The virtual email marketing event for higher ed

January 26 & 28, 2021

In this recording, you’ll learn:

  • How to design for inclusion
  • How to build and maintain subscriber relationships
  • How Oakland University uses Emma
  • Research-based benchmarks for higher ed
  • Much more
Books and Coffee


Leah Miranda • Emma

Hi, and welcome to EmmaU, the only digital email marketing event for higher ed. Hi, I’m Leah Miranda, the Senior Email Marketing Manager here at Emma, and I’ll be your host for today. All right. Here’s what you can expect from today’s EmmaU summer session. It’s probably the only time we’ll ever be excited about summer school. Our agenda is going to include a presentation from The Ohio State University, a fireside chat with NYU talking about design and accessibility, a customer presentation from Kansas State University Foundation, and finally, an exciting keynote with Jessica Best.

Now, after all of that, we’ll have a few closing remarks along with a first for EmmaU, a live product demo.

The road to personalization: A donor newsletter evolution

Bri Loesch • Ohio State University

– [Host] Without further ado, I want to introduce to you our very first speaker, Bri Loesch. Bri is the associate director of email marketing at the Ohio State University. Bri, welcome to EmmaU.

– [Bri] Hi. Thanks for having me.

– All right, the floor is yours.

– Great. Welcome, everyone, and thanks for joining. I am Bri Loesch, the Associate Director of Email Marketing at the Ohio State University. I’ve been a true email geek for about five years and counting. And my role at Ohio State is to orchestrate the university’s enterprise email strategy, training, tools, and measurement, and I also facilitate the university’s email community of practice.

So today, I will be talking about our donor newsletter evolution, starting with where we started, testing that we did before we got into personalization, and then our personalization journey, starting with some simple tests and then moving on to more complex functionalities, such as personalization based on action, inaction, and donor lifecycle.

And then we will wrap up with a Q&A. So first, a little background on our newsletter. So Connect is the name of our alumni donor newsletter, and the purpose of this is really to keep donors and potential donors engaged and informed with the university.

And for those who have not yet given, we’re really trying to inspire them to give. And for those who have given, showing them what their dollars were doing. The audience is pretty large. It’s all alumni and donors. And we really focus on impact stories here, but I’ll go through some other content that we have featured as well.

And we send this on a monthly basis. So as we started down the path of personalization, we really wanted to make sure we were using it to enhance the donor experience since that’s really the purpose of this newsletter. So when we were thinking about personalization, we thought about it in terms of three categories. So one being database personalization.

So serving up content based on what we know about the individual and the information we have on them in the database. So these would be things like the college that they graduated from, the areas they donated to, where they live, interests we’ve collected on them, and information like that. And then we are also looking at action and inaction-based personalization.

So action-based being things like giving a gift, almost giving a gift, attending an event, reaching a milestone or anniversary, or reading an article online. And for inaction, looking at something that we would like them to do that they haven’t done in a while or haven’t done yet, things like engaging with the newsletter, or reading an article, or not having given a gift, maybe gave a gift a year ago but they haven’t renewed, the same with memberships.

So these are really the three categories we knew we wanted to focus on as we pursue personalization with the newsletter. So before we even got here, we had done a ton of A/B testing over a number of years. So we had done everything from subject line and pre-header testing, to design, layout, the number of articles featured, CTA, color, and the tone of the content, and the length of the content.

So we had exhausted a lot of A/B tests leading up to this, and we felt we were in a really good spot to take it to the next level and really focused on creating a tailored newsletter that felt more like a one-to-one message to our recipients. So as we started down this path of personalization, we’re looking at a phased approach. So as you see here, we kind of segmented it into a crawl, walk, and a run phase.

So in the crawl phase, I will walk through the subject line treatment that we A/B tested that was based on the recency of the recipient’s last open. I’ll also walk through welcome banner that we personalized and included in the newsletter. And then moving into the walk phase, talking about tailored content based on information we know about the person, as well as content based on their last action with the newsletter.

And then moving into that third tier, the run phase, moving more into complex personalization based on donor renewal, acquisition, reacquisition, and really looking at long-term priming and just education on the different areas that people can give to. So we are kind of in the middle of the walk and run phase right now.

So moving out of the walk phase as we start our call planning, we’re really moving into the run phase. So first, I’ll walk through these first two tiers and our findings, and then I’ll talk through our fall plans. So in the crawl phase, we started with the subject line treatment.

So as I mentioned, we had a lot of A/B testing prior to getting to personalization. So one of the things we had A/B tested previously was our subject line. So through a lot of testing, we have landed on the control subject run you see here. So “Connect: News from Ohio State” is what resonated with the general audience.

And then our pre-header just varies from month to month based on our content that’s within the newsletter. So that worked well for the general audience. However, for those who had not opened our newsletter in the past three months, that subject line really wasn’t working for that audience.

So we wanted to try something different just for that particular segment. So we tried serving up a reengagement-style subject line. So you can see here, we went with “These are the stories you can’t afford to miss,” kind of a FOMO-style subject line. We tried several things as we were running this test, but this is one that worked pretty well. And we found that the reengagement-style subject line resulted in an 8% lift in open rate among this lapsed opener group.

So we did find success with this test, and this is actually something we implemented permanently. So this is always on, and every month, we serve up a reengagement-style subject line to these three-month non-openers. And the really cool thing about this test is that we are also running a 12-month hygiene program with this list.

So just to make sure we’re keeping our list clean, anyone who hasn’t opened in the last 12 months, we run them through a reengagement series. And if they don’t open any email in that series, then we unsubscribe them. So this three-month non-opener subject line really gives us the chance to grab those people and reengage them before they get all the way down the road to that 12-month point where we might lose them for good.

All right. So still in the walk phase here. This is an example of a database personalization test we ran with a simple welcome banner. So here, we’re just personalizing based on name and the number of years a person has given to the university. So you can see, it just says, “Hi, Lily. Thank you for your 7 years of giving. Your support is sincerely appreciated.”

So really just thanking the donor and letting them know we appreciate them here. It’s a very simple personalization, but the hope is that we’ll see increased sustained opens over time because of the perceived relevancy this banner is providing. So again, this is super small, very simple, but this is something we’re hoping is a baby step and proof point that will lead us to more sophisticated personalization.

So this is something we’re currently running. We’ll run it over a few months and check out the results. But it’s really just the stepping stone to get us to more sophisticated personalization. All right. So now, we are in the walk phase, and this is another database personalization example. And here, we are doing it with content.

So you can see, the newsletter on the left, that very bottom block, we have default content, and this is just an impact story that would have brought appeal across our whole audience. But we also had impact stories submitted from the College of Arts & Sciences as well as the College of Engineering, which you see on the right.

So for anyone who graduated from or has given to either Arts & Sciences or Engineering, they would see those respective blocks instead of the default block. So this is something we ran for several months, and we found an average increase in click-to-open of 20%. So this is something we’ve used time and time again, and we found really good success with this across this program but also our other email programs.

We’ve used it for things like our Day of Giving as well. And something else we found in testing this is that when we called out a college or program by name in the headline or in the body paragraph, we saw a lot of engagement. So that’s something we really encourage our colleges and units to include when they submit content for this, is to call out the college or program by name.

So this was a really great personalization test, not only is it making the content in the newsletter more relevant to the recipient, but it’s also giving our college and units more visibility with their content. Moving on, still on the walk phase here.

So this is an example of an action-based personalization test we ran. So this was segmented to people who had clicked in the previous month’s newsletter. So on the left is the newsletter from the previous month, and if someone clicked on one of those stories, then, in the following month, we provided an action-based module based on that content where we served up an opportunity to allow that person to take further action on that story.

So we were recapping the cause that the original story was referring to and then providing a giving CTA instead of a Read More CTA. So here, they were actually able to find a fund that went with that story so that they could go support the cause they had shown an interest in.

So I’m going to show the good and the bad here. It’s not all clean and tidy. This test was really difficult to read. So as you can imagine, because we were only targeting clickers of the previous month for each of these articles and then they also would have needed to click through the giving CTA and give a gift, the volume ended up being really small.

So it was difficult to read. So with this one, we decided to table it until we’re better resourced or just have better data to back it up, but the hope was that we would see convergence on the gifts based on what they had shown interest in the previous month. So tabling this for now, but we still got some learnings from this. All right.

So we went through crawl and walk, and so now, I’ll walk you through our next future state, which is where we get into our fall planning and some of the things we’re looking to enter in the run phase. So the first test we are planning for fall is gift renewal personalization. So here, we plan to display a custom content block for gift renewal, and we’ll have different messaging based on the stage of renewal the person is in.

So for those due for their annual renewal, we’ll serve up just a regular, you know, renewal content. For those who have missed their annual renewal, we will have different lapsed content for them. And then we also have our long-lapsed renewals, where it’s been quite a while since they’ve renewed. They gave at some point, but it’s been a while since they gave again.

And figuring out the right timing for that messaging. So before we do any of this, first, we are going to do an A/B test between displaying this content in our Connect newsletter with 50% of our renewal audience, and with the other 50%, continuing to do what we’re previously doing, which is that team pulls a list of renewals every month and sends an ad hoc email.

So we’ll be comparing the conversion rate between the existing ad hoc email and the message displayed in Connect to see if there’s a big difference there or if Connect is similar or even a higher conversion rate. If we do see success with the newsletter, we’re going to move forward with a ton of A/B testing. We have a lot of opportunity there for different messaging.

But if we find that the ad hoc is still performing better, we will just pursue that route, and we will end up automating that existing renewal. So very excited to see how those reroutes pan out, and if we do end up pursuing the newsletter route, very excited to start a lot of A/B testing with our messaging.

And then some other things on the roadmap for us as we enter this run phase. One is action-based personalization. So here, I have a couple of examples. So the one on the left is for those who have made a gift within the past month, just to explain some simple thank-you messaging here to just reiterate our appreciation for them and have some thank-you messaging within this newsletter to make it more tailored to them in an action they made recently.

And then, on the right, we have a membership example. So for someone who has recently renewed a membership, showing just to reiterate the fact that they just renewed and to display their renewal date to acknowledge that. And the inverse, these marbles look very similar but just different segments and messaging.

So in this case, on the left, for someone who has never made a gift, so an alumni non-donor, showing just some educational messaging here to talk about why they might consider giving and including a button to learn more so they can go see what they might be passionate about and the areas that they’re able to support.

And then, on the right, with membership, maybe someone has a membership that’s expiring soon. So here, we’re showing the membership that we’re referring to and displaying their renewal date just as another reminder to them that they do have a renewal coming up so that, hopefully, we will catch them before that membership lapses.

So that is where we’ve been and where we’re going in our donor newsletter evolution. What have we learned? One, we have learned that personalization worked. It is not easy.

It does take some time and planning. But you know, once you have some patience and try different things to refine your strategy and determine what to keep or leave, we’ve really seen positive lift in engagement from our personalization tests, and we just feel good knowing it’s the right thing to do, serving up more relevant content to our audiences.

Second, start small. You don’t have to start with huge tests out of the gate. Start with manageable tests to help build the case for more time-intensive testing. And it may help with allocating resources. And it’s just really helpful to have the data to support those more time-intensive tests. So start small and go from there.

And then, third, make sure you have a measurement plan in place ahead of your test. You know, you don’t want to spend a ton of time and energy on a test, only to find it’s too difficult or not possible to measure. So I mentioned one of our tests being, you know, we had really low volume, so it was hard to measure. So making sure you’re thinking about this thing ahead of time before you put a ton of love into a test.

