1. Real value is calculated
I can show you how email drives traffic to websites, but translating that into actionable data that can be used to create priorities, budgets, and employee focus is another matter entirely. Email isn’t sexy, it just works. And of course it works, it wouldn’t have lasted this long if it didn’t work. But we must spend the time to justify resources for this old medium. University Communications has plans to implement an email testing and analytics platform later this year to dig further into the value of sending email. I will share our learning back out to the community quickly, but we can’t stop there.
The current untested theory is that Ohio State sends too much email to our constituents. However, the platform drives significant traffic to our websites. Surveys, focus groups and one-on-one conversations this fall and winter will help determine both how our constituents are consuming online services and tools, and what products are connecting and keeping them engaged in the life of the university.
This coming year you should determine what your email campaigns should be doing, how to test them for success, and when to implement change based on your learning.
2. First place you notice an offering. So what’s the call-to-action?
Yes, the digital world is changing our lives, and new tools replace old tools. But some paths remain well worn for a reason. Email is how LinkedIn signals to you that a colleague wants to connect. It’s how Twitter chooses to share with you that you have new followers, and suggest other people to follow. Most social media services have reminder emails associated with their service. Many people first get wind of an event, opportunity, news story or highpoint by browsing a well crafted email message. OSU Today has maintained between an 8,000 and 11,000 open rate throughout its history.
So if this is how people are reminded to connect with a service, how are you using the medium to make sure the content creates the right call-to-action? What are the lessons social media and other markets can teach us about using a well-crafted call-to-action? Test out ideas and segment your audience to try new things. Try placing events at the top of the message and more internal news at the bottom. Create special landing pages within your website just for email traffic and match the call to action and tone of the e-news with your landing page.
No one solution will work for everyone, but attempting new tactics will get you more data to analyze.
3. This has got to work on a phone
So you aren’t a designer, let alone an email designer. Not a problem. University Communications will release mobile friendly, branded email templates later this year based on what we learn from increased analytics and testing. This is no longer a nice-to-have marketing resource. It has become a must-have. While we are relying on general industry statistics rather than our own numbers to begin heading down this path, mobile first is now a major force in all we produce in the digital space for Ohio State.
Check back with me in the fall and I will have more to say on this matter.
4. Personalized doesn’t mean leading with a name
If your target audience lives in a certain area of the country, surprise them with content that would only make sense for someone who lives there. If your audience are all degree holders of a specific academic area, surprise them with news about current student success within that area. This is true personalization. Adding a user’s name to the greeting of an email will more likely increase the creepy factor. Try making your audience feel connected to your area of Ohio State through the strategic placement of content.
5. Must move to an opt-in model
I know you have access to your alumni email addresses, I know that faculty, staff, and students have email addresses stored in PeopleSoft, and my area is just as guilty as everyone else in sending out unsolicited email messages… but there is a better way. When e-newsletters are opt-in the click through rates are doubled, and sometimes triple that of unsolicited messages. If your content isn’t good enough for people to want to opt-in, start improving your content. Once you have that going well, a call-to-action within your e-news should register new users and ask loyal ones to share through email forwarding and posting to their personal social media.