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Maybe email marketing isn’t so great?


Personally, I’m brutal with the email I receive. Much of it goes directly into “postpone” or even “delete” files, plus lots of the ones that make it into my inbox are reflexively deleted by my heavy index finger.

I’m on lots of lists, lured by a free giveaway, but I read less and less of what I receive. I know that sometimes I miss out on something good, but I accept that as the price of skipping what’s not good . . . and there sure is a lot of “not good” coming to me.

During the last few weeks I’ve had an experience that confirms—or even deepens—my doubts about emails as a marketing medium.

Here’s the back story:

I agreed to help a friend market a Christmas-centered fundraising program for schools and other charitable organizations. The program looked like a no-brainer.

The school signs up for its own webpage with a company that enables parents and other organizational supporters to log on, order customized holiday cards with their own photos and text, and automatically donate 30% of proceeds to the school. All transactions are between the individual and the card company so the fundraisers have no financial risk, no compiling of orders, no distribution responsibilities, etc. It works sort of like VistaPrint but with a charity component.

Sounds good to me. And when I started looking at school PTA websites and saw the same pain-in-the-rear-end fundraising programs they all seem to have in place, it looked even better.

So I wrote a great email (or so I thought) that described the program succinctly and included a long, bulleted list of program benefits.

I found it is difficult to send such an email to the right person. Most schools, especially elementary schools, administer fundraising through the PTA but the schools do not release full information about the contact person. So I found the email address of each principal and emailed the note with a request (in parentheses at the end of the subject line) for forwarding to the person responsible for fundraising, sending out several hundred emails.

Surprisingly, I got only one phone call, but it resulted in one sign-up for a 100% success rate.

I tried different things as I went along.

  • Many of my emails specified the school name in the subject line and the first paragraph.

  • I made some follow-up calls to school offices, followed at times by resending the email or even printing it off and mailing.

  • Friends suggested that I print and mail letters to the list, including sample cards. Might work but it would be too time-consuming and expensive for this year.

Right now I’m in think mode . . .but I’m not thinking such warm thoughts about email marketing.

Originally posted 10-22-12

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