And then collaboration is key. So especially with our content tests, like the stories from the different colleges that I showed, it really became important with us to work with college liaisons on content curation so that we are equipped to personalize.

Our team is not going to be able to create or curate that much content. So we’re really relying on college units to supply that content for us so that we can provide a good experience in the newsletter. And then, also, we’re working with our donor experience team, was very important. You know, they know our donors best, and they know the life cycles. So working with them to make sure we’re really leveraging this newsletter to support that donor experience and getting the most out of it.

And then, lastly, it seems obvious, but sometimes I think we get caught up in our own storytelling, and initiatives, and campaigns, and things that we really want to get in front of donors. So trying as much as possible to keep the audience at the center and always considering how is the newsletter serving them, is it valuable, is it relevant, and making sure the data is showing that positive engagement with them.

That is all I have for you today. So we’ll go ahead and open it up for questions.

– Bri, such an amazing presentation. I love the layout. I think a lot of people just start with the run phase. So I love just to see the evolution of your own email program. All right, we’ve got a ton of questions coming in. First one is going to be from Karen. So, “How did you track engagement?”

– Sure. So it kind of depended on the test. So for example, with the subject line test, we’re really looking at opens among that segment. So once we had sent the email, we were going back and looking at opens within the three-month non-opener segment and then measuring that against the same segment in the control group.

So in that case, we were looking at opens to see which one resonated. But then, for some of our other tests, especially the ones like the content test, we’re looking at click volume. So there, we are measuring the dynamic content metrics against the default content metrics to see which one performed better.

And that one we ran over several months. So we were just taking all of that data, and then, at the end, we took our averages to see what our average looked to us.

– That’s great. And I love that you mentioned messy data and just being comfortable with tabling something until you got the resources and the bandwidth. All right, we’ve got another question, oh, I like this one, from Cynthia. “With the three-month newsletter reengagement, can you talk about how you handled the summer months? Are there any dips outside of the fall and spring academic calendar?”

– That’s a good question. So a lot of times when we’re measuring…we’re measuring from month to month, but then we also sometimes are having to balance that with our year over year metrics. So we’ll look at year over year and when we tend to see dips and try to calculate that in. And sometimes, with some of that data, we’re working with our analytics team.

Sometimes it’s a little beyond us, so many cases like that where we’re trying to normalize the data based on seasonality. We’ll work with that team to get a better idea of whether that had an impact or not. But I think that is another reason why we typically will test over more than one month to make sure we’re accounting for any anomalies.

So we’ll test over usually at least three months. That way, we can kind of get the average and not rely on one-month data.

– Love it. All right. I think we have time for one last question. It’s going to be from Hillary. So the custom content blocks according to the recipient’s interest, is there a personalization that will occur from a single campaign and audience group, or is it several campaigns created with different block combinations and then sent to a segmented list? So I think really just, you know, are you building 40 emails, or are you using dynamic content?

– Using dynamic content, yes. So definitely leveraging dynamic content to avoid having to build lots and lots of versions of emails.

– Oh, that’s great. All right. Oh, I’m going to sneak in one more. Don’t tell. All right, from Mike. “Have you run into any problems where incorrect data accidentally offends a donor?” For example, “I’ve given for the past 10 years, not 7.”

– Yeah. That is where we rely on our data integrity team. So we are hoping that the data is correct. As far as our team’s QA, we are really checking a lot of sample data to make sure the data is at least as correct as what the information shows us in the database, so making sure, basically, the dynamic rules are working correctly.

And we’ll also monitor. So if we’re running something and we’re seeing a lot of complaints about one particular piece of data, we’ll take that back to the data team and have them investigate, and we’ll not use that data point until we get a resolution. But I think that’s a great question. Luckily, our data team takes a lot of pride in having clean data. So we have had too many issues, but we have run into that with, especially, some donors who have shared email addresses.

So they may have different data, but one person might open the email, and it was really intended for the other person when they’re sharing an email address, which is frustrating. So the data may be different between the two people, and you know, John might see Jane’s information and think it’s incorrect, but really it’s just a shared email address issue. So I think data integrity becomes very important if you’re thinking to personalize and making sure your database is clean.

– Oh, 100%. It’s just the plight of an email marketer’s life, is just making sure that data is clean. Well, I think that’s all the time we have. Thank you again, Bri. That was such a lovely presentation. And thanks for sticking around for the Q&A.

– Thank you.

– Bye.

A fireside chat with NYU

Tylor Loposser, Katie Santo • Emma, NYU

– [Leah] All right. Next up, we have a fantastic fireside chat with Emma’s own art director, Tylor Loposser. Tylor, welcome back to EmmaU.

– [Tylor] Hey, Leah.

– Thanks for waving. I appreciate it. And the next, I want to introduce Katie Santo, training and support specialist for NYU Digital Communication at New York University. Katie, welcome to EmmaU. [inaudible].

– [Katie] Hi, thanks for having me.

– All right. So, I just want to jump right in. I got a little preview of this chat earlier in the week, and I’m super excited about it. So, again, reminder for everyone watching, if you have questions, please submit them in the chatbox, and we’ll do our best to get to all of them. All right, the first question I’m going to throw over to Katie. So, how does language play a role in making emails feel more accessible?

– Okay, so I love this question because I really think that our language choices are an easy first step in making emails more accessible and inclusive. So, things like writing in plain language, avoiding acronyms or jargon, or just overly complex language, I think those are really easy steps you can take because your language choices have an impact on the readability and scanability of your messages.

And that can have a positive impact on those who are using screen reading software and those who just rely on, like, headings to, like, find the content that matters most to them. So, I think it’s something really easy that everyone can do to make their emails more inclusive.

– Tylor, anything to add?

– Yeah. I mean, I would just say, you know, one of the biggest opportunities that we find here to increase inclusive language is in those CTAs of emails, you know, those little buttons, those inline text links. A lot of times we will see some stuff come across that, you know, maybe says, “Read more,” “See inside,” things like that.

And, those are totally accidental, but they do come off as ableist because we are making assumptions about how people will use…you know, how they’re going to navigate through our emails. So, it’s best to sort of shift those ideas to maybe “Learn more,” or, “Explore more,” and actually even push it a step further and try to really set some better expectations of what is at the other end of that CTA.

Because you can also maybe create a little bit of excitement and maybe a little curiosity with your CTAs by sort of enticing them a little bit better that way. But it also doesn’t make any assumptions about the abilities of the user.

– Yeah, I love that. I have one more thing to add because I’m 100% right there with you, Tylor. I think the other thing is, we often see a lot of “Read more,” “Read more,” “Read more,” and people don’t necessarily realize that when someone’s using a screen reader, they hear that it’s a link, “Read more,” but they don’t know where the link is going.

So, by rethinking your approach to what those CTAs are and what language you use there, it could really have a big impact on your audience.

– That’s great. I love it. And just from an email perspective, you know, having that, I think it challenges us to think of better CTAs than the “Read more,” “Learn more,” we’ve all seen that. That’s great. Next question, can you give us an example of how your conversations around accessibility have evolved?

– Yeah, so that’s something I’m so proud of, our progression on the topic of accessibility at NYU. It’s something that has really been front of mind for many on our team, and just for quite sometime now. And so, when the university adopted, like, an official digital accessibility policy in 2018, we were so excited.

And I think it’s really important that during this entire time, the approach our team has taken into this, which is kind of how, you know, we’ve gotten to where we are today. And that’s approaching these conversations not to be from, like, a compliance mindset, but rather to focus on the concept of inclusive design. So, we like to stress how accessible content makes things better for everyone.

It benefits all kinds of people across a range of abilities. And, in our messaging, we just really want to change people’s mindsets on what accessibility is and what is accessible content. And so, we’ve also worked very closely with our digital accessibility office to make sure that we are informing and educating our content authors about the importance of accessibility and what they can do.

And it’s really exciting to see everyone’s kind of approach. It’s steadily moving from an afterthought to something that people are including from Day 1. And I really think it’s because of how we’ve approached that conversation about inclusivity rather than digital accessibility and this “compliance” thing that you have to check of off, like, a list.

– Yeah. Yeah. I’ll also say, you know, from a design perspective, or as someone who is on a creative team, it’s really broadened our idea of what it means to be a designer, and, you know, much further than just the visuals that we create.

It helps to center a lot of the work that we’re doing back to the human experience, which is, you know, what design is. It’s this sort of intentional act to, you know, make a connection with an audience. And so, I think that, you know, that’s really sort of helped us become more than just pretty picture makers and become really good, you know, thinkers, and think about process, and think about who’s on the other end, and make better attempts at building those relationships and making sure that they have a great opportunity with the piece as well.

And, Katie, you mentioned inclusivity, I think that that’s another way that this has broadened. We started thinking about the world of accessibility. But as most of us know, that falls under this umbrella of inclusive design. And while accessibility, you know, really focuses on removing any barriers that exist between a person and the message, you know, inclusivity is about making sure that people feel welcomed, and feel represented, and feel good about, you know, interacting with your brand, your mailing, everything.

And that’s, you know, sort of the next step we want to get them to.

– I love that. So, both of you kind of touched on the idea of, you know, educating your teams, working as a team. So, what are some ways that you can get buy-in when implementing accessibility best practices or inclusion best practices into your marketing?

– Yeah, so going along with what I was mentioning earlier, I really think it’s important to challenge, update, reify people’s mental models around disability and digital accessibility practices. So, a lot of those messaging…a lot of our early-on messaging around this was talking about the why behind inclusive design and sharing actual numbers.

You know, there are 1 billion people in the world who have a disability, and that’s 15% of the population. You don’t know who’s on the other side of that email that you’re sending out. I will give real examples about how I’m not wearing any wrist braces, but I have injuries on both of my wrists. And for a long time, I couldn’t click on tiny links. And those buttons, the larger call-to-actions, were a lot easier for me to click on.

And so, whoever wrote and designed that email had no idea that it would be benefiting me. They did it because, you know, they thought that was the right design choice. And one of the tools that we love to use in this is that Microsoft has this great inclusive design graphic that really rethinks how we envision impairment. They talk about the idea of permanent, temporary, or situational impairment.

And as we’re kind of getting our buy-in from our content authors, from the people who make the decisions on a lot of these things, when they realize that those graphics could apply to them at any point in time and probably have, all of a sudden, it opens up their mind a little bit more because they’re understanding, they’re getting a better understanding of how wide and significant their impact really is.

And the W3C has a great tagline that, I find, really helps drive this point, which is, “Web accessibility is essential for some but useful for all.”

– Yeah. And just to compound on all of that greatness, yeah, I always start with the altruistic approach. You know, it’s the right thing to do. We should want more people to hear our messages, experience our brand. We can always start there.

We can then move on to expanding our market reach, like what you’re talking about, Katie. We’ve got 1 billion people. They say that’s about $6 trillion in spending money. So, if we want, you know, more people to, you know, purchase our product, whatever that product may be, there are…we’re leaving money on the table. And then, yeah, if none of those works, then we always like to sort of talk about the legal responsibility that we have, you know, to meet these requirements.

So, yeah.

– That’s great. Tylor, I’m just going to start with you on this question, is, how do you create an email marketing program that appeals or, I think a better way of phrasing this, is inclusive to all your subscribers without being that sort of traditional one size fits all?

