We all love social media and it’s a great tool for supporter engagement, but if you’re looking for ROI, good old email still outperforms all other marketing channels, generating a very healthy $40 return on every $1 spent.
Email isn’t just here to stay, it’s booming! On average, the Salsa mail servers dispatch over six million emails per day on behalf of you, our customers – and that’s just on slow days. During important mailing occasions like year-end fundraising, they handle several times that volume.
So the odds are that email blasts are among the top things that you do. But there’s probably more that you could be doing. To help you get more from Salsa’s email features, check out the following tips and tricks:
1. Use A/B Testing to Get Boost Open Rates
A/B testing is a great way to experiment with different versions of your email blast by sending them to separate subsets of your target supporters. For instance, if you want to try two different e-mail newsletter titles to see which generates better open rates, you could use A/B testing to fire two different versions each to 5-10% of the newsletter recipients, then send the better-performing version to the remaining 80-90% of your list. Learn more about Salsa’s A/B split-testing package.
To avoid muddying your results, only test one variable at a time. For example, test the use of first and last name in the one version of a subject against another. Another variant: send your fundraising appeal to a 50/50 split of the list, using a different "Donate Now!" button on each. If you see a clear difference in performance, you might have a reason to start using a new donation graphic in all your email templates.
Once your tests are sent, the performance metrics are run automatically. When you’re ready to launch the main blast, simply send the best-performing content.
2. Don’t Overlook the Quality of your Text-Only Emails
Email is being consumed on more and more devices, so it’s important not to overlook the text-only version of your email content. In Salsa, you can do this using the “Validation Tab” which allows you to select and send separate HTML and plain text versions of your email blast as test messages.
3. Personalize your Emails With Merge Tools
Do you want to add a personalized greeting to your email or other information drawn from your supporter records? Using Salsa you can merge user-specific information into the text of each individual email.
This can be achieved using Salsa’s easy-to-use dynamic content blocks. Click on the “Add Dynamic Content” drop-down menu in your email blast content sections (HTML and text versions) then select the merge field of choice. If you prefer to do this manually, you can simply type the content in with the syntax. To help you experiment, take a look at these common merge fields.
4. Get Even more Personal with Dynamic Content
Speaking of dynamic content, merge fields are just one of several types of personalized, dynamic content that can be added to your Salsa email blast. You can also add other data such as the name and phone number of a supporter’s legislator or a personalized gift suggestion appropriate to a specific person’s donation history.
5. Enable “View this Email as a Webpage”
Want to let your email recipients click through to view a web page version of your email blasts? This is a great option for dealing with finicky email clients and it provides an extra option to subscribers who only receive text-only emails.
This can be achieved with little to no additional effort, including placing a single "set it and forget it" link in your email template that will automatically generate the correct unique link to a web display for each different email blast you send. Read all about it here.
6. Trust Salsa to Improve your Email Deliverability Rates
Sending bulk email and having it actually reach an inbox isn't always as simple as clicking "Send." You’ll encounter bounces, spam reports, and innocent phrases that excite the suspicions of mail-server algorithms. Even when you do everything right, it's a full-time job to keep your delivery environment awesome. Fortunately for you, we keep an eye on all those things every day, and we’ve compiled a list of best practices for email deliverability including segmentation, compelling subject lines, practicing good list hygiene, optimizing your format and length, and more.
7. Track Email Response Rates over Time
The volume of data generated by email makes it prohibitive to query supporters on aggregated email performance -- things like "everyone who opened at least five emails." That's just too much to crunch. In lieu of that, Salsa increments a data table called supporter_email_statistics that keeps a running count of "lifetime" opens and click-throughs, the individual's "lifetime" click and open percentages, and the most recent date that supporter opened or clicked on any email. (For Salsa old-timers, "lifetime" here means since the beginning of 2011.)
By selecting “Email Statistics” from the query builder, you can search for a variable like "everyone who's opened an email more recently than (date)" or "everyone who has ever opened at least five emails."
Email Statistics >> Emails Opened >> Greater Than >> 4.5
8. Get More from your Email Autoresponders
Autoresponses (or email triggers, the name is interchangeable in Salsa) does the relationship-building work of email blasts automatically, and they are great for things like setting up an automated welcome email series. Hopefully you're making liberal use of them.
But did you know that Salsa email autoresponses are also smart? For instance, you can specify that they get sent to very particular types of supporters. To do this, go to your “Email Blasts” tab, then click the “Autoresponses” link, and click into “Details” for an individual autoresponse. In that autoresponse’s third tab, "Autoresponse Options and Send Conditions", you can define a condition under which the autoresponse will launch.
Say you're running a state-level campaign and want to send different replies to people depending on whether they sign up in state or out-of-state. Your in-state email autoresponse might have a condition like:
Then, build a second email autoresponse with an out-of-state greeting and use the condition:
Associate both autoresponses with your sign up page. (Note that the page should require the “State” field in order to be sure the autoresponse receive the necessary variable.)
This syntax is admittedly a bit on the obscure side. Our documentation describes it in greater detail along with some examples, but don't hesitate to hit up our support team for more help constructing your conditional email autoresponses.
9. Delay your Email Autoresponses
You can also delay the release of email autoresponses by any number of hours. This is a handy way to build an automated welcome sequence. For example, you could schedule a welcome message that’s triggered after a 24-hour delay, then another to follow three or four days later, and still others weeks or even months afterwards. Note that you'll want to classify any such autoresponses (in the first tab) as a “Timed Trigger,” not a “Reply Email.”
10. Track the Performance of Email Autoresponses
Autoreponse emails don’t produce statistics (open rates, click-through rates) like email blasts do. So how do you know how your autoresponse emails are performing? You can achieve this in Salsa by converting an autoresponse email to a streaming email. Streaming emails are enhanced autoresponses, adding the automation features of autoresponses to the design template and statistics reporting features of email blasts.
If streaming emails are available on your account, any time you edit an email autoresponse, you'll see a large button above it enabling you to convert that email to a streaming email.
11. Use a Variation of Your Usual Email Address for Testing
So you've got your own personal email and it's already on your list, but you need to test how a page will interact with a new user and don't want to go through the hassle of creating a new email account.
Many email addresses will recognize, for example, “email@example.com” and “firstname.lastname@example.org” in the same inbox, while Salsa will understand these as two different emails and two different supporter records. In certain situations, this trick might be just the thing you need for testing!
Go ahead and try submitting your Salsa form with something like email@example.com. You'll get a new supporter record in Salsa, and any autoresponses from your new signup will land in your usual firstname.lastname@example.org inbox, making it easy for you to see the results without having to worry about maintaining many email accounts.
This isn't actually a Salsa feature per se, but a feature of your email client, so be aware that not all mail clients will deliver your variant name this way. (We know Gmail does.)
Phew. Okay. We learned a lot about email today. Take a deep breath. Digest it. Go play in Salsa!
Bookmark these other resources and learn more about how to put these and other Salsa tools and features to good use:
- Nonprofit Email List Segmentation 101 – Not everyone on your list wants to hear everything you have to say, learn how segmentation can help better organize your supporters.
- 10 Tips For More Effective Nonprofit Email Marketing – Learn how to market your emails.