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Email Marketing and Member Engagement

Got mail?
In the world of online marketing, two statistics tell you a lot about the effectiveness of an email: the percentage of recipients who open it, and the percentage of those who click through to explore at least one of the links.

Last year, I got a great response for a blog post on the types of emails associations send and the average number of members who open them. So when Informz published its 2012 Benchmarking Report on Association Email Marketing, I eagerly downloaded the update. The year-over-year comparison tells an interesting story:

% Opened
Clicked Through
% Opened
Clicked Through
% Opened
Clicked Through
% Opened
% Clicked Through

The differences are relatively small, and it would take a third year of data to point to a lasting trend. But these metrics show important differences in the way members and stakeholders are reacting to your messages.
  • In both 2011 and 2012, the research showed more members opening survey emails, but fewer of them actually completing the surveys. For example, if you invited 500 members to complete a survey in 2012, 183 people read the email, but only 61 answered the questions. Knowing that you developed the survey to make your organization better, stronger, and more effective, what can you do to boost participation rate?
  • The statistics for event and delegate attendance emails showed fewer members opening them, but considerably more opening them. For both years, the percentages demonstrate the need to reach out widely and often. But between 2011 and 2012, the effectiveness of this email option actually increased by more than 30%: An email to 500 members would average more than 27 click-throughs this year, compared to just over 20.6 a year ago. Any number of factors could affect these results, but it may be time to review the subject lines on your conference promotions and start A/B testing your messages to ensure maximum engagement.
  • With email appeals, 2012 saw 5% more members opening their mail, but a decline in click-through rates offset most of the increase in active readers. These results underscore the need to cleanse your data and segment your email lists, to make sure your message goes to the right people, and to help members understand how they benefit from responding to an appeal and helping to build their community.
  • Small declines in both the open and click-through rates for e-newsletters reinforce the idea that short, snappy content is becoming more popular with members with too much to read and too little time. Over the last year, more and more association members have told us they struggle to control their incoming email, and the Informz statistics suggest e-newsletters may be a casualty.

Whatever mix of email formats you choose, the big-picture strategy is the same: with so much competing content, you have to make every message count by understanding what your members want you to send them, how they want to receive it, and what every part of your campaign will do to increase member engagement.