It starts with Email marketing…
I’ve been running Digital PUSH and email campaigns for 15 years now and for the first 13 years email smashed everything else in terms of conversion.
Search will beat email for a Pull strategy (when people have a need and are actively looking), but email was always your strongest digital channel for donations.
I knew email back to front. I could safely predict and forecast results but in the last 2 years this has changed.
Email open rates have plummeted – across all sectors.
You’ve always had to have good content and a compelling call to action to get an Email click – but click rates have also dropped significantly.
In some ways this has been a good challenge. It forces me (and you) to focus on better engagement and more personalised content. I’ve spent 3 years now improving landing/ donation page experiences to increase the conversion rate.
Campaign Monitor’s 2019 Digital Predictions
So – when I got this email from Campaign Monitor about the “Top 4 Email Marketing predictions for 2019”, my interest was peaked.
I don’t agree with all of them, but it’s a good read and they clearly articulate WHY your organisation should be paying attention, planning for and using these digital tools & tactics.
What I DO AGREE WITH is the insights and trends that are driving the change and this is why I think you should read the article.
3 insights and trends driving change in email marketing:
- Growing mistrust of social media
- Growth in niche interest groups (tribes)
- Return to longer form content.
I’m only going to comment on the 3rd point – longer form Content.
Long form content
Now charities have been doing long content forever – that’s what Direct Mail is. And many Orgs that didn’t have a digital specialist were just abridging their DM letter and sending it by email. This isn’t the long content we’re talking about – this is laziness and a lack of understanding of the channel. But thank goodness I don’t see this as much anymore.
I was actually just talking about LONG CONTENT during the Christmas Appeal campaign period as I’ve noticed A LOT of organisations sending really long emails (but the example of The Hunger Project I really like).
Without an actual analysis, my perception is that it is driven by advocacy/ campaign organisations and their “Theory of Change” and “Story of Self, Story of Us, Story of Now” style emails. And they definitely do paint a brilliant picture and is excellent storytelling BUT – yes, there it is – BUT every time I test long form content (in email or on landing pages) against short form content (150-200 words email best practice), short copy ALWAYS WINS – for click through rates as well as for conversion.
So while I agree it’s a trend, and if you’re doing it because you’re investing in inbound marketing (pull strategies) and relationship/ retention, then brilliant. But if you’re just copying everyone else, look at your data because I don’t see long form emails getting more donations.
Please comment or reply and tell me if you are. I really want to know!
4 Email Marketing predictions for 2019
- More Authenticity
- More/ better Mobile
- AI (Artificial Intelligence)
Again I won’t comment on all 4 predictions as I’ve banged on about sending emails from a real person with credibility and I challenge anyone who reads MY emails to say they’re not authentic. And I’ve also preached about the mobile responsive experience plenty too.
What I want to comment on here is AI and Chatbots (arguably chatbots come under AI).
Artificial Intelligence & Marketing Automation
In the context of Campaign Monitor’s email – they’re really talking about Marketing Automation and taking full advantage of all the features and tools on their platform.
AI and marketing automation can give your supporters:
- A more personal experience
- More relevant content
- Communications how and when they say they prefer or based on how they actually behave
- Triggered responses when it’s pertinent
BUT will this be what happens if you implement it? It really depends on segmentation – and that depends on how you gathered this data.
And all of this relies on you/ your organisation creating content for every segment, actually having enough content to send people communications at the preferred intervals and setting up all the trigger points and pathways/ journeys for each action and its desired next step.
Yes – AI and marketing automation is awesome and we should be doing it – but you have to resource it. And that is the bigger investment. Here is a great article about implementing Marketing Automation for your charity.
Which non-profits have implemented Marketing Automation?
I’ve been working with and hearing charities talk about implementing Marketing Automation since Oxfam in 2014 and now, in 2019, I can only think of half a dozen charities that HAVE implemented it (the tool) and most I believe are still using it mostly like a standard email tool. It’s just connected to their CRM now and maybe their donation form – but not their whole website.