– Yeah. So, you know, really, accessibility, like I said before, is just about removing some barriers. You know, we think about how we can change shadow color to help with color blindness. We can install proper type hierarchy to improve cognitive retentions.

And then, you know, proper coding techniques to help assist with screenwriting technology. So, these are all sort of, like, technical things that we can be doing. So, the great thing about sort of doing those is they’re going to be effective for tons of different users.

Like, Katie was saying, there is a spectrum of abilities, and they are changing, and they can be permanent, or temporary, or situational. And so, all those things are going to help people no matter where they are. But, really, once you sort of take care of those things, well, while you start to go back and look at your analytics, and how is my mailings performing, you can sort of…if you’ve taken care of those, you can remove this doubt of are people actually getting the message because now we’ve removed tons of barriers, we know they’re getting the message.

So, maybe it’s with content. So, that’s when this sort of turns into maybe it’s a conversation about content. And what type of content can we be creating that is reaching out to our users more? People with disabilities typically don’t have a different interest, you know, in content, they’re going to like all types of content.

It’s really just about trying to remove that barrier and making sure that we are creating content that is specifically tailored to these audiences. And, you know, I mean, by all your audiences. You know, Bree gave some really great examples about, you know, making sure you’re segmenting your audiences and using dynamic content. Those are the ways that you’re going to create a personalized, you know, message, is through those techniques of segmentation and dynamic content.

– That’s great. All right, we’ve got a couple of audience questions. First one is going to…Tylor, I’m going to hit you up. We got a couple from Anne and Emily. And they’re wondering if you can give us a couple of examples of how one might be more expansive in sharing what the CTA leads to.

– Oh, I’m on the spot.

– It’s why they call the fireside chat. You’re close to that fire.

– I know. I mean, you know, I think I try to go back to, like, what is it that is at the other end? So, let’s say if it’s a guide that we’re trying to…you know, maybe we could say, like, “Get the guide,” instead of, “Read the guide.” Or just, if you put “Read more,” or if the action on the other end is about, like, that they’re going to have to take an action like download, then you maybe should mention that in the CTA.

Once again, just setting some expectations of what will be at the other end of that CTA.

– All right, let’s see. We’ve got one from Sharon. “What are some do’s and don’ts for inclusivity in our emails? And what are some good examples of CTAs as opposed to ‘Read more?'” So, let’s hit that first question.

What are some do’s and don’ts for inclusivity in our emails?

– Okay. I can start with that one. One thing right off the bat, and I think Bree’s email examples were really good, so, I’m going to talk about those, if we saw…if you recall from her previews, she had images and the text [inaudible] was outside of those images. And they were really great, catered to her appropriate audience.

So, something really easy you can do is not include images of text. So, I often find myself fighting this battle, that a lot of our groups make these really gorgeous flyers. Flyers are meant to be printed, they’re not meant to be emailed. And so, I think that’s a really easy thing you could do, is kind of pull out some of those design elements from the flyer.

And you can use Emma’s built-in features to kind of recreate that. There are definitely settings that you can do to add borders, background colors, and obviously, making sure that the color combinations are accessible. So, I would definitely start with that. Because I feel like a lot of people, when they first get into using email marketing like Emma, they are just going to want to email it a flyer.

And so, I think that is an easy thing that you can do, especially with all the built-in tools.

– Yeah, and something that I’m thinking of right now, thinking about inclusivity, thinking about some decisions that maybe a designer like myself may make, you know, photography, you know, when we have a huge range of things that we can select from, sometimes people will make selections on photography based on their own biases and their own experiences.

So, I think it’s always a really great idea to sort of take all your emails out and look at them in an array and sort of see if there’s any common themes that you maybe for whoever is selecting imagery maybe leans towards, you know, a specific group of people, you know, a specific type of experience or anything like that, and look at ways to sort of interject new different types of representation, I would say.

And sometimes you don’t know those things on a email-to-email basis because you just rarely look at them that way. But, yeah, definitely kind of take them out, look at what we’ve been selecting and how could we interject more diversity in that.

– Love it. Although, Katie, you gave me a little hot, just, like, the flyer emails, I think email marketers, we’ve all seen that email of someone just sending out a flyer. All right, so, on kind of that thought of imagery, do you have any best practices when it comes to writing alt text?

Katie, I’ll throw that one over to you.

– Yes, they know that I love talking about alt text. The way I like to describe it to my content authors, it’s, why are you using that image? Like, why did you pick that particular image? I love using an example of George Washington. You know, he was a general, he crossed the Delaware. He was our former…you know, he’s a former president.

So, if you are including an image of him, why? Are you talking about his military service? Are you talking about the photo, like the painting of him crossing the Delaware? Those are important things to note. It’s, why do you have this image? And why does it relate to the content in your message? And that will help inform the kind of alt text that you use.

The other thing is keep it short and sweet. I like to tell people to think about it like a tweet. Well, an old-school tweet, that was only 140 characters. So, I like to tell them, the shorter the better for alt text, as long as it’s accurate.

– Yeah, I think that also goes back to the idea of just being very intentional and thoughtful. You know, sometimes we use images in emails because we think we have to because maybe there’s a gray square there, and we need to put something in that box. But I think really thinking about the intention behind it really helps to remove this idea of decorative things.

You know, if you have a lot of decorative images in your email, you may want to stop and ask yourself, why do I have so much decoration when I could be having really great content that means something to people? So, I think that exercise really helps to sort of help people understand what is the intent.

– Love it. All right, looks like we got maybe time for one more question. This one’s going to be from Camille, our favorite. “Are there any design tips to follow that accommodate people using dark mode on their mobile devices?” Tylor, I’ll throw this one to you first.

– Yeah, I mean, definitely making sure there’s as much live text as possible. Like Katie was speaking about, you know, not putting text on top of images. If we put that text in, you know, the editor section, the live text, that, you know, the HTML is designed to sort of automatically flip those. So, as the background goes dark, then the text will go light.

Some other great things, too, if you have, you know, logos that happen to be dark logos, which a lot of them typically are, it’s always best to maybe install, like, a small border. And that could either be a little, white shadow, or it could be, like, a line all around it.

It’s going to be invisible for anyone who’s using it on the light mode. But as it switches to dark, it will then have that glow to it or an outline so that your logo is still visible. Because in email, we know that’s really important. People want to know who this mailing is from.

Do I trust them? Yes, I do. Great. I’m going to read this content. So, there’s just a couple of things that I would definitely recommend.

– Katie, anything to add on that last question?

– No, what he said. I agree.

– So great. All right. Well, I really wish…this has been such a great conversation. I wish I could keep you guys here all day, but contractually, I have to move on to the next [inaudible]. So, again, thank you so much, Tylor and Katie, for chatting with us.

– Yes. Thank you so much.

– Thank you. Thanks for having us.

– Bye-bye.

Beyond merge fields: How we grew personalization from what we know to who we know

Dana Suther, Heather Strafuss • Kansas State University Foundation

– [Interviewer] Our next presentation is from Dana Suther and Heather Strafuss from Kansas State University Foundation. Dana and Heather will be talking to us about beyond merge fields, how we grew personalization from what we know to who we know. Dana and Heather, thank you so much for being here.

– [Dana] Thank you so much for having us.

– And, again, I love that title.

– Hello. So, whoever came up for it, it just [inaudible]. All right, the floor is yours.

– Awesome. Well, hello, my name is Dana Suther. And I’m joined today by my teammate, Heather Strafuss from the KSU Foundation. We are so excited to share this presentation with you guys. And, as we have said, it is called “Beyond Merge Fields,” and how we grew our personalization from what we knew to who we know.

So, we really wanted to talk about this today because we felt like our journey from learning about our personalization process has really allowed us to be able to take our solicitation strategy from the beginning stages of figuring it out to the middle intermediate stage of getting it right, and then now to where we live in the advanced stage of knocking it out of the park as our AVP likes to refer to it.

And I’m going to try to not over advance my slide here. Whoop. There we go. Okay, so let’s meet Dana and Heather. Again, my name is Dana Suther, and I’m the director of Strategic Solicitations of the KSU Foundation.

We are the philanthropic arm of Kansas State University. The KSU Foundation raises about $165 million a year. Our department, Strategic Solicitations, is responsible for about 10% of that. And, as for KSU itself, is located in lovely Manhattan, Kansas. We have about 22,000 students.

Our mascot is Wilily the Wildcat, and we love all things purple. As director, I really help to guide strategy and an omnichannel in your giving program. So, I focus my attention on the big “rocks,” as we call them. So phone, mail, and online giving, and we are really just looking to maximize our results, increase dollars and donors.

And I have been in development, in some sense of development, since 2011. And I’ll now let Heather introduce herself.

– [Heather] All right. Hi, everybody. I’m Heather Strafuss. I am the Fundraising Services manager at the KSU Foundation. I work closely with our campus partners on solicitations, giving pages, and social media campaigns. Sorry, I focus on targeted campaigns, highlighting specific areas of need, and programs at Kansas State University.

And I started my career in development in 2015.

– All right, so now that you know who Heather and I are, let’s get to why you’re really here, which is to learn more about personalization and how to glean maximum results from it. So, to do this, let’s start from the beginning. And the beginning, for me, starts in 2017 when I joined the foundation. At this time, we are partnering with a third-party vendor who was really managing our phone program, our mail, and our email solicitations.

So, we relied on this vendor for strategy and data decisions as well as design and really to tell us who to solicit, when, and how. Now we call it a very basic annual giving strategy of mail if you can. Email if you can, call them if you can. And then, on the screen here, you’ll just see an example of an email solicitation that would have went out using that vendor.

– So, big changes started happening in 2018. We left our vendor and moved all solicitation creation strategy and implementation in-house. We then changed our name to Strategic Solicitations also known as StratSo, because we had high hopes of being more than your average annual giving shop. We also signed on with Emma at this time.

As we beefed up our email strategy, we started to try to find email-specific donors. We have this cool new tool, and we started using the merge fields in dipping our toes into the world of segmentation and variable text. So, on the right here is a picture of what one of our first emails that we sent out through Emma looked like.

– As, Heather said, you know, you get a cool new tool, you want to try it out and you want to do all of the things and we were. We were trying to figure this out. And we were getting closer to what we wanted to do. But, as you know, the saying goes close doesn’t really count. So, we knew we were still missing something.

And one thing that we were struggling with is that the more solicitations we did, the more we became aware that at times our blanketed merge field, personalization just felt wrong. And we were being held by the constraints of our data. We were trying to make it work for what we wanted to do.

So, we wanted to merge in first names, and gift amounts, and last gift days. But, the fact of the matter was, our data had householded information. So, split gifts were happening. We had shared email addresses. We had data that made the end result look sloppy. And that, like, we didn’t know our people, and for K-Staters, that is a huge deal.

They expect you to know them. So, to send something out to Robert, who graduated in 1975 with a DVM, meant that we really didn’t know that his name was Dr.

Bob, and that he had dedicated his life to shelter pets in rural Kansas, and that he had, had his own clinic for 45 years. And calling him Robert wasn’t wrong. That’s his name. But to him, it felt so unpersonalized that we were damaging that trust that he had with an institution that he felt should know that his name was indeed Dr.

Bob. So, we knew that this was something we needed to focus on, and focus quite a lot of attention on, and why you may ask, why is Dr. Bob important? Because we knew with proper personalization that we could maximize the lifetime value of our donors. And you’ll read this very nice quote from our AVP talking about why we spent so much time and focused so hard on this.

