Did your Valentine’s Day campaign lack a call-to-action?

To start off, I have to give a big shout out to Sue Ann Reed, Kerri Karvetski, and Debra Askanase, for putting together a wonderful collection of Valentine’s Day campaigns which serve as a great example for nonprofit marketers. You can find the collection of campaigns on Pinterest.

The collection of nonprofit campaigns serves as a great learning opportunity as each of us plans ahead. I know…the holiday was just 2 days ago! But…successful email fundraising and advocacy campaigns are built upon experience, PLANNING, message testing and analysis. Whether you begin the planning process today, or file this post away to be revisited 6 months from now, thinking ahead will lead to greater successes next year.

Reading all the great campaigns linked above, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to remind those who are new to email marketing the most important part of an email: the Call-To-Action. Like many of my colleagues, I subscribe to emails from dozens of nonprofit organizations, and without fail, every holiday I receive an email which leaves me baffled…an email which serves no purpose…an email with no call-to-action. No organization would invest thousands of dollars in a direct mail campaign which contains no call-to-action. Why would any organization treat email differently?

As nonprofits marketers, there are only 6 purposes a marketing email serves:

  • to inform,
  • to thank,
  • to encourage donations,
  • to promote events,
  • to encourage volunteering, or
  • to encourage advocacy action.

If your email does not serve one of  those purposes, then you are wasting your time, wasting the time of your supporters, and damaging your email marketing program.

This holiday, I received an email from an organization in which the only message was to promote how wonderful others thought they were. The email did not inform the readers; did not thank the reader for their support, did not offer any way for the reader to give, advocate or volunteer; and did not promote any services of the organization. Even if the reader were to visit the single webpage linked in the email, they would once again be confronted with no thanks or call-to-action. So what did the organization hope to achieve?

I’m sure the organization would argue that the email was intended to improve public relations. However, if your public relations campaign is based upon email marketing, then I would encourage you to take a refresher on the difference between public relations and marketing. If your public relations strategy is focused upon an inclusive audience, it will fail as will your email marketing program.  Consider this:

If an individual chose to subscribe and then opens your email, they are likely supportive of your organization. Email subscribers have already taken multiple steps to demonstrate their support.

When an email subscriber opens an email, they expect value; if the email has no value other than “good feelings”, those subscribers will be less likely to open future emails. Utilizing your email marketing program for public relations purposes is essentially “preaching to the choir”. Public relations activities are best served as part of a public relations strategy engaging defined audiences, not as a holiday campaign to an inclusive audience.

Today, an email subscriber is likely to receive holiday emails from multiple organizations. If your email contains no call-to-action and the next organization’s email does…well, I think we all know how this scenario ends.

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