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Email marketing is an important initiative for Associations. It is often the primary vehicle for communications between the Association and the member.

Click-through rates (CTR) are one measurement of whether an email marketing campaign is successful or not. A CTR indicates that someone took action by clicking a link within an email. What can an association do to improve CTR? We sat down with Vivian Swertinski, Sr. Digital Marketing Strategist for Informz, one of the many email marketing platforms that integrate with Nimble AMS, to get her advice on how associations can increase CTR and other email marketing best practices.

What is an average CTR for your trade and professional association clients?

“Informz 2014 Association Benchmark Report shows that the average CTR is ~18.03%. For comparison purposes, the average CTR for other industries run anywhere from 10% to 18%. Whether you choose to benchmark against an organization outside of the association industry depends on your campaign goals. For example, if your communications are primarily relationship building (networking, information sharing, planning or soliciting input) then you would want to benchmark against organizations that share those same campaign goals. Comparing benchmark numbers to your own email metrics allows you to accurately evaluate your email marketing program’s performance.”

If a client comes to you with a low CTR, what do you advise that they do to increase that?

“The CTR across most industries is a measure of audience engagement. CTR is influenced by the relevancy of message, creative layout, placement and call to action links. First, I would look at open and deliverability rates to see if they are reasonable. If open and delivery rates look good, but CTR is low, I then examine the creative content of current emails to assess the layout, spacing, and format of the call to action links. Is the important content and a call to action visible within the top section of the email? If you use a hero image, is it hyperlinked to redirect to the call to action landing page? Can the reader easily interact with the email? For example, buttons are easier to interact with than hyperlinks. It’s worthwhile to try using more creative text or a different color button to see what resonates with the audience.

​Although this sounds basic, make sure the link is tracked and functioning properly. Sometimes the basic steps are missed so be sure that tracking is enabled and links are going to the proper landing page.
Another question is what percentage of emails are being opened on a mobile device and are your emails optimized for mobile viewing? Mobile optimized emails are usually in a single column format with larger font size and adequate spacing around CTA buttons. If your email is difficult to read on mobile then you are discouraging your audience from responding. You want your website/landing page to be mobile friendly as well otherwise you are essentially training people not to interact with your emails on mobile devices. And of course, the more targeted the messages are, the better the CTR. (right message, right time, right person). Use your AMS data and gathered preferences to help segment your list.”

What other metrics are important for associations to pay attention to?

“Delivery and open rates are key performance metrics of which the CTR is dependent upon.” The delivery rate is influenced by quality of list and sender reputation (emails are permission based, emails are valid). The average association deliverability rate is 98%. It’s important to practice good list hygiene at the time of data collection and keeping lists clean by removing hard bounces. A soft bounce is a temporary bounce (i.e. full mailbox, receiving server busy, etc.) so no list maintenance is needed for those types of bounces. Open rates are influenced by the “friendly from” name and the subject line. The “friendly from” is the sender name that will display in the email in the recipient’s inbox. An organization may choose to alter the friendly from name to better match the communication that they are sending out. For example, XYZ Medical Research organization may choose to send emails with the friendly from name of Dr. John Smith because that is a recognizable and influential name within the organization. They could also send out emails using the full business name whenever that is more appropriate. 

Using a person’s name as the friendly from feels more personal and works well with invitations and renewal type emails. Testing has shown that a person’s name will draw much higher opens and CTR vs. a general association name for invites because it is more personal in nature. A good subject line should also give clues about the content. Personalization of subject lines, especially using first names, consistently wins over non personalized subject lines in A/B split testing. I encourage testing personalization to find out what works for your audience.”

What are the biggest mistakes associations make when it comes to CTR?

“Marketers need to keep in mind the goal of the email is to invoke an action. We want the reader to open and then take action which is where the conversion happens. The goal may be that they read the full article, or fill out a registration form, or purchase a product or service. The email is the vehicle to get the reader interested so that they click and go to the appropriate website / landing page.

One of the biggest mistakes I see is not having a strong enough call to action. For example, giving away the whole story in your member newsletter. What more is there to do? Email is an engagement vehicle and should have an action for them to go somewhere or do something else. Similar to a movie trailer, the email entices the reader and then requests an action of them (e.g. see the movie). The call to action should grab their attention. Use bright colors, have a theme and make it easy for the user to interact with the email. Every email should have a goal and desired action to take.”

Any other best practices/tips to share?

“Testing should be an ongoing component to an email marketing strategy. Use the 10-10-80 method. This is where 10% of the list gets Message A, 10% gets Message B and the remaining 80% gets the winning or better performing message (based on CTR). This allows you to take what you’ve learned from 20% of your list and apply that learning right away to the remainder of your audience. For example, an Informz client did a Member Win-Back Program and tested a variety of things like creative, subject line and friendly from with a small subset of their list. By testing, this allowed them to put together an email with the best of everything. In 45 days, this association saw 800 members come back to their association as a result of this campaign. Testing lets the audience choose. There is no reason to guess and you may be surprised by what works.” AARC Case Study

About Nimble AMS

Nimble AMS is an enterprise class association management system (AMS) built on the Salesforce Platform, the world’s leading and most innovative customer relationship management (CRM) system.

About Informz

Informz is marketing sophistication, made simple. Our powerful email marketing platform, marketing automation tools and expert services, are built to help nonprofits and associations tell compelling stories, create real connections and drive real results. Learn why over 1,100 organizations have chosen Informz and consistently rank us #1 in client satisfaction.