And it is just so that we can truly maximize that institutional lifetime value of each and every donor. So, we knew this was something we were going to have to figure out. We were going to have to fix the issue of Dr. Bobs. And we knew that getting to that intermediate stage meant this was going to have to get figured out. So, we set to work.

And we learnt new things. We went to conferences, we did our own testing, we really took a look at our data, and what our donors were telling us, or not telling us, with their behaviors. And we were quite aware of our limitations in our data. But we knew that improving the donor experience would require us to talk to them in a different way. So, we went back to the basics.

We took those very pretty emails we were making in Emma and we stripped them down. We started approaching every solicitation with a simple question and answer, why does the donor care? Why do they care? Why do they want to give to this? And why do they want to give to us? So, we started writing from a viewpoint of really a friend or a colleague reaching out and less of a marketing department.

We shifted our focus from, you know, how do we catch their eye in the inbox to, how do we ensure that the right message is hitting the right inbox? So, this wasn’t easy, as you can probably imagine. It felt really uncomfortable at times.

But we knew that we had to continue to focus on this and to push towards the intermediate phase of getting it right.

– So, how do we do that? So, we took it one step further. I was in a previous role at the foundation, working closely with our campus partners. And we realized there was a gap between connecting our alumni with specific areas on campus that matter to them on an annual giving level, and that our campus partners could use support in fundraising and engaging alumni and friends.

So Fundraising Services was born. What does that mean? So, Fundraising Services is how we can connect those donors back to campus in meaningful ways. Our campus partners connect us to the right voice and sender to show that there’s that actual person behind the email. The data is targeted to make sure the right people are reached, and it helps to make sure that Dr. Bob gets the right message about shelter pets from the college of vet med highlighting the shelter medicine unit.

So, how did we do that? What does that look like? In just one second, there will be a slide. There it is! Okay. Oop. So, here is an example of the email that we sent out for the shelter pets.

Thanks, Dana. So, this email was sent during a cold burst in the country. So, we addressed that in the beginning of the email reflecting what was going on in the world. And, we got the right data to make sure that Dr. Bob, who loves the shelter pets, gets this solicitation for the cause that he cares about.

Another example of what one of our emails looked like at this time is for K-State Proud. And we tried different segmented approaches for different audiences in the same appeal. So, for K-State Proud Week, which is held every year to raise Student Opportunity Awards on campus. Each of our four groups had carefully crafted messages cater to them. So, we had one for previous student foundation students, donors to K-State Proud in the past, our trustees, and our former proud students.

We had our students be the voice of the emails encouraging readers to participate and follow along on social media and make a gift. Each email scored a 10 from Emma and aided in helping K-State Proud have one of their best fundraising years ever, despite it being set during a global pandemic. With all those changes in place, we headed into the advanced stage of knocking it out of the park.

We saw more interest from campus for collaborative solicitations than ever. Our team went from less than 5 collaborative solicitations with campus partners in calendar year 2018 to over 30 in calendar year 2020. So, what did some of those advanced-stage emails look like? Our first example here for you is JMCares. The School of Journalism and Mass Communications came together in the summer of 2020 to help students suffering during the pandemic.

Working with JMC alumni on the advisory board, we crafted an urgent message that would resonate with alumni. And this is where working with our campus partners came in and was so crucial. I write a lot of solicitations on a monthly basis. And I drafted something up and shared with them, and was like, “What do you think? Here you go.”

And they’re like, hmm, “Like Dana said earlier, this is close but it only counts in…” what is it? “…horseshoes and hand grenades.” So, they were like, “This isn’t really going to resonate with our alumni. So, let’s kind of work on how we can get there.” And to get there, we kind of added in unique stories. There was a student who talked about how they were amassing a debt they could never repay. So, we added that in.

We talked about what the rent was in Manhattan at the time, what a trip to the grocery store would cost a student. These were students who are losing their jobs, or who were losing that financial support. So, they needed extra help during this time. And then, we gave a goal and set a deadline saying we were trying to raise $20,000 by August 7, and asked if they could help us get there and it worked.

You know, having that message and working with the right people helped this be hugely successful. Within the first 24 hours, over $5,000 came in, and as online donations from this email drop, and then altogether the email portion of the campaign raised over $10,000. So, not only were people interested in helping students in 2020, but they wanted to know how they were doing.

Some of our most successful emails saw partnerships from our current students, those who are identified by our campus partners who might be interested in helping and being the voice of our emails. So, you might notice here that there is a video. And earlier you may have caught, how on one of Dana’s slides, it said that we took our videos out. Well, in 2020 we added them back in. Why?

Because everything was virtual. So, we might as well add this in too, right? But, it really kind of helped add that personal connection. The students shot the videos from their iPhones, from their laptops, in their rooms, outside, at the place that they work to really kind of have that personal message, like it was coming from a friend, like you were talking to somebody on a video call. And, the fun videos made by them throughout the year went over incredibly well and gave our audience a real chance to see what life is like for our current students.

The timing of the messaging resonated also, why are we reaching out today? Well, we’re reaching out on behalf of K-State’s Office for the Advancement of Women in Science and Engineering, and today’s International Women’s Day, and we’re trying to raise $5,000 for them. So, including that, along with our tangible goal and deadline really helped to boost our efforts. And as 2020 neared 2021, Fundraising Services continued to kick it into high gear and started to drop highly targeted emails to specific audiences once a week.

– Pause while my computer decides to catch up here. It’s kind of when you’re, like, try to increase your volume on the TV and it’s delayed, and then it just, like, blows out your speakers.

[vocalization] Okay, there we go. All right. So, as Heather said, Fundraising Services was off to the races. They were running with the strategy. But, that also trickled into everything that’s wrapped up today and including our Giving Day. And our Giving Day is All In for K-State.

That’s here, I’ll insert place on March 24th. And throughout the month of March, we actually sent over a million emails from our Emma platform regarding all in. Now, that’s a lot of communication and it’s a lot of conversations going on and a lot of chances to really get those right.

So, this year, the conversation took place around open/alternative textbooks or Textbooks 2.0. And this was a topic that affected every student on our campus. Oh, see, yep, I knew that was going to happen. But we knew that although current students would be able to see the need for open/alternative textbooks, we would struggle in getting that message across to alumni who maybe graduated 50 years ago and didn’t have a laptop for school.

So, we got to work. And, one thing that we did early on is we worked with Emma to do a custom template. Now, just like Heather said, we brought video back in 2020. We also kind of made an exception for all in and did a beautiful email instead of our normal stripped-down, content-heavy email.

Because all in is special and this this day needed to be special. But, we kept our strategy the same. We talked to the donors about why they should care. So, I’m going to give you a couple of examples. All in is a day where anyone who is solicitable is solicited. So, we really looked at our data, and were able to identify some audiences that we knew needed personalized messages.

And I won’t go through the entire list. But this is basically including groups like K-State, so campus faculty staff, K-State foundation faculty staff, non-donors, past donors, and then a group called grateful clients. We knew looking at this list that we probably had two groups that were going to be our toughest to personalize and to solicit.

And that would be the KCA faculty staff, they had, unfortunately, had a pretty rough year with furloughs and just the pandemic kind of rocking everything that is their world on campus. And then, the other group that was going to be a little difficult were grateful clients who were really only in our database because they had used our veterinarian health center, so, love that hospital, in the past.

So, they were almost like cool customers, clients in that sense. So, on the left, you will see the example of how we really tailored the message for faculty staff. We let them know, you know, you haven’t heard from us this year. But we are reaching out today because this is a special day.

We know that getting back may not be on your mind right now through these difficult times. But this is a program that you may be interested in. And we want to give you the chance to bring this into your classroom. So here’s how you can join us and our efforts. On the right, this is the example for the grateful clients.

And, like I said, most of them don’t really necessarily care about K-State. They’re not Wildcats, but they love their pets and they love our vets. So, we went and we met them where they are. So, they’re here in the space of loving their animals. Let’s talk about that. Help us make better pets or better vets.

Help us get them the tools and resources they need and give to us on this day and support future vets. So, in the end, at the end of this day, this 24 hours, we were able to raise over $500,000 for Textbooks 2.0. And I would say, throughout the day, personalization really helped us meet that goal.

So, what did we learn? What were our results? So, I would say that Heather and I would agree that we have learned a lot from the very beginning of this process.

But I think one thing that’s been really cool to see is that with the more personalized approach, with our solicitations, we’ve also seen a more positive engagement from our alumni and donors. So, for example, we have seen a greater response in emails to our giving inbox. I’m sure many of you have a giving inbox.

It is the place where solicitation replies go to, and ours housed a lot of stop, go away, I’m paying off student loans. Stop asking me for money, that sort of thing. But once we started tailoring the content and the messages, a really cool thing happened in that the recipients started feeling like these emails were specifically to them.

So, much so that they started responding to the emails, and we were getting personal messages in our giving inbox, not just nasty-grams, and people telling us to leave them alone. So, for example, we have a student, Taylor, serve as a sender of our email solicitation for the follow appeal.

The email included a video similar to the one that Heather shared in her cause example, just an organic raw video, Taylor in her room with a message about what it looked like to be a K-State student in 2020. So she kind of just ran down her schedule, did the little live FaceTime-y video. Very simple.

After the email dropped, we actually saw 100 responses in our giving inbox. And when you see that sort of thing over the weekend show up on your phone, you’re like, “Oh, no.” It quickly turned from a “Oh, no,” to a, “Oh, my goodness, this is amazing.” It was people reaching out, asking Taylor about her experience and responding directly to her. So, keep in mind that this email had no merge fields.

There was nothing personalized in it besides the content and the video. So, we played on the momentum of Taylor and how well this had worked. And we decided to make a virtual event because 2020 had all the virtual events. And so, we brought Taylor in for a Zoom call where she was able to interact with alumni and donors, they’d ask her questions and they could meet Taylor.

So, which was really cool. It was something that involved multiple departments in our organization, and something that really engaged our donors with current students, which is always fun to see. So, where do we go from here? The future of StratSo will continue to focus on personalization.

It definitely focused on the why behind the ask, why do our donors care? Why should they give to us? We believe that if we can answer that with every solicitation that we put out, we will meet our goal. Heather and I would like to leave you guys with one final message, something that you should remember.

Anyone can merge fields into a body of text but personalization isn’t what you know, it’s who you know. So, let your Dr. Bobs know that you know them. And that, you know, his name is not Robert, it is Bob. And that he’s interested in supporting those shelter pets.

And, that’s basically… I might have lost Heather, but I’m here so I’m going to… There she is! I’m going to… I was like, “Oh, Heather, don’t leave me now.” So, continue to view personalization as a conversation and have those conversations with your donors as often as you can.

And you will have the most personalized interaction. So, thank you guys so much for joining us today. And I think we have time for questions now.

– Yes. Sorry, Heather, I jumped on because I didn’t want you to, or Dana, I didn’t want you to be alone so…

– Sorry. My lights turned off and I had to go turn them on.

– Oh, yeah, that’s… Yeah, [crosstalk] pretty efficient, right?

– All right. We’ve got time for one quick question. So, this one’s going to be from Michael. It’s, “How are you folding donor engagement and interaction opened, clicks, etc., with your solicitations back into your donor CRM?”

– Oh, that’s a very good question. We actually changed our process because we just recently changed CRMs. And, I mean, within, like, the last month, changed to CRMs, so I can tell you how it used to work, and that is that we attached appeal codes to our emails that go out within Emma, and those appeal codes are automagically with our IT department, fed into the CRM.

