5 Questions to Ask Before Starting an Email Marketing Program

Often when launching a new advocacy campaign or organization, it’s assumed every avenue should be used to promote it. We need tweets! We need Facebook ads! We need emails! But, before committing to being on every platform and stretching your resources thin, it is helpful to consider what makes your content unique and how it can help you meet your overall goals.

Time and time again, our campaigns have found that email is an effective way to keep existing advocates engaged, but it’s also the channel that requires the most planning and forethought. That’s why we’ve developed the following five questions to ask yourself before proposing email as a channel for your campaign. We recommend you consider these before you even start thinking about those snazzy email templates and creative subject lines!

  1. What’s the point?

What’s the point of this new email program and engaging with supporters in this way? Is it to solicit donations? Provide useful policy analysis? Spur people to contact their representatives? Although producing high open rates is a good indicator of engagement, it’s unlikely opens alone will help your organization succeed. Make sure you, and your organization, are aligned on the long-term goals of this new program, as those goals will help you determine your audience, content, format, and frequency.

  1. Who will read it?

One of the reasons email campaigns can be so successful in spurring action is because people are already opted-in to your organization in some way. Maybe they signed up at a friend’s suggestion or read your blog. But email list subscribers can’t come out of thin air, so consider where and how you’ll promote opportunities to sign-up and opt-in. Also, consider your likely audience and their habits. Are they in major cities? Educated? Young or old? Politically savvy? All of these questions will help you think through whom you want to attract and how.

  1. What will you say?

As they say in the email business, content is king. Some campaigns may ambitiously start with a goal of one email update a week, but then quickly realize they have nothing new to say! Now’s the time to consider your content and its source. Will you summarize longer blog posts? Produce email-only content? Feature supporters? Share timely policy updates? Make sure you have a long-term plan in place, so you aren’t left scrambling for content in order to keep your audience engaged. Or, worse, only emailing supporters when you need something from them. Don’t be the friend that only calls when they need a favor.

  1. Is this valuable?

Why will people want to sign-up for your email list? And keep opening your emails? Examine your competitors in the marketplace. Is there already a similar product? If so, what will make your organization’s updates unique and stand apart? Maybe you’ll produce better analysis, or offer a direct industry perspective on issues. Regardless, make sure you are creating something people will want to read.

  1. How will you know if it’s working?

Email marketing analytics such as open rates, click-through rates, and number of unsubscribers can be valuable for observing trends and benchmarking, and they can be indicators of success. But, make sure you have systems and tools in place to measure your long-term goals as well. How are the organization’s or campaign’s overall goals connected to the email marketing program? Can you track donations solicited from emails? Or letters sent to Congress? Think through what you’ll need to measure so that you select the right technologies and systems before you get started. Also, make sure your organization is aligned on what success looks like and how you will measure it. A year from now is an engaged, but smaller audience more valuable than a large but less engaged audience?

Answering these five questions before deciding to undertake an email marketing program could mean the difference between an advocacy campaign that fizzles out and one that takes off. And remember, at THG we’re always willing and able to help with your content and recruitment needs!