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Salsa Blog

Using Segmentation to "Personalize" Communications: Engage, Don't Enrage

by Akash Jayaprakash, Learning and Training Associate

You've got your marketing campaign ready, you've set up your registration page in Salsa, and your first round of emails selling the Big Event goes out to your whole list. Awesome! You even get a decent response rate from the first batch. Now, don't keep emailing the registrants and asking them to do what they've already done! Segment them out!

Sound silly? You’d be amazed how many organizations commit this grievous offense. It's a great way to lose supporters and goodwill, and wastes opportunities to increase supporter engagement rather than fatigue (or resentment). Use Salsa's powerful email blast targeting features to target or exclude supporters based on event registration, membership (or non-membership) in a group, or the presence of a tag or combination of tags.

Here are some quick tips for segmentation in various circumstances:

Events Registration: Market to Non-Registrants, but thank (and respect) Registrants

  • Avoid marketing to people who actually register: remove them from specific marketing lists (or add them to an exclusion list). Instead of ads, send registrants additional information on the event, or a special thank you.
  • For regular communications (e.g. newsletters), insert the standard ads for unregistered supporters, but make a special version for registrants with the ads removed. Easiest way to do this? Click the Copy and recycle content link next to the regular email blast in Salsa. Change the Reference field to "2012 June Newsletter NO ADS - FOR REGISTRANTS" then adjust the content and targeting accordingly.

Actions: Nudge the lazy, inform the active, and attract interest in new issues

  • Send appeals for action to those who haven't taken action yet. Stop sending appeals to people who've already done it. (Duh.)
  • For those took action, send one (two at most) followups with updates on the status of the action, or offer of additional info.
  • Do some Boolean logic: if you have people who've taken action on one of your issues but not others, offer them information on the new issue. Search for people who took action on a particular issue, then reach out to them ("You joined us in the past to fight for teaching kung fu in public schools--won't you help us again by supporting fair trade tofu in school lunches?")

Donations: Inform and build goodwill even when you don’t get the cash

  • Send appeals for those who haven't taken action yet, or consider a streaming email sequence to build engagement and awareness over time.
  • For donors: one immediate followup, then route them into your usual system of appeals and acknowledgement.
  • Don't be that organization that has asks for more money in their thank-you note. That's just terrible. ("Thanks for donating $100 to Soap for Soldiers. Won't you please give $100 more, right now?") By all means you should be hitting up previous donors for additional support, just don't do it in the thank-you response. Give them a chance to breathe, then follow up later and acknowledge their earlier support while gently asking for a new gift. How long you wait--anywhere from a month to the better part of a calendar year--will depend on your past communications and your relationship with your donors.

VIPs: Special treatment or the "human touch" (provided by a robotic database system)

  • Exclude VIPs from mass emails. This doesn't mean you should leave them out of invitations or appeals that the larger group of supporters is getting: just make the VIPs feel special when you do it.
  • VIP contact idea 1: Insider's Circle - Send a special newsletter with more detailed or localized information, special interviews with staff, (fake) surveys, or early invites to events. If you're gutsy and careful, you can even recycle content from your other news sources, just add length or extra images. Another great thing about the VIP newsletter is that you can promote it as a perk of making higher donations.
  • VIP contact idea 2: "Personal" invites. Works best with small organizations or small groups of VIPs. Make an email blast, but don't use your usual template; in fact, don't use any template. Do everything you can to make the blast look like a regular, personal email from one of your senior staff (with their permission, of course). You can even send it plaintext and add "Sent from my iPhone" at the bottom. If you have the privileges, make a fake email alias for your staff person to use as the "reply to" address.

    Finally, add a couple typos, make a simple appeal, then insert a link. Combined with merge fields, you now have a "personal" email that you can send to dozens (or hundreds!) of VIPs:

Hey there --

I'm really excited about seeing u at The Big Conference next week, would love if if you could come to the Super Fundraiser on Thursday nite. There's still some tix left and it'll be a lot of fun, great food and music. I'll buy you a drink myself! Visit www.ourgroup.com/event to get tix, or call my assistant at ext. 95. Hope to see you there!

Sent from my iPhone

I pulled this off once, and though I will no doubt pay for the deception with my immortal soul, I got ludicrously wonderful response rates. Even got emails from people saying, "I wasn't planning to go to the event, but your personal email really meant a lot to me so I changed my mind!" [evil laughter] Of course, before you try something like this 1) make sure you have buy-in from the senior staff person you're mimicking, 2) assess the technological savvy of your VIPs (folks who can understand full email headers will see through this sort of thing) and 3) scan the list of recipients to make sure you don't get a nickname or detail wrong ("But Cynthia McBigboss knows that nobody ever calls me 'Samuel,' I always go by Duke! So why does this personal email from her say 'Dear Samuel'?"). If you don't know your VIPs well enough to do that check, then take this as an opportunity to do some donor research first!

With segmentation and a little sleight of hand, you can improve your outreach, avoid drowning your supporters in email, and maybe even win a little extra goodwill from VIPs from your personal (heh) touch.

Topics: Supporter Management