And so, we did it mainly for tracking as far as deliverability to make sure that we were keeping track of the email addresses that were continuously bouncing or were just bad data. But as far as clicks and opens, I don’t believe those were necessarily tracked in our CRM, at least not on our old one.

– Right. [crosstalk]

– I don’t know about this new one.

– Right now, it’s not so much fed into our CRM. It’s tracked by our team. We have a weekly tactical meeting where we kind of discuss the clicks, and opens, and, you know, if they clicked on the giving link versus the video or a PS that was at the bottom, that’s kind of where we focus on that.

– That’s great. All right. Well, thank you, Dana and Heather. That was such an amazing presentation. Really appreciate you being with us here today.

– Thank you, guys.

– Thank you.

– Bye-bye.

– See you.

Emma product demo
Robb Fedou • Emma

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Emma product demo

Robb Fedou • Emma

– [Dana] For those of you still watching, I want to thank you so much for attending EmmaU. While our session may be over, the changes surrounding higher education aren’t, and that’s why we’ll continue to add in new ideas, new sessions, and new content to our site. You can find all things higher ed at myemma.com/universities. If you’re interested in learning just a little bit more about Emma, please stick around for a quick demo. All right.

I’d like to introduce Rob, an account executive here at Emma. Rob, welcome to EmmaU.

– [Rob] Hey, there. Thanks so much. I’m so excited. I really appreciate it.

– Yeah. All right, we’re going to hand over the controls to you.

– Perfect. Well, thanks again for everybody sticking around and taking a look at Emma today. We’ve heard some really good stuff. Some of the important things I really want to also highlight today that Dana, Heather, Jessica all talked about, one of the kind of overriding themes I’m hearing is data, how that data comes into Emma. So we’ll look at that and talk about that today.

So this is a home screen for Emma. Whenever you log in, this is really kind of your bread and butter each and every time. The important data is there in front of you. You have the ability to see your performance averages over the 30-day period, your open rate, your mailing score, click rate, total mailing sent, and your total number of active contacts. This is a Marketing Calendar view.

This is actually really important to a lot of those folks that have multiple users on an Emma account. You can see firsthand when emails have gone out in the past, so, for example, June 7th. And it looks like we’ve got an email to go out here in the future. Nice thing here is from this Marketing Calendar view and from the home screen you always have that ability to change your send times and send dates, so you’re not locked in. Just because you set it two weeks ago doesn’t mean that you have to live with that time and date moving forward.

You can always change it coming up to that date. We’ll always show you from your home screen your recent campaigns sent, some high-level information around those campaigns. You can always create a campaign from your home screen, or you can do that from the Campaign tab. So some of the things we talked about today and heard through is a little bit about contacts, who’s coming in, how they’re coming in, what that looks like. When we think about Emma and Emma’s capabilities, just know Emma actually will be counting your active contacts, and we will help manage potential errors and opt-outs that you could have.

Emma does not charge for the errors and opt-outs, which is good to think…I mean, good to know, I guess, if you’re talking to other email marketing platform providers. But we are just looking at those active numbers to help determine your price points. From here, any type of contact field data records that you might be collecting, so think back to Last Date Given, Dollar Amount Given, maybe Date of Application, Birthday.

All of that contact data fields you can use for personalization down the road, but you also can use to create segments with inside of Emma. So think back, again…Jessica mentioned it a few times, and I know the folks there at KSU mentioned it…is the importance of data coming into the platform and data going out of the platform.

So I always try to explain and tell folks, when it comes to Emma, we will meet you to where you need to be met for your data either import or export. So we have some different capabilities. You can always do the manual lift of information, right, the download of an Excel spreadsheet or CSV file imported into Emma.

Or, if you need to have those API connection pieces or, potentially, already some pre-built CRM integrations, Emma has them. So I always tell folks, “Look, let’s have the conversation, let’s see what you need, and then let’s see where Emma can meet you to help you get there. When it comes to campaigns for Emma, this, in a lot of ways, is what separates us from other email marketing platforms.

I always try to explain Emma is really kind of that ability to send and create very beautiful emails where you don’t need, you know, a degree in code to do so. So Emma’s going to give you over 200 email templates to choose from to create those contented emails, but if you have a design team on staff that says, “Look, I don’t want to use templates, per se, I really want to create from HTML code.”

Perfect. You can always do that. Or if you want to just start from scratch, you can do that as well. So, just to show a draft example here just to show, again, building capabilities. Emma gives you that capability of… as it’s pulling up. Example here is a draft that we had built out. Everything that we see on the left is going to be kind of those pull options to help really kind of increase or decrease any type of content that you want to bring in, your follow links, your HTML codes as well as video.

Something that Jessica had mentioned…and I really think it’s an important piece to know when it comes to building emails…is the importance of dynamic content. So what you could do with Emma is you have the ability to bring in that dynamic content to potentially create three or four emails in one.

Now, depending on if it’s that application process, if it’s the post-application process, or if it’s the Option 3 process, right, depending on where that individual…so part of that group for that segment would fall into that dynamic content piece…that would be the email that they receive. So, thinking about having not to build three or four different emails, but rather use dynamic content to create just one message.

You can do that with inside the Emma platform. When you think about Emma and the capabilities of Emma, just know, when it comes to the email templates, all of which those are mobile optimized. So you don’t have to worry about, “Hey, how is this going to look on a mobile device?” versus “How is this going to look on a desktop?” We’ve already built all of those for you, we’ve taken on that responsibility, so you will be good to go on that side.

Now, when we also think about our campaigns beyond just kind of the creation piece, it’s important to think about how your emails are landing, and that’s going to be really kind of important within the Response tab. Response is the health of your emails. “So how are we performing overall?” So if we go ahead and actually just click on some sent emails here just to kind of show you an understanding of what it looks like or how you can really gauge the health of your emails.

I’ll just pick this one for you all just to kind of show an example. So if we look at individual emails that have gone out, some things that we will do on our side here in Emma, we’re going to give you a mailing score. We will give you your open rate percentage, your click rate, delivery rate, bounces, opt-outs, so you can see that firsthand.

We’ll also show you who’s opening, so Open by Device as well as Open by Client. We put heat maps on your email, so you can see firsthand where folks are clicking. So if you have that call to action, right, that call to action is “Learn More Today” or if you have the “Visit Us Today,” right, so you have those call to actions. Now you can see firsthand where those folks are clicking and follow up directly with just those individuals.

I always try to explain that as reaching the right folks at the right time with the right message. So response is, again, health of your email. Insights is health of your account. So over a period of time, you can select date ranges in question and see, “Overall, how are we performing? What’s our engagement rate or open rate or click rate? Did we see an increase or decrease over that period of time?”

It really is going to be helpful to…especially when you think about, you know, spring semester versus fall. Or “Hey, how did we perform, generally speaking, from early August to even late August?” So you can see that firsthand…or “beginning of September to end of September?” …you can see that firsthand.

Now, we’ve talked about…I believe Jessica mentioned this as well…is the importance of automation, you know, not having to go in front of your computer each and every Monday morning to send out an automated email or an email that should be automated. So Emma gives you those capabilities of creating an automated series. So just to kind of show you the general process of automation.

We call it workflow automation or triggered automation. So something needs to happen for an automation series to go out. That could be date-based triggers, birthday emails, or “Hey, give date’s coming up.” So I want to send out some emails pre-date event, date event, and then post-date event. So what you can do here with your workflow automation is select your email and question. You can then wait a period of time.

Depending on after that period of time if an individual had opened or clicked that email, Yes or No opened or clicked, if they opened that email after that period of time, then I want them to receive this email. If they didn’t after a five-day window, then I want them to receive this. And there you can continue to build on through that branch logic, “Wait another three-day period.” If they open that one, perfect.

Send them this. If not, now we can select additional mailings for them to receive. I always look at this as saying, let Emma really kind of carry this for you. Let us be the responsible party for sending out the message. Let your audience be the responsible party for determining what message they will receive or they won’t receive based on actions they take.

Big takeaway on that is just knowing you create the content, you set the rule, and then we’ll take care of the rest. So that’s Emma. Hopefully, you’ll get a pretty good quick little understanding of who we are and what we do.

– All right. Thank you so much, Rob. That was an excellent demo. I really appreciate you taking the time to walk us through all of that.

Closing Remarks

Leah Miranda • Emma

All right. Again, thank you so much for joining us today. Let’s stay connected. Be sure to shoot us an email if you have any questions, and remember, you can find all things higher ed at myemma.com/universities. All right. We’ll see you next time. Bye.


Emily McNally • Emma

Hello everyone, and thanks for joining us for EmmaU, the virtual email marketing event for higher education. I’m Emily McNally, customer success manager here at Emma, and I’ll be your host guiding you through today’s events. Speaking of today’s events, we have got a lot of exciting things in store, and we are so glad that you’re here with us.

Just giving everybody a second to log on here. So this is our second EmmaU event, and if you joined us for the first one last summer, you may have recognized something a little bit different. This time it is two days. Today, day one, we’re all enjoying the same content. But on day two, January 28th, we’ll divide into three different tracks: alumni, advancement, and general.

No matter which track you signed up for, you’ll receive a link to the webinar in your inbox just like you did today. So let’s check out the agenda for today. You’ll see that on your screen. First, you’ll see the welcome from me that is currently happening, that’s what we’re doing right now. Next, we’ll hear from Emma’s own Tylor Loposser on Designing for Inclusion.

From there, we’ll move into our Panel Discussion with some incredible panelists. We’ll have a quick Q & A there. And then we’ll take a quick break and then pick back up for our wonderful Keynote session with Dave and Lauren from Lipscomb University. So before we officially get started, hi Leah, just a few housekeeping notes. If you have a question for one of our fabulous presenters today, you can submit them in the Q&A chatbox, and we will do our very best to get to your questions as long as time permits.

If not, no worries, we will follow up with you after the event.

Designing for inclusion

Tylor Loposser • Emma

– [Emily] Now without further ado, I’d like to introduce our first speaker, Tylor Loposser, Emma’s Art Director, who’s going to kick off today with a presentation on accessibility and designing for inclusion. Tylor, take it away.

– [Tylor] Thanks, Emily. And hello, everyone. I’m happy to be one of the first to welcome you to EmmaU and hope you are all looking forward to two days of great content. The topic I want to talk about today is designing for inclusion and how we can navigate accessibility in email marketing. I’ll start with a brief introduction. My name is Tylor and I’m from the marketing team here at Emma.

Before my time in marketing, I was part of our professional services team and spent time working with our clients to design solutions for their email marketing. Through strategy, design, and development, I’ve learned our clients have valuable content to share. So removing any barriers that could exclude their audience has to be key and while good design always takes into account the audience, the experiences and abilities of these audience members have never been more important to me.

We should start off by talking about inclusive design because this is the umbrella under which accessibility finds itself. It’s important to have this lens because through it, we as marketers start to understand who is excluded from the messages that we create.

Today we’re going to speak specifically about inclusivity in email, but know that these ideas can be applied to all types of design. Whether or not something is inclusive is based on the information itself and whether or not this information contains your understanding of empathy with your audience. This methodology of design allows us to create messages to draw on the full range of human diversity.

It helps to answer the question of whether or not everybody actually wants to engage in your message and feels comfortable doing so. While exclusion is rarely intentional it’s important to be able to identify some of these barriers that exist and some that we may help to create.

