In the two weeks since the 2016 presidential campaign came to a close, it’s roundly been described as a race that turned much of the political conventional wisdom upside down. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Email fundraising strategy is constantly evolving and each cycle has its own set of lessons. Here are three takeaways we noticed at IMGE that campaigns at any level can take to heart.
It’s Never Too Late to Start
Donald Trump’s run was defined by breaking the norm when it came to traditional campaign tactics. This couldn’t be truer for email —at least until he won the Republican Party nomination.
Throughout the primary, the bulk of email communication coming from Trump’s team was focused on event attendance, while his Democrat and Republican opponents were blasting away, asking for money.
Once Trump sealed the GOP nomination, his team’s tune changed quite drastically. Their fundraising program became very aggressive, enabling them to raise impressive amounts of money in a rather short time.
While smaller races don’t necessarily have the same star power or expertise, there’s no reason they can’t also start late and still bring in a decent amount of cash. We call it the ‘low-hanging’ fruit. If you have a cold email list, that probably means you have potential donors that have not been tapped yet. Whether you have three months or three weeks, it’s never too late to get your email fundraising program started.
Rise of Automation Funnels
2014 was a great year for email fundraising because across the spectrum we saw firms, committees, and candidates take a ‘throw everything against the wall’ approach to see what would ‘stick’. Naturally, this led to drastic innovation in tactics, messaging, and formatting.
2016 saw less of this, however. There were some unique approaches to be sure (fake calendar invites for example), but nothing that redefined standards.
Despite this, email still took a big step forward through automation funnels. A funnel, also referred to as a drip campaign, is a workflow triggered by a specific action that results in a series of highly targeted email campaigns for the specific user.
We made this a big focus in 2015 and the results speak for themselves. By sending new subscribers through a welcome funnel, a series of emails designed to warm up and introduce the user to the campaign, we saw conversion rates rise by as much as 30%.
We also tacked abandoned cart funnels onto emails sent at the end of the month to follow up with users who visited a donation form, but didn't convert. By doing this we increased funds raised from email campaigns by 3 – 5%. Factor that out by how many campaigns we're sending and that ends up being a rather significant amount of money.
Automation is powerful, and when set up properly helps prevent email fatigue. Check out our recent case study on this. Of course the best part about automating is that once it’s rolling, you can sit back and watch.
Memberships Are Important
We’ve all seen those gimmicky membership cards that the DNC and RNC use as bait to get donations.
While more times than not the membership isn't anything more than a plastic card, it’s still a powerful tactic to make prospects convert for the first time and to get donors to set-up the highly desirable recurring donation.
They played an effective role in the 2016 cycle, but they can be even more powerful in 2018 if done right.
Membership subscriptions are a strong revenue source for companies with something to offer. If political campaigns can take their already successful membership programs, attach real, tangible benefits, and tier them into different levels to reward those who give more, they can turn their email fundraising program into a consistent base of revenue each month that only needs to be cultivated, not bombarded.
Ryan Lyk is the director of email marketing at IMGE.