I believe the Smith Family have presented their wins from Marketing Automation and Mission Australia spent much of 2017/18 implementing theirs. Oxfam were looking to install Marketo in 2015 but hit roadblocks with CRM customizations, I’m sure they’re up and running now as Aaron Lamb doesn’t miss a digital trick. Vision Australia have it and I know Peter Mac uses Active Campaign (as does Parachute Digital) and Vision Australia has Autopilot but most folks haven’t really implemented all of the journeys, content and personalisation.
Because the AI is brilliant but it’s just one part of a very complex (and expensive) puzzle.
So yes, I advocate that organisations should absolutely have their websites, CRM and email/ SMS/ DM/ TM channels singing from the same constituent ID. I’ll happily help you get it all set up – but the investment can be similar to building a new website. And PLEASE, if your organisation is building a new website or implementing a new CRM, then marketing automation should be scoped as part of that project.
OK, so Chatbots…
I imagine that most of you reading this, if you’ve used one, you didn’t even realise it. Or if you did twig, it’s only because the AI wasn’t good enough to pass as human.
I’ve spent the last 3 months living in Argentina and they use WhatsApp for everything. Usually there is a person on the other end of the chat, but a lot of the Telco’s use WhatsApp chatbots for technical & billing enquiries.
This is a good use of a chatbot.
But outside of customer service, basic FAQs, booking appointments or purchasing tickets – I don’t think people (let alone donors) know what to do with a chatbot.
So I disagree with Campaign Monitor’s prediction that everyone will be using them by the end of the year. I’d say some Airlines, Telco’s and big subscription based products will use them, but it’ll be 3+ years before we’re seeing them across all other types of businesses.
Think how long it has taken for text reminders, boarding passes and appointments to really become everyday usage by all people.
Text confirmations have been around at least 10 years but we’ve only been getting reminders for our Physio appointment or Mobile boarding passes for maybe the last 4 years?
So, I reckon this prediction is codswallop.
SMS conversations is not a Chatbot
I saw UNHCR (one of my fave charities) present at Digi.Raise 2018 that they used a Chatbot for their emergency appeal but really it’s just RunGopher which is a conversational SMS tool. It’s great – don’t get me wrong – but it’s more like Marketing Automation pre-set conversation journeys based on trigger keyword/ phrase responses than an actual chatbot.
And if you’re looking at this (and you should from a donor/ supporter engagement POV to start testing) then also look at HUSTLE SMS, it’s got the same functionality but also a great platform for live supporter engagement and customer service after sending an SMS.
Chatbots for charities (and donations)
I looked into building a chatbot for the Charity Matchmaker quiz we released in Nov 2017 for Giving Tuesday and I think it would work as a quiz style question from a Facebook messenger ad – but it was going to cost a minimum of $10k and I didn’t have enough confidence in it to build a chatbot INSTEAD of the website.
Now I kind of wish I had – and I think I will. But, it’s all about money and outcome and, as we all know, sometimes you just can’t afford to do it all.
At the Int Fundraising Conference (IFC) last year I saw Madeleine Stanionis from M+R (a big charity agency in the states that does research and usually has BIG budgets to work with) say that all the testing they had done with chatbots had pretty much confirmed my thoughts – that donors aren’t ready for them, they don’t know what they are or what to do with them.
Chatbots are very transactional – and a donation, whilst a transaction, has a lot of emotion behind it.
At some point in the next 5-10 years, I could see really smart chatbots, with great conversation guides and millions of conversations to learn from, replacing a telemarketing calls. But that’s a while off – and probably only after most of the baby boomers have closed their eyes forever.
No predictions, just plans
I never make predictions in Digital. I’m asked all the time what the next big thing will be – and I don’t comment because all the stuff that’s been working for 10 years is still working best (email and search).
Banner ads made a come back in 2017/18 – which I wouldn’t have thought.
Facebook advertising is still not at critical mass (in the Charity sector) when it should have been 3+ years ago.
There are still new social networks and dating apps that pop up and knock off the big players.
But I agree with Campaign Monitor that email is still super reliable, that you should invest in content and that marketing automation should be on your roadmap for next financial year.
Beyond that – we’re all just guessing what the tipping point will be.