There are physical barriers that exist and these are mismatches between a person’s ability and what a message requests of them. This could be something that relates to a person’s mobility or their physical capacity, or even their dexterity. There are also social barriers resulting in inability to participate due to statuses like economical, political, or cultural.

And finally, there are cognitive barriers and these affect the processes of understanding through thought, experiences, and the senses. So as we process the ideas of inclusion, we also are looking for opportunities to get more people involved. So it’s key to shift the focus back to people who are creating, like me for example, so that the conversation becomes about improving the environment to align with people’s experiences.

This leads us to accessibility which is more about the structures and containers that hold the information that we’re hoping to share. So to make these changes, it helps to have the cooperation of many different disciplines. I’d like to start by acknowledging all of you out there that may be wearing the copywriter, the designer, and the developer hat.

You all, out of everyone, know the amount of work that this takes and while for some of you these may be different people on your team, for others these are just skills of one person. I’ll start with copywriters because they help to lay the groundwork for representation and build connections with your audiences through words. They also ensure we’re using inclusive language, write Alt text, and describe the functionality of imagery, and can be crucial in the implementation of using transcripts for captions and videos.

Visual designers such as myself help to carry on the work that is created by the copywriters. They take copy and create typographical hierarchy, and make sure proper color contrast is implemented. Stay tuned, we’ll see some examples of that a little bit later.

They also ensure the legibility of this content. While being mobily responsive isn’t necessarily a criteria of accessibility, understanding how display screens change will help to solve problems that arise in scalability. When the screen size gets smaller, content tends to shrink and/or stack so it’s important that we anticipate these needs and design solutions for them.

Luckily with Emma and most other drag and drop editors, the process is that developer’s assistant has already been thought of and is being carried out in the background. But one of their key functions is to make sure your mailings are compatible with screen reading technologies.

It is our collective responsibility to lower these barriers through inclusive products, services, environments, and experiences. And as we do this we help to maintain the independence of each and every user. All right. Now that we’ve discussed the who can be helpful in this effort, let’s discuss the why.

We also may start to ask ourselves what are the benefits in expanding our processes and making these considerations to the work? While altruism can play a factor in the motivation for these types of work, there are some key reasons to invest in this process.

First, we find it drives innovation. Questioning the work that we do helps to create opportunities to push ideas a little further each time. So when we start to ask, “Who is missing from this conversation?” or, “Who cannot engage with this message?” we find ourselves searching for solutions that help to reach new audiences and create better design for more people.

We can also think about how this work helps to extend our brand. By increasing the representation and experiences of all people, you could broaden your audience and since the market of people with disabilities is over one billion alone, you could be leaving their spending power of $6 trillion dollars on the table.

And lastly, if none of these reasons have struck a chord with you, we do have a legal obligation to meet these requirements. So before I get into some examples, let’s talk more about the people who could be in the group of excluded audiences. It’s important to remember that everyone has or will have limits to their abilities and there are many scenarios that create barriers within a person’s life.

For some, these barriers could be permanent. Here, we like to consider lifelong limits to a person’s movements, senses, and activities. For example, a person who has a loss of limb or a person with blindness, while others these experiences are temporary. This is where we think of brief interruptions in a person’s abilities or part of their development.

An example here could be a person with a hand injury or someone who happens to be new to a particular language. The last one is more of a limitation than a disability, but it’s one that some of us could relate to and that’s situational.

This is when our experience is impacted by our surroundings and could be more like an interruption or a distraction. Here we could imagine a parent using one arm to check their email and the other to hold their newborn. So now that we know who we’re helping, let’s get into some opportunities where we can help to improve accessibility.

Since we only have a short time together, I wanted to share some of the most common opportunities that exist for increasing accessibility in your emails. I’d like to start by thanking one of our clients, Lipscomb University. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve had the opportunity to audit their emails and make recommendations on how they can work to better meet accessibility standards.

Being able to have this open conversation and their willingness to participate has been invaluable. And I’ve really appreciated my time working with Lauren, whom you’ll hear from a little bit later today. I also think it’s important to note their paths to improvement are very common and our team here at Emma has had many of these same conversations.

I’ll start with one of the most common type treatments people use in email to apply emphasis and that is the capitalization of letters. I know why this is done, to garner attention to important content, but more times than not this practice fails. At its best, a sentence containing all capital letters can read as aggressive and at its worst, it can be illegible by some of your audience.

If we take a look at this next slide, we see that the series of capital letter forms create tall rectangles that prevent our eyes from moving on to the next letter. This inhibits our brains from forming words. The tall rectangles also causes static pattern that breaks engagement. Now if we look at the sentence case line, we see the rectangle shifting in size.

This makes it more cognitively interesting and our eyes are naturally drawn to shapes and patterns that are ever changing to keep us engaged. So we’ve identified the problem, now let’s talk about some better solutions. First if you want to use capitalization in words, make them short. It works best for labels such as news or sports.

You can also look into using letter spacing. This implies space in between each letters, pulling those tall rectangles apart and helping to increase readability. Another helpful method is increasing your font sizes. Keep using sentence or title case, but increase your font size. I think a good start is a four pixel difference.

So for example, if your body copy is 16 pixels, make your headlines 20 pixels. Also, add some color. Using a consistent color for headlines will pull attention to those places you want to emphasize. You can also consider font weights here. This is where you could apply a bold treatment, once again telling your user that this information is important and should be read first.

Now let’s hop into one of the more simpler practices you can start to help your subscribers who use screen reading technologies and that is applying Alt text to your imagery. Every image that is in your mailing should have this attribute and Emma’s drag and drop editor has made it easy for you.

If you take a look at the slide, by simply clicking on the image, a dialog box will appear and you can fill in the necessary data. Now I know, I’ve mentioned Emma’s platform because it’s the one I know the best, but I’m sure whatever method you’re using to send out your mailings, you’ll have something comparable. Now let’s talk about some best practices for writing these short clips of text.

The question this text should always answer is what is the image’s functionality or how does it assist in telling the full story of this message? So for this example, I would go with a group of students working together. It helps to tell the story of a welcoming environment.

Some other tips are keeping it short and descriptive like a tweet. Don’t waste time and space with including the text “image of” or “photo of.” If we imagine this mailing being read aloud, repetitive statements like that could become annoying and if your images are purely decorative, just leave the Alt text section blank.

The next solution is probably one of the easiest and it’s about text alignment. For any copy that spans the length of more than three lines, go ahead and left align that copy. This is just going to create a better reading experience for longer pieces of content. Here’s another common opportunity that we find and it’s the use of ableist language.

It can happen anywhere, but in email we find it most commonly used in calls to action. Believe it or not, some of the most common fallback CTA directives can come off as being a little insensitive. So actions like, read more, see here, click here, these make assumptions on the abilities of the users and how they engage with the email, but this just creates more enticing messaging that not only indicate to the user what is it at the other end of this link.

And so it helps to create more curiosity. So some alternative examples could be phrases that include join, explore, or learn, or any sort of short phrase that helps to express this light level of urgency. Now as a designer I could talk for hours about color, but I’m going to keep it brief for you all today.

The main concept here is that there are combinations of colors when combined can make letterforms more difficult to distinguish. So colors that have low contrast with one another create these tiny vibrations in the eye and this causes your readers to become disengaged.

Now there’s a long mathematical equation that can help us find a solution or you could just google “color contrast checker.” You’ll receive a long list that can help generate some great color combinations. One of my favorites though is one called Colorable and it has a really well-designed, intuitive interface. If you visit this one, you simply place two colors in and it will let you know which one of these colors pass according to web accessibility standards and which do not.

It also has a really great scale feature that allows you to sort of change hues to get you closer to those accessibility-, you know, worthy color combinations. In this slide, you can see that by adjusting these tone slightly we can achieve a better color contrast and it’s important to know that this practice only applies to colors that involve copy because all of these efforts are aimed at increasing readability.

Like I mentioned before, devices are always a consideration of web accessibility, but by thinking about the limitations that come with people who are using mobile devices not only are they dealing with less screen real estate, but they are also battling tons of distractions that can arise from the increased mobility.

From crowded surroundings, single-handed scrolling, small displays, spotty internet connections, your emails could come in second place for these users. So here are some tips to help reduce that from happening. First of all, create a golden rule, make your body copy no smaller than 16 pixels, keeping your text at the sides reduces any sort of squinting or that pinch and zoom action that sometimes people have to do in these mobile devices.

On the subject of size, consider large colorful buttons over those inline text links, be sure to use the button creator in whatever ESP you’re using. These create buttons by using HTML so that they are always visible despite Wi-Fi connections, and these typically scale beautifully in mobile situations.

A word of advice, do not substitute buttons for images. Another tip is try sticking to single column layouts. This help to create a targeted message with a clear and concise objective. This shows consideration for your audience, it makes it easy for them to skim, which after all is known habit for these users.

It also creates hierarchy. It asks the user to make one last decision on whether they need to look to the left or to the right. These solutions are not only good for these users with limited abilities, but they can become helpful to those who are more permanently or temporarily barriers that are inherent to these mobile experiences.

I hope I’ve given you all a couple of things to consider before hitting the Send button. I know it may feel like I’ve asked a lot of you today, but the core of this methodology is empathy. And as we work together to improve accessibility it’s important to remember that these practices are ongoing and will continually be evolving.

We could all do better with asking more questions and opening more doors. Thank you all so much for your time today and have a great time at EmmaU.

Panel discussion

Chelsey Graham, Alex Parraga, Amanda Wood • LSU Foundation, UC Santa Barbara, FSU Foundation

– [Woman] Keeping it moving. Next up, we have a panel of current Emma customers in higher ed here to discuss what they learned from the challenges and uncertainty in 2020. Pretty much, you know, sums up all of 2020. So we’ll move on to our panel. Welcome to our panel, everybody. Allow me to introduce you to our guest for this discussion. First, we have Chelsey Graham, digital communications strategist at the LSU Foundation.

– [Chelsey] Hello. How’s everyone?

– Next, I’d like to introduce you to Alex Parraga, chief digital officer at UC Santa Barbara.

– [Alex] Good morning. Thanks for having me.

– Hey, there. Next, I’d like to introduce you last, but certainly not least, Amanda Wood, senior director of communications at the FSU Foundation.

– [Amanda] Hi, everybody from Florida.

– Hey, Amanda. Thanks to all of you for being here. Okay. Let’s just go ahead and jump right in, you know. It is no secret that 2020 held many challenges and uncertainty for all of us, but especially those in higher education. What we’ve seen in Emma really though is so many of our higher education customers really get creative and pivot in effective ways.

And so, we thought this would be a great opportunity to ask you to share your experiences and wins over the past year. So I’ll start with a question and let each of you share before we move on to the next. At the end, we’ll be doing a Q&A. So, for those of you in the audience, if you do have any questions of your own, please, please share those in the chat box.

Awesome. So first question for everyone, it’s a heavy hitter, what was your biggest challenge in 2020? Chelsey, you’re next to me and I introduced you first. So I’m going to call on you first.

– Yeah. All right then. So, for us, I think our biggest challenge was rethinking our communication strategy just to be appropriate for the times that we faced. We needed to acknowledge the situation and be even more mindful of copy, tone, the images we chose, and the frequency of communications.

For our annual giving program, in particular, we made a lot of changes there. Generally, we send a direct mail piece followed by a series of two to three emails to those who did not respond or give for that initial ask.

