If you start to become a bore they can be assured they can escape the monotony of your messages.

More tips to boost opt-ins

Offer something of value to your supporter in exchange for their email opt-in. For example, if your supporter is interested in gardening, offer tips for gardening, or entry into a sweepstakes to win a tour of gardens in a great destination, or a personal visit to their garden by an expert gardener.

Ask supporters for their email address (in all of your campaigns, including your mail, phone calls and social media) so you can provide them with gift acknowledgements, e-receipts, special event announcements and e-newsletters. Then provide relevant content to further engage your supporters.

Keep recharging your e-mail messages with interesting and relevant content and you are sure to win their readership – and their support – for a long time.

Alison Keys, president of Keys Direct Marketing and Communications, is recognized as a direct marketing strategist and communications expert. For nearly two decades, Keys Direct has provided high quality tele-fundraising, direct mail, e-marketing and consulting services to nonprofits. Alison serves as a mentor to Keys Direct staff as well as a hands-on partner with the agency’s clients.

She’s the mother of two “amazing” teen-agers who have been encouraged from an early age to be actively involved in the causes that are close to their hearts.

Contact Alison at

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