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Why Your Association Can’t Overlook Email

Phil Tretheway November 21, 2022

Email is far from a fresh idea in communications, which may be why it’s often overlooked. A few years ago, industry watchers were ready to declare the communication channel dead as new messaging platforms arrived.

Now, the explosion of agencies that specialize in email strategy testify to its ongoing value. But in addition to considering what information your organization needs to send and how often, you need to also think about your emails from a design perspective.

An association with decades of history could spend thousands of dollars to create a modern website to present an up-to-date reflection of its identity. But their email communications remain stuck firmly in the past. Instead of driving traffic to your website, your email gets lost in the noise of each member’s inbox.

Any brand ecosystem needs to deliver a cohesive experience to be effective. Email provides an opportunity to create literal links between your members and your website. With the right approach to design, you can ensure your organization is making the most of those connections.

Email Offers Targeted Outreach to Rival Social and Traditional Media

Email doesn’t have the same buzzworthy appeal as social media platforms like LinkedIn, Instagram, or Tiktok. With millions of potential viewers, each channel offers the tantalizing prospect of your message going viral with the right mix of keywords and timing.

But realistically, social media requires time, effort, and energy to make a dent with the audience you need. You need to dedicate resources to monitor each channel, and it’s increasingly difficult to gain traction within the algorithm without a large budget. Much like traditional media, the return on investment can be uneven depending on the campaign and your audience.

Email by contrast is much more targeted. Members and prospective members have confirmed their interest by opting in to receive your information. Your organization can’t waste a valuable opportunity to deliver targeted messages to the audience it needs most.

3 Best Practices for More Impactful Emails

The visual experience of your email needs to be consistent with the rest of your brand. Even if you follow general email best practices for how the copy appears in each message, you need to ask whether your message conforms to the same rules as your website, your printed collateral, and any other touchpoints with your brand.

Are your emails curated to deliver valuable insights to current and prospective members? Do the visuals consistently reflect your brand identity? Is the tone aligned with the rest of your content? Are they adding to the rich narrative of your brand? The more cohesive an experience your organization delivers, the more likely your message is to stand out amid a cluttered inbox.

To underscore their value, your emails should meet the following 3 best practices:

1. Adhere to Brand Guidelines

Every email you send should reinforce your organization’s brand. The copy should reflect the same voice and tone used by your organization and visual elements should be consistent with your brand identity.

2. Be Focused with Your Content

Emails should be simple, direct, and relevant to the recipient’s interests. Your members will lose interest and unsubscribe if your message is cluttered with too much content, not relevant to their needs, or filled with ads. 

Your distribution list targets an audience who is interested in your association. But you’re competing with each personal and marketing email they receive every day. Concise, targeted, and timely communication will allow your message to cut through the noise.

3. Encourage (and Monitor) Action from Readers

Emails are a powerful platform to deliver updates to your members, but it’s not the place to tell the full story. Emails need an image, a headline, and a brief teaser describing the content you’re promoting — and that’s all. If your members are interested, they will click the link to your site and find out more.

Emails are a powerful tool to drive visitors to your site, but they also inform your content strategy. You have to ensure your organization tracks user behavior on your site and in your emails to determine what is attracting readers. Once you know your audience’s interests, you can adjust your strategy to keep providing relevant content.

Emails Create Excitement for Your Organization’s Programs

Email provides a key point of contact between your association and its members at times when your information is most vital. For example, associations rely on successful annual events to engage members and encourage retention. Elevated event branding is an extension of your brand identity and email provides an effective way to promote your organization’s events to the right audience.

The most successful email programs deliver on the brand promise of the program and empathize with your members at each stage of their journey. For example, when communicating around an event:

  • Advance emails (Save the Date, Invitations, Announcements) need to reflect the tone of the event and ramp up member excitement.
  • During the event, provide support and value with a segmented attendee email with that day’s agenda and details.
  • Don’t forget people who did not attend the event. Share emails outlining highlights and event photos to generate FOMO, driving attendance for the next event.
  • Last but never least, collect feedback with an email survey of attendees to inform your strategy going forward.

In each case, emails allow you to showcase the value of your organization as well as its activities. But you can only demonstrate those details with the benefit of thoughtful design. 

Clear, concise emails that express a strong visual connection to who you are as an organization underscore that your emails — and your subscribers’ time — are valuable. Don’t allow these critical points of connection to deliver anything less than a positive impression to your members.

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