But in light of COVID and everything, we limited that follow-up to one to two emails. And sometimes or most times, eliminating the direct mail portion just because of budget constraints and it being difficult early on to coordinate and deal with mail. For our email, we also worked our list so that we did not overwhelm our audiences with too frequent communications and just understanding that everybody was affected by COVID in some way.

And while we wouldn’t hold our fundraising efforts, we wanted to be considerate of how many solicitations we were sending out to each person. And then for our… Well, I’ll briefly mention Giving Day that we did, we saw some universities cancel.

We moved forward with ours, but we really shifted the strategy to be not competitive and just be a day where we shared uplifting content and didn’t focus on any particular donor or dollar goal.

And then I’ll just quickly jump to our donor stewardship touches, those also became mostly digital and… But we still wanted to have them feel as special as those printed pieces we would usually send out. So, we were thinking of ways to elevate the online content and I will use our Cornerstone magazine as an example.

That’s a big piece for us. We send it twice a year and it’s always been printed. And we do publish an online version, but just stripped down in comparison to the print design. So, with that needing to move completely online, we did things like including more graphic elements and pull quotes to give it more of that online magazine feel.

And then we added these extra kind of interactive elements like video and audio, an audiogram style for just about every story.

– Awesome. That’s excellent. We can move to Alex next. Same question for you.

– All right. I think one of our biggest challenges was timely communication. And what I mean by that is that with COVID-19, it felt like the demand for information kind of often outpaced the rate at which confirmed information was available to communicate. And so, you know, we have this challenge of keeping up with our audience’s understandable need for clear and actionable information.

And, you know, we understand that the university holds information to make really important decisions, right? And we need to be deliberate from a communications standpoint and precise, I should say, in how we communicate and when we communicate that information. And so, I think oftentimes it felt like as communicators, we were kind of stuck in the middle a little bit, kind of being pulled in opposite directions.

And I also think as marketers and communicators, you know, we want to feel like we’re communicating in the most timely, efficient, and effective way as possible. And sometimes being limited in that capacity created some true, I would say, mental and sometimes even emotional challenges for the folks in our field.

And that’s on top of the ones that COVID-19 naturally created for everyone. So I think navigating that was a big challenge in 2020. And then the other challenge I’d mention, I keep using the word challenge, but not knowing what challenges would be presented on a given day.

And so, I should preface that by saying, I mean, that’s a general thing in marketing. It’s a general in higher ed communications, right? But usually, there are some precedents that helps guide a response for the given issue, but not with COVID-19, right? This was all completely new.

None of us had ever faced this before truly [inaudible] topic challenges that never before [inaudible]. And I think one of the most [inaudible] which is [inaudible]

and in-person conversation and ideation that often leads to swift and efficient solutions. But on the flip side, I can say that, you know, we all became more nimble, more resourceful, and even more scrappy I think having these new kinds of challenges.

– For sure. I think we’ve all felt the effects of the working from home life and how that can present its own set of challenges there. Amanda, moving on to you, same question.

– So I think the challenges that presented themselves in 2020 were kind of a little bit holdovers from previous years, but they were amplified because of the current situation. So I think for fourth estate and for our fundraising efforts, some of that was, you know, how do you break through the noise?

So, as Chelsey mentioned, you know, there was a lot…and Alex mentioned, there was a lot going on with the pandemic, with social injustice issues, with really a volatile political climate. And so, how do we get our message to our audience without sounding, as Chelsey was saying, tone-deaf or insensitive, those kind of things? So looking for those opportunities and really walking that fine line was one of the bigger challenges for us this year.

And then I think everybody joining us today probably feels the same way that the other big challenge we continue to see, and especially in the COVID world when so much is happening online is that our constituents really expect their online experience with us to mirror and be very similar to their online experience with for-profit companies and corporate brands. So, you know, we all know the example of you googled, you know, or you took one look at this top and then I’m getting served ads constantly, don’t you want this top?

Don’t you love the top? You know, so how do we, you know, employ those kind of tactics and that kind of knowledge about our online audience to support our cause?

– Awesome. Alex, I actually had a quick follow-up question for you just because I know we’ve all kind of been in a similar environment. And you were talking about, you know, nothing really replacing that in-person brainstorm. So I was wondering what was maybe one way that you and your team did find success working on these challenges remotely?

– Yeah. I mean, I think it was a focus on just frequent communication and multiple communication channels, right? We all have our chat components, our Zooms, our GoToMeetings, what have you. And I think we just had the frequency of our internal conversations and communications, and so we had to become better communicator from an internal standpoint as well as externally, right?

And I think we were all mindful of each other’s personal and at home experiences and situations. But I would say the frequency of communication was probably key. And as with higher ed typically, I mean, you do keep an eye on what other universities are doing and you learn from them, and we learn from each other.

And sometimes, certain universities were experiencing challenges ahead of us, and it’s a really great work to address those. And you kind of monitor how their audiences respond and it helps to shape your own response. And sometimes, you’re the first one out of the gate and hopefully helping to guide other universities.

– Yeah. For sure. And we actually had a question come in from Sydney. I know we have our Q&A at the end, but I thought it’d be good to go ahead and ask this. How did you guys ensure that email burnout didn’t happen? That’s a big one that I’ve been hearing with my customers as well. I’m not sure if one person wanted to spearhead this one, but I think it’s a good one for the group.

– Well, sorry. For us, kind of the way we mentioned before with our approach to annual giving changing, we kind of applied that across the board for our email coms to just really look at our data set that we pull and see, like, how many times have we messaged this person and when, and what type of communication, just to, like, avoid that oversaturation there.

– Yeah, like what Chelsey said, we did a lot… We were a lot more thoughtful in making sure, you know, people who had received an email and opened it were removed from any follow-up emails or, you know, that they broke our list. As Chelsey said earlier, you know, to just ensure that the content they were getting wasn’t at an annoying level, if that makes sense.

– Yeah. It’s such a tricky balance, you know. You’re like, “I have all this information to convey to you, but I also am not trying to annoy you.” I know that everyone’s kind of been on that same struggle lately. Alex, did you have anything to add, or shall we move on to the next question?

– Yeah. I would say just, you know, there’s kind of two streams of communications. There is kind of the ongoing operational directly related to COVID-19 and there’s, well, hey, the marketing and engagement communications. And it’s interesting on the sort of operational side and communicating with our key segments, I mean, our open rates were naturally higher than ever and we’re delivering a lot of the important information.

And I think that helped to nurture that use of email as an important communication channel and grow that. And then on the flip side, and this might be more of a general observation, is that I think people are probably hungrier for general engagement content during these times because you are being hit with such serious topics everywhere you look and people are feeling the effects of that that perhaps there’s an opportunity there to be a breath of fresh air to deliver great content that reflects your university story and reengages people in your communications.

So I think you can kind of look at it both ways.

– For sure. And with a lot of these challenges, you know, we can’t necessarily speak about challenges or I guess we don’t want to speak about challenges with also talking about wins. So that brings me to my next question which is what would you all say was your biggest success in 2020? Amanda, I pinged you last on the last question, so I’ll start with you. Yeah.

So from a fundraising perspective, surprisingly to me at least, one of our bigger successes was our GivingTuesday effort. So I’m sure, you know, a lot of institutions, they might have pivoted early into the pandemic and done some sort of student emergency fundraising, a lot of us might have taken part in GivingTuesday now in May. So we were very concerned that our audience might be, as we were talking about, burned out or, you know, there is the economic upheaval might have made, you know, GivingTuesday not as big of a success.

So we tried picking, profiling projects for specific projects that were very student right now focused, meaning like, telemental health visits, you know, digital libraries, our students’ food pantry. And we really try to have one unified voice steering donors directly to that. We also try to be, you know, knowing that people are getting an influx of emails and that’s the only way a lot of us are communicating now, we tried to keep the ask in the…we try to do very powerful short phrases to describe these projects.

And then we just decided we were going to, you know, email a little bit more than we have in the past. So we usually only send out one or two emails for GivingTuesday and this time around we did four. We removed people who had already given from receiving future emails which was very helpful. But we almost doubled our gifts for GivingTuesday this year compared to last year. It was like 98.4% increase, which was really, really surprising, but I think it’s a good example of if you find things that the audience can connect to that have an immediate impact, people really can take that to heart.

– For sure. That’s amazing, honestly, to see that kind of change. Okay. Alex, same question for you. I kind of have you in the middle there, but same question for you.

– So I mentioned that one of our biggest challenges was timely communication or meeting the demands for information. I think one of our biggest successes on the flip side of that was actually turn key communication or accelerated time to deployment. And what I mean by that is when we did have our messages crafted, we were really able to get them out quickly.

And I think the systems and the processes that we had built over the years really had enabled us to get those communications out quickly and effectively. And frankly, the people that we haven’t placed on our team and our extended communications team across campus also helped to enable that. So, you know, it’s like being able to quickly deploy a coordinated response across web, email, social, for example, made a big difference in helping to drive reach of these really important messages.

And having simple, but powerful tools such as templates and user-friendly drag and drop editors, and one-click publishing helped to enable that. And then I would say that another success for 2020 was just creativity and really diversified content creation, and diversified approaches to content creation.

And so while reacting to COVID was of the utmost priority, I was really proud of our team and our university in how we adjusted to remote life, how we found ways to still produce content focused on feel good engagement and telling stories of the campus community’s research endeavors and related accomplishments.

I think COVID really helped to unlock the power of authenticity when, for example, you had to produce videos that were clearly recorded on a phone or over a Zoom session. And I do think over time, those authentic characteristics help to build connection and trust with your audience.

And so, for example, I think of TikTok’s advertising campaign that they’ve been out there quite a bit especially since their cranberry juice Ocean Spray splash a couple of months ago. But if you look at their campaign, for example, one of the things they’re really focusing on is just it creates a sense of realness and authenticity. And I think that’s important lesson for higher ed communicators.

And I’m the biggest proponent for polished and beautiful content as there is. But at the same time, there’s something to a great communication that shows we’re all in this together that, again, I think builds trust and connection.

– For sure. I love that TikTok commercial too, and that particular one. It’s just so uplifting. Speaking of uplifting content, you know, Chelsey, same question for you, successes in 2020.

– So for us, I’d definitely say our Giving Day. It was our second annual giving day. And it’s funny that Alex mentioned that feel-good content because so much of our Giving Day was focused on that. So, as I kind of mentioned before, we did drop out all of the competitive elements, no goal pushed, and it became a day of caring.

And we switched up our tagline to “Be a champion for each other.” And while we didn’t have a hard ask, we did just kind of encourage anyone in a position to contribute to just give to a student emergency fund, or a scholarship, or a excellence fund, something that would impact our students and support them through the times.

For Giving Day, we generally or had planned to send several emails throughout the day, but we were in new territory here. So we stripped that back to only two emails. We did our launch email earlier in the morning and then a virtual pep rally later that day where we encouraged people to share their stories about how LSU had impacted their lives.

And then as part of our pivot there prior to the day of, we had collected content from just various members of the LSU community to push out through those emails and post on social throughout the day with uplifting content like celebrating the class of 2020, sharing your talent, showing your LSU spirit, and sending messages of hope just to encourage participation and just encourage others to have their fun content get in the mix there.

And what was surprisingly and pleasantly successful about it was the amount we ended up raising, too. It was a simpler version of the event that we had planned, but it was well received. We got great participation, engagement, and we raised over a million dollars which was more than in the previous year for our first Giving Day.

And of that million, $62,000 was directed toward student emergency support. So that was great. And it was just beyond our expectation at the time and we were just pleased that it came together so well.

