Yelling Over the Din: Email Marketing for Non-Profits

It's noisy out there in the content marketing world—make sure your content doesn't get lost.

Like many people, I have a junk email account. Buying something on Craigslist? Time to drag out the embarrassing AOL email address I chose as a child. Pressured to sign up for store emails at check-out? I don’t particularly want your coupons and newsletters, but I’m a pacifist. Let me give you my AOL account. 

Given that I strive to keep my main e-mail account relatively bare, when I first heard about the regular slew of emails that non-profits send out to their supporters, I was surprised. Wouldn’t people feel imposed upon to get that many emails? Didn’t they hate us for the constant badgering? How did we retain any subscribers at all considering the constant emailing of which we were guilty?

Then, of course, I saw the number of people who generally opened those emails, and the conversion rates of those who opened the letters. They were much lower than the sent rate, absurdly so. Each carefully crafted, heartfelt email went largely unnoticed. I thought about my own junk email box. Entreaties from non-profits are often sitting in neglected boxes, wedged between 75% off sales and birthday discounts on ice cream. What seemed excessive to me as I looked at our email schedule barely registered in an inbox.  Often, it took 4 or 5 tries to get someone to open an email, and maybe by the 12th email they opened, they were convinced to donate, or sponsor a child.

As someone who is now on the other end of sending out emails to prospective supporters, I always keep my junk email account in mind.

The thing is, even if your content is fabulous, people grow immune to it. As a consumer, you know this. Don’t forget it as a content marketer. What seems special and well-done to you (even if it is!) is just scenery to your audience most of the time.

The solution? First, if you aren’t pushing your content via email, think about its applicability to your business. Could you contribute writing? Send a monthly round-up of your blog posts? Report on trips, innovations, news from the industry? Almost any business has content to share.

Then, make sure that content gets out as often as possible. At the moment, I ignore 90% of the emails in my junk account. I do, however, see the same names in my inbox. When I finally do feel the need to send flowers, buy work clothes, or furnish my apartment, that one company that sends me a daily email is going to be in my mind. I’ll remember the name, if nothing else. And chances are, if I see it in my inbox 30 times in a week, eventually I’ll click on it without realizing that this is 30th email from the same address.

So remember, it’s noisy out there in the world of content marketing. Your voice blends in to the background of daily life. When you know you have excellent content and an outstanding business, you need to make sure others take notice too.

Sarah Hamilton  – SEO Writer / Editor


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