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The 7 Golden Rules of Member-Centric Email Marketing

How trustworthy is your email marketing? Step into your member’s shoes and see if you’re following these 7 golden rules to earn their trust.

As email marketers, we strive to make all our communications member-centric. This means putting ourselves in the member’s shoes every time we start an email to them. If we get it right, members trust our emails and are more likely to read them. This leads to trust in the organization, and a relationship that lasts. 

 So, what are the golden rules for member-centric email marketing?


1. Respect Your Audience

Your audience is savvy, and so are their email service providers (ESPs). ESPs have all kinds of filters and settings that affect email deliverability. Disrespect your audience and their wishes, and you’re unlikely to be allowed in. Showing respect means ensuring you have their permission to email them, never using purchased lists, and never sending generic bulk emails.


2. Respect their time.

You know how little time you have, and you know how many emails you get every day from people desperately trying to get your attention. Your members are in the same boat. So only deliver emails you know will provide value to your members and help them achieve their goals. Get to the point and remember KISS—Keep it Short and Simple.

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3. Make them feel known.

Ironically, automation can make this one easier. Instead of sending the same email to everyone, use emails with dynamic/story-level targeted content, or automated email campaigns that are segment-specific. Each email or campaign should walk recipients down a path of highest relevancy. Want to follow up in an even more personal manner? Marketing automation software can help you watch what recipients do with the email, then send subsequent personalized emails based on those triggers. 


4. Give them control.

Want to create more trust? Give members control over their email experience. Ask what topics and what kinds of email they’d like to receive. Make unsubscribing easy (this one is not only polite, but also the law). Allow recipients to mute emails related to a certain topic they aren’t interested in, such as an upcoming event they can’t attend. And send emails from a human they can just hit “reply” to, not a “no reply” address.

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5. Put on a great show.

Your emails compete with every other email a recipient gets, from a vast variety of sources, most of which they probably opted-in to receive at some point. That means they’re under no obligation to open or read your emails. They owe you nothing.

Your emails must earn their time and attention using tools like targeted lists, compelling subject lines that communicate value, personalized, targeted copy that informs and/or entertains, an appealing look, no matter what device they view it on (a look that is also consistent with your other brand assets), an offer they’ll want to act on, and functionality (especially links) that has been thoroughly tested and works.   


6. Set expectations.

Some of the most important emails you’ll send are to new members. While they joined your association, in their minds the jury may still be out on whether the experience will be valuable. First email impressions count in email as much as in person. So make your members feel known and welcomed.  

When you’re onboarding new members via email, don’t send all the information at once. Split it up into a few parts. Communicate your many benefits, but in small doses, and give them a way to tell you what benefits and topics they’re most interested in. Then ask them about their reasons for joining and let them know how often they’ll get emails and how they can easily opt-out of specific subjects. Providing the answers to these questions upfront will help you build their trust quickly.   

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7. Don’t ignore the data.

The very best automated email marketing is powered by up-to-date member data. Without it, you’re guessing who you’re emailing and acting on hunches they’ll be interested in what you’re sending them. Instead of guessing, keep adding data and building increasingly robust profiles of your members. After you send your emails, review the data to see what worked for that member or type of member and what didn’t.  

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These aren’t a lot of rules, but they can be hard to follow when we have so much to do and we just need to get the email out the door. The good news is there are plenty of email marketing resources that can help.  

What’s most important is that, as association communicators, we buy into the belief that if we only give members email experiences that we ourselves would appreciate, they’ll be every bit as happy as we would be. This is how those career-long relationships, built on trust, thrive.  

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