Five Tips to Increase Your Email Open Rate

Want to increase your bulk email open rate? Of course you do!man with slingshot firing envelopes at a computer

  1. The subject is the most important part of the email. Spend time writing a meaningful one that will ensure your recipient will open and read more.
  2. Stay away from wacky typefaces, odd or excessive use of bold and italics, and weird capitalization in an email. Not only do these formats shout “advertisement” they also make it difficult to read.
  3. For the highest response rates, send email on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
  4. Offer a link to something FREE if you want your email to be passed along. Something that’s free – and desirable – has a good chance of going viral.
  5. Focus the main point of interest on the copy that will appear in the preview pane of your email. Most people decide if an email is interesting by previewing it, without opening it.

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The Truth about Bad WOM

There’s a dark side to Word of Mouth, too. Negative reviews are inevitable. So what should dislike thumb downyou do in response?

Develop serenity to accept the things you can’t change: You WILL get negative reviews. Expect them. You can make some of the people happy some of the time, but there’s always that one guy who just wants to complain.

Realize what’s actually going on: People who are taking the time to complain share another trait – they actually CARE enough to share their feedback. That doesn’t mean that you have to slavishly follow every single suggestion that comes in (which would be impossible anyway, since at least some of them will be directly contradictory), but it does mean you should think about whether there is a nugget of truth and, if so, how you might be able to incorporate that into improving your program or service.

Remember: “most companies don’t have a negative word of mouth problem – they have a lack of positive word of mouth problem.

Image credit: Lawyer Coach

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Getting Good WOM

Want to increase your sales, market impact, and online search? According to MarketShare/Keller Fay, word of mouth has a significant, measurable impact on your peopel sharing a secretmarketing. A 10% lift in WOM leads directly to a 1.5% increase in sales and up to a 54% increase in marketing impact. That’s big.

But what makes a great Word of Mouth topic?

  1. It’s emotional – it connects with people
  2. It’s portable – they can share it easily
  3. It’s repeatable – the message is not too complicated

Want to find out more about WOM? Check out Andy Sernovitz’s blog or sign up for his GasPedal e-newsletter (at the blog). A lot of the examples he uses are corporate/consumer, so may not suit the association industry directly, but they’re always inspiring.

Image credit: YHP

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Seven Keys to Marketing Success

Recently, on ASAE’s Collaborate Community, someone asked for examples of other Key to successassociations’ marketing plans. The things is, marketing plans are less about taking some other organization’s plan and swapping your acronym for theirs and more about answering some key questions:

  1. What do you know about your audiences? Who are they, who are the key decision makers, what and how and when do they buy, etc.? (Capture EVERYTHING you know and always look to be adding.)
  2. What are you trying to market to them? Make sure you’re clear about your program, product, or service and can describe it in benefits to your audience, not in features you offer.
  3. What are your goals? Remember, they should be SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely).
  4. Do you have any competition? If so, what do you know about them?
  5. What assets do you have at your disposal (website, email, direct mail, social media, in person events, etc.), and how do you plan to use them? This is the place where you set your strategies and match tactics to them.
  6. What’s your budget? Don’t forget to think about staff time as well as money.
  7. How will you know you’ve been successful? What will you be tracking and monitoring, and how will you do it and report on it, and to whom, and on what interval?

Image credit: Dr. Mommy

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The Whats, Whys, and Hows of Brand Identity Guides

A number of clients have been working on various branding related issues lately, so I’m so pleased to be able to share this guest post from my colleague Sharon Bending at Rx Creative Lab on the keys to putting together effective brand identity guidelines:

A set of brand identity guidelines (also referred to as brand standards) is a part of every rebrand. It documents the whats and whys of a brand’s look and feel, including color and font specs, overall guidance on tone and message, and layout rules. These guidelines are important to maintain consistency, making a stronger impact with your materials.

Who writes the guide and who has input?

The brand identity guide is generally written by the designer who created the identity, because they can best articulate the thinking behind the design. The guide also spells out why adhering to it enhances the organization’s brand.

Is there one document for all purposes or different guides for different purposes (such as poster sessions, website, publications, eblasts)?

There is usually one master brand identity guide that covers the main areas. Specific websites, journals and publications would generally have their own set of guidelines.

What do you do when people either disagree with or don’t understand your guide?

Being written by an outside source has the benefit of eliciting a sort of respect that these are the rules put in place by an expert, and they are there for a reason. A good guide will help people understand the benefits of sticking to the guidelines.

What if my organization was last branded many years ago and we don’t have any standards in place?

At the very least, have your designer create a one-sheet brand guide to include at a minimum the color specs (CMYK, PMS, RGB, and hexadecimal) and the fonts used. Having one place to document this information is helpful to refer to when working with other vendors.

If you’re ready to take on more than a one sheet but are not interested in rebranding, perhaps the time is right for a communications audit. A communications audit is an objective review of all of your materials to see how well they reinforce your organization’s invaluable identity and branding assets. The audit may find branding inconsistencies that could be addressed in a basic style guide. During audits we sometimes find the branding is all over the place, and the report we create helps generate buy-in for a brand redesign or refresh.

Sharon Bending is the President and Creative Director of Rx Creative Lab, specializing in focused, holistic communications for medical associations. View their work at

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Matching Your Channel to Your Audience

One of the most important principles in creating successful multi-channel hands reaching for a red phonecommunications is to match your channel to your audience and your purpose.

