Quality, not just quantity

Another day, another new feature of Gmail.  This one is called Priority Inbox.  It’s a new feature that will promote messages to the Priority level based on your behavior around certain types of messages – like whether you open them or click on them, read messages with similar keywords, and so on.  It also allows users to designate which messages should be treated with importance.  Here’s some more info from Google about how Priority Inbox works.

What does this mean for nonprofit email marketers?  This is certainly something that could impact your open rates and click-through rates.  There’s a good post from OtherInbox that all you nonprofiteers might want to emulate for your Gmail users to encourage them to mark your messages as Priority.

Speaking of open rates and click-through rates, there’s a fascinating new study from Return Path that Sean Donahue from MarketingSherpa breaks down for us.  The title is “Take the hint from unresponsive subscribers” and it is definitely worth a read.  Even though the study is from for-profit emailers, we can learn from the results.  You should read the entire post, but I’ll summarize uber-briefly here:

  • some Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are using non-response to messages (no clicks, no opens) as a factor in determining email reputation
  • you should try to win back non-responders and then drop them from your list if they don’t re-engage

Other Email Service Providers are likely to follow suit with gadgets like Priority Inbox to keep up with the competition.  That combined with ISPs dinging you for having non-responsive subscribers means you should start doing some things differently.  Size is not the only thing that matters – it’s about the quality of your subscribers.

Segment, segment, segment.  Don’t send the same content to everyone on your list.  Target people based on their level of engagement with you, their status as a donor or non-donor, an advocate, or a social media super user.  You can use their behavior as a clue for this.  Here’s a gem of a post from Peter Genuardi in 2008 that addresses this exact point.

Send the right content.  More on this in a post to come later this month – make sure you send people the things they want to read.  Bonus points if you’ve asked for their interests online and then actually send them content that matches up with what they want.

Become a Priority.  Ask your engaged Gmail subscribers to add you to the Priority Inbox.  If other email providers roll out something similar, do the same with them.  (In Convio, it’s easy to create a group of only those constituents whose email address contains @gmail.com.  For extra credit, provide these instructions to NEW subscribers who have @gmail.com in their address by putting conditional content into your welcome series or in the footer of all messages.)

Treat inactives differently.  Try to re-engage your inactive list members.  Ask them about their interests, send them a message that says “We’ve noticed that you’ve stopped responding to our emails,” or ask them to simply respond to a simple form to indicate they are stil interested.

Warn ’em.  If they don’t respond to your attempts to re-engage them, send them a “We’re going to stop sending you e-mails if you don’t respond” message.

Dump ’em.  If they don’t respond to THAT, say sayonara.  Remove them from your list!

Organizations used to get bragging rights for having the largest number of emails on their file.  But the times, they are a-changing and these days we only offer fist pumps for the quality of an organization’s list – as measured by open rate, click-through rate, and conversion rate.

Please share your war stories about list segmentation and re-engaging inactives in the comments!