As discussed in a previous post, for anyone who thinks email is dead, you’re in for a surprise. The truth is, email is just being accessed differently these days, with more people using email on smartphones or other mobile devices rather than from a computer. If you haven’t explored options to make your email communications more targeted, you should consider segmenting your distribution lists and running email analytics to find out what content is most compelling for your stakeholders.
For some of you, list segmentation is a step you may not have had time to explore. And you may find that integrating your systems may help increase your productivity. You’ll also want to analyze what people are paying attention to so you can hone your messages even more. Finally, if you’re using social media to communicate, integrating your email with your social media channels will help you be more successful by combining and cross-promoting all your communication channels.
Let’s face it, your organization produces a lot of information covering a variety of topics every day. And while one citizen may be extremely interested in information about road closures or construction, another may only want to know about city parks or how to renew a license.
If you’re wondering what list segmentation involves, think of it this way. When you receive a message that has nothing to do with you or your interests, what happens to that message? You probably delete it without reading it. If you target your communications and send information that people have indicated that have an interest in, it will likely boost your open and click-through rates and instill a higher sense of loyalty with your citizens. You also avoid the likelihood of people opting out of your messages or just marking your communications as spam. Also, your deliverability rate improves, as well as your online reputation. Generally speaking, those who send relevant email messages enjoy lower opt-out rates than those who send email to everyone on their list.
Here are just a few ways for you to think about segmenting your email lists:
- Demographics (ZIP/postal code, gender, age). If your subscriber lives in one ZIP code, why are you sending her information about activities in another ZIP code? Or if your subscriber is 25 years old, why are you sending him information that pertains to senior citizens? You get the idea. Taking note of demographics can give subscribers the impression that you’re listening to their needs and interests.
- Behavioral Data. Open and click-through rates, when they joined your list, etc. — that type of information can help you target your messages. The subscribers who open your emails all the time or regularly can be used for A/B testing to help you refine your email messages and content.
- Recent Subscribers. Recent could be 3-6 months, or it could be since the last campaign you sent a month ago.
- Inactive Subscribers. Any subscriber who hasn’t opened or clicked on your email over an extended period of time can be deemed “inactive.” Instead of writing them off as a lost cause, think about putting them in their own group and sending them a targeted reactivation campaign in the near future.
- Preference Surveys/Interest-Based Preferences. Don’t be scared to ask for information you don’t have, such as new interests and updated email addresses. Tell subscribers that it will help you send more relevant emails, and remind them that you will maintain their privacy at all cost.
List segmentation is important in any email system for several different reasons. It is especially critical if you want to truly engage the public in the work that you’re doing. Knowing what people are interested in helps you send more targeted, relevant emails.
Hubspot, a private sector marketing consulting firm, reported that email list segmentation and targeting increased open rates, provided more relevant emails and decreased opt-out rates, as well as many other positive results.
Connect Existing Applications with Your Email System
Another key component to consider is how to connect your applications and systems, as well as your existing content management systems, such as Drupal and WordPress, with your email system. You should find out what sort of APIs (or application programming interfaces) might be available to helpl automate manual actions between your existing applications and databases with the right communications tools.
If you’re pushing out email messages and have no idea who has opened the messages or which content subscribers are paying the most attention to, you should strongly consider reviewing any available reports or analyses. In addition to the need to communicate with subscribers, you also need to measure the effectiveness of your messages. Ideally, you should be able to find out:
- who opened your messages
- how many topics each person subscribes to
- who has clicked through to specific content within your messages
- which links generate the most activity
- how much your subscription base has grown over time
- which messages are being shared
All of this gives you more insight that you can use to create messages that have an even bigger impact with your audience.
With the increasing use of APIs and open source platforms, it’s become fairly easy to integrate your email communications with your social media efforts. In working with more than 550 government clients worldwide, we’ve found that government organizations that cross-promote information via email and social media see the greatest effectiveness. For example, if you’re creating new web content or pushing out specific information using email, it also makes sense to package those messages and post to your social media sites. Consider the endless possibility of having your subscribers share your information on their own social media networks, thus increasing your potential reach with the public – and possibly even helping you gain new subscribers.
Are you using any of these tactics currently? Which ones have helped you refine your communications to achieve greater effectiveness or engagement?