  • Are you sharing information about something that’s open to the public? Use public channels like Facebook, Twitter, and unprotected areas of your website.
  • Are you sharing information about something that’s for your members only? Use member-only channels like your member enewsletter and member-only areas of your website.
  • Are you sharing information about something that’s available only to a sub-set of people? Use email or direct mail to target them precisely.

Remember, of course, that you always want to have a call to action, but it’s really important that the audience you’re talking to be able to answer your call.

(You might think: “This is totally obvious! Why are you posting this, Elizabeth?” You would not believe how many times I see associations posting links to login restricted information and resources on open social media channels.)

Image credit: moneypenny

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Explaining Marketing to a Kid

A few years ago, the association that I was working for had probably the best “bring your Pink my little ponykid to work” day I’ve ever seen.

One of our activities was a “career scavenger hunt,” where the kids had to find the people who were participating, and then each of us had prepared some sort of activity to help the kids understand what we do.

Mine was a marketing activity, and got me thinking: what’s the simplest way to explain marketing? After all, I only had about 5 minutes to explain this to kids ranging in age from 5 to 17. Here’s what I came up with:

Marketing is about telling people what your company makes and helping them understand why they would want or need it.

For the little kids, that’s where we stopped. And that’s relatively easy for things that are tangible and desirable, like Hot Wheels cars or My Little Pony up there.

But what about things like buying (and eating) vegetables or buying (and wearing) sunscreen – things that are important, helpful and valuable, but not as fun and sexy as, say, an iPad?

That was the question I posed to the older kids, and I think it’s a critical question for association marketers, as we think about how to market what we do to our members and other audiences.

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Five Ways NOT to Brainstorm

Four cartoon people with a lightbulb over their headsBrainstorming has come under fire recently as being a crummy way of coming up with new ideas. Perhaps it’s because people are doing one or more of the following?

  1. Inviting as many people as possible – the more, the merrier! (Of course, that means most people won’t have a chance to speak, but too bad for them, right?)
  2. Only the Very Important People get to contribute ideas. (Everyone who’s not Very Important is just a spectator – after all, she’s not Very Important, so how could she have good ideas anyway?)
  3. Start picking at any idea that’s raised immediately. (We don’t want to waste time on things that are impractical, right?)
  4. Please think only inside the box. (See above about wasting time on wild ideas and REALLY BIG thinking.)
  5. We only want GOOD ideas. (And of course we can immediately identify them, so stop offering new ones.)

Sound terrible? It is.

But you *can* do brainstorming right – and effectively. These sources can show you how:

And for more on what NOT to do, check out this post by Lifehack.

Image Credit: Langevin Learning Services

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Five Tips for Success with Ad Hoc Volunteers

Thanks to ASAE’s 2008 Decision to Volunteer study, we know that our members are eager to volunteer. But thanks to generational trends and research, we know that our volunteers are looking for different volunteer experiences, more of the ad hoc or micro-volunteering type.

many hands raised to volunteer



When you’re used to working mostly with standing committees, though, it can be tough to figure out how to create good ad hoc volunteer work. The top five tips to success are:

  1. Make a specific ask. Bad: “We need some articles for upcoming association enewsletters. Contact (generic email address) if you’d like to be considered.” Good: “Mary, you’ve demonstrated expertise in (specific topic). That’s the theme of our upcoming December issue of Association News Monthly. Would you be willing to write a short piece on that topic for us? Thanks, (your name)”
  2. Provide clear instructions. Let’s assume Mary says yes. You should immediately let her know how long you want the piece to be and when it’s due. Tell her who she’ll be working with in case she has questions. Let her know if you’re after a particular editorial “tone” (more or less formal, first person/third person, case study, secondary research review, etc.). Ask her if she has a particular angle or question she wants to address, and be ready to suggest some if her answer is “no.”
  3. Provide a defined timeframe. Micro-volunteers need to know not only when things are due, but also approximately how much time it’s going to take. Before they commit, they want to know: is this 15 minutes? An afternoon? A few weeks? A few months? And don’t assume that just because Bob picks a 15 minute task this time, that’s all he’ll ever want to do. Next time, he might be up for a task force that will stretch over a few months. Or vice versa.
  4. Recognize! You probably do a pretty good job of recognizing and thanking your Board members and standing committee members. Micro-volunteers want to be recognized, too. You probably don’t need to parade them all across the stage at your annual meeting (if you’re doing a good job of engaging people, that could take FOREVER), but you need to find ways that are meaningful to them to shine a little light on them and thank them.
  5. Mission. I probably should have started here, because this is the most important tip for success. Even small jobs need to clearly relate and contribute to your mission.

Want more? Check out the recent Spark/Mariner Management whitepaper The Mission Driven Volunteer.

Image Credit: Open Briefing

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What I’m Reading

Quick list – there’s been lots of good stuff lately, but I’m sharing most of it via my Twitter feed these days.

  • Great post from John Haydon about the human factors that influence email open rates (hint: it should be all about THEM, not all about YOU).
  • I’m usually not a fan of “10 tips to be more productive” articles, mostly because those lists tend to be comprised of SERIOUSLY OBVIOUS stuff, but this one isn’t and it’s quite good.
  • Jeffrey Cufaude shares 10 volunteer engagement crimes – which are you guilty of?
  • What does your association do to truly evaluate the impact you’re having on your mission?
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