– That’s amazing. Yeah. I love the idea of shifting from that day of giving to more of that day of caring, and day of community, and day of just like upliftment across the university. And it seems like that really resonated with your audience as well and that’s a similar strategy that everyone, you know, the rest of the panelists, Alex and Amanda have also implemented in your strategies.

So that’s excellent to see. I have a question from John here. It’s a little bit more about the data side of things. Have you seen any change in open rates among your audiences during this time? If anyone has seen any changes definitely speak to that.

– I want to say, for the most part, we’ve kind of seen our patterns hold steady for the different emails we send out. But in light of everything, trying to, I guess, kind of diversify our content more and providing and including that extra video link or touch, we have seen our click-through rates really notch up in certain places.

And I know we sent out a New Year’s email. It was on New Year’s eve just kind of, like, closing out the year and trying to look forward to exciting things. There we saw tons of activity and lots of interests come through.

– Nice. For the sake of time, I’m going to keep us rolling. I did want to just for touching on that question, if you don’t already know, Emma is a member of the CM Group family of brands. So one of our sister companies, Campaign Monitor, actually released an email marketing benchmarks marketing report specifically with COVID-19 trends.

So we’ll post that in the chat. Definitely check that out and see how members in the education, some vertical have seen some of those open rates change as well, but that’s all super helpful. We’ll move on to the next and final question here. Just, you know, with all of this in mind, successes and challenges, it seems like we’ve all learned a lot from this year.

So, final question, what learnings are you all taking into the new year? Alex, I’ll start with you this time.

– All right. So one learning that we’re taking into this year is to really keep strengthening our communications infrastructure and not taking our foot off the gas pedal. I think 2020 certainly exposed areas that we need to improve on from a communication standpoint, but it also validated the efforts that we’ve put in over the years to build, as I alluded to earlier, systems and process that enable efficiency and effectiveness in communications, so in email, website, and social media management.

For example, you know, in email specifically, you know, we focused a lot on list hygiene and contact management. And I’m talking… These are long-term journeys, right? We kind of chip away at it year over year. And that resulted in an outstanding deliverability rates when we needed it most. And again, like I mentioned earlier, the easy to use templates, email builders, reduce turnaround times, help get an email out.

From a website standpoint, we had alert systems ready to go for important campus situations. We had pre-camp page templates ready to go, which made standing up and regularly updating our COVID information portal, for example, ease, if I can use that word. And then social media, I think a strong brand system coupled with a set of themes, sub campaigns devoted to, you know, COVID communication,s for example, helped drive recognition for those types of communications.

And then we had, again, kind of our standard marketing engagement communications also on a separate [inaudible]. So I would just answer by saying that while the significance of investments in tools and processes may not always be readily apparent to those outside of the marketing discipline, it’s times or years like 2020 really where the return on investment is not only evident internally, I think it’s also most valuable to your campus community and to those that you’re communicating with.

So I would just say that we plan to keep building, keep improving, and really just keep pushing on these items.

– One hundred percent. It’s definitely an opportunity to, like, look what you can improve, but also just rely on the things that you already have set in stone there. So that’s good to know. Chelsey, what about you?

– So, I think I’m echoing a little bit of what Alex said. We did see the value and flexibility of digital communications. And then needing to adjust our overall coms strategy, that pushed us, our team to think more creatively, especially in instances where we need an email or web page to live up to this nice print piece that they would have received.

And it also helped us to look more closely at the language we use and then the visual components that follow. And I really appreciate that it’s helped us to fine tune our communication style in this regard.

– Excellent. Amanda, we’ll wrap it up with you.

– Also I think with the echo of it, definitely the theme of 2021 is, you know, being nimble, being flexible, and taking that into the New Year, which I think I will echo the theme. I think we’re looking, at least from a fundraising perspective, instead of doing kind of these high-volume mass appeals, we’re going to be looking more at, you know, targeted smaller audience appeals and really connecting the dots between that individual person, what they’re passionate about and what fourth estate they can support that falls into that passion.

You know, we’re taking a good look at our… Chelsey mentioned communication strategy and plan, and we’re looking at our appeals calendar in the same way. Like, how do we look beyond just the TED polls, the spring appeal, fall appeal, and the fiscal year, and the calendar year?

How do we find those time-sensitive or date-specific opportunities for specific audiences to kind of share and give back to fourth state? And then, finally, I think we’re going to be a little bit bolder about asking. I know 2020 we all were trying to navigate that, is it okay? Can we do it?

I don’t know. You know, who should we ask? So I think we’re going to be bolder as long as we feel confident that the person…we’re asking for the right thing from the right person. So that’s kind of, you know, what we’re going to be trying to do. And hopefully, eventually, you know, more in-person and not so much camera-focused.

– For sure. So that relevant content is so important. And I love the concept of kind of like shaking up that calendar, shaking up the traditional appeals calendars. So I’m wondering if you already have anything set, if you can kind of like spoil it for us a little bit on ways that you’re planning on doing that in 2021.

That’s a question for Amanda.

– So we’re really looking at, you know, our different colleges and units on where, you know, they are…which ones kind of need a little bit of a boost. I know we’re planning for, you know, Nurses Appreciation Week, obviously, doing something with our college of nursing. And, you know, we’ve got some things that we’re just kind of looking out what falls under and trying to find times to bolster that up.

One thing we did this year which was really great which we found a need which was, you know, for the holiday season, we have a very impressive group of students who came from the foster system or homelessness, or Wards of the State status. And so, we kind of recognized at this time, with COVID, we’re talking about not being able to be together or maybe, you know, the importance of connection, we realize that they probably have never had, you know, Christmas gifts given to them or had the opportunity to feel that from somebody else.

So, we actually put together a mini campaign to provide them for some vital needs where they could ask for things that they need to be successful at the university and we worked that through. So, you know, we said this is our family, fourth estate family supporting, you have a family here with us. So we’re just looking for different things.

Now I’ve got my mind set on, like, getting them class rings because, you know, that might be something that when they graduate they are able to, you know, come through. So lots of different things that we have our thinking caps on for, but focusing on the individual audiences expands it a lot.

– Yeah. For sure. I love this. Thank you all so much for sharing. I think this was so, so incredibly helpful. We have time for just maybe one or two questions here in our Q&A. We have a good one for Alex actually and if anyone else wants to chime in, of course, feel free.

Alex, this is from Melissa. How have you gotten COVID-fatigue students to open and read the operational COVID related emails and follow the directives? That’s a good one.

– So follow the directives. If I can speak truly here, I think we’re still working on that., I think we’re still figuring out. I think there is…as it probably applies to the general population, a segment of the population that follow the protocols of the guidelines and a segment that doesn’t. And, you know, I think we’re really trying to get to those who aren’t and continue to educate.

So we’re still figuring that one out. I think email, it’s effective. You know, we reach some students. It’s not the most effective ways and I think we’ve really taken to our social channels and particularly Instagram to try to present those messages different ways.

I think we have a renewed focus on peer-to-peer communication and really partnering with student advocates who volunteer their time to ideate what the right messages would be that can resonate with their fellow student audience that present formats video that can go out in the community virtually at least to help spread the word.

So I think that is probably our biggest challenge is resonating with students. I can see there is email fatigue in that segment in particular, and I think the lowest open rates with that segment. We just have to be creative in taking to other channels. I know we want to text with our students.

Traditionally, we [inaudible] revisiting that soon. So I think that [inaudible] for us.

– Got you. Now with just a little bit more time left, I wanted to give the other panelists, if you all had anything to add to that question before we wrap up our panel. Anyway that you’ve seen, you know, speaking to COVID-fatigued students to get them to open and read, and follow those directives?

– I think our content is slightly different from that, but I do just kind of agree. And I think that’s a great way of thinking of it to what Alex said before.

– Yeah. Awesome. Well, I, you know, looking at my watch realizing that we are at time here. I just cannot thank you all enough for sharing those experiences and highlights from the past year. I know 2020 was a tricky one to revisit for sure. So we’re going to have to wrap it up here, but thank you all again for joining us.

Wishing you even more wins in 2021. So now we will all take a quick break in a video from Emma. So we will be right back.

Hospitable marketing

Dave Bruno, Lauren Herr • Lipscomb University

– [Emily] Welcome back. It is the moment that you’ve all been waiting for, our keynote session. So, want to tell you a little bit more about our speakers today. Lauren Herr is the assistant director of Digital Marketing at Lipscomb University. Hey, Lauren.

– [Lauren] Hey.

– Lauren has worked in marketing in-house and as a consultant in a variety of industries including higher education, entrepreneur, startup and technology industries. She specializes in demystifying marketing so brands can utilize it effectively to drive business results while truly serving their audience and minimizing wasted time and effort. Welcome, Lauren.

Next, we have Dave Bruno who serves as the vice president of Marketing at Lipscomb University.

– [Dave] Hey, everybody.

– He leads a stellar creative team and prioritizes telling the brand story of Lipscomb in attractive and faithful ways to new and existing audiences. So, prior to joining Lipscomb, Bruno was principal consultant at Middle Makers, a creative strategy firm serving higher education and nonprofit clients. He also cofounded Christianaudio and helped grow it into the leading publisher of audiobooks in its market.

Bruno is a published author and has spoken widely on the theme of voluntary simplicity. So, without further ado, here is their presentation, “Hospitable Marketing: Building and Maintaining Relationships with Your Audience.”

– Thanks so much, Emily. So really great to be with you all. Thanks to the Emma team for the invite. We’re so excited. And I see a couple hundred peers and colleagues out in higher education world. It’s so nice to be with you.

I hope you’ll reach out in some manner and connect with us. It would be really nice. Over the last year, peer connections have been really important. And so we look forward to getting to know you all. As we kick off, I just want to give a quick overview of where we’re going to go. And I’m going to start us off at the 30,000-foot level and offer a couple of heuristics for us to deal with the complexities and the noisiness of our time.

How can we, as marketers, connect with our audiences in a hospitable way? And I’ll talk a little bit about why that maybe is a little bit tricky in our time, and then I’ll hand it over to Lauren.

– Yep, and then I’ll talk through some actionable steps that we’ve put into practice here at Lipscomb that you can take advantage of as well.

– And that would be great bringing us back down to earth. And along the way, we hope that you all will submit some questions. We’re really looking forward to the Q&A portion of the conversation as much as anything. So we’ll get started, and if we were here in person, maybe we would have people raise their hands and shout out an answer to this question, but as we get started, maybe what you can do is just think in your mind, who is a brand, what is a brand that has built trust with you, and what is the way that they have gone about doing that?

It’d just be really interesting to hear about that. And so maybe again we can get into that a little bit in the Q&A or when you reach out in some other fashion. So, broadly speaking, so here’s what I want to jump into, broadly speaking as marketers, right, we can connect with our customers, with our audiences, by building trust. But in a noisy environment, sometimes we rely on other tactics like perhaps fear or building uncertainty that tries to get folks to motivate folks toward action.

And I want to introduce you, or maybe you know of Edelman. They’re a great global marketing and PR firm, and they put out, every single year, this incredible survey that they do called their Trust Barometer. And I think it gets at what we’ll be talking about here and kind of some of the underlying currents of what go on in our culture and what technology has wrought for us as marketers.

They look at specific industry sectors, and they rate globally, and even by country, how folks feel about their governments, about media. And actually, in recent times, they’ve been integrating questions about higher education. And as you can see from this one chart that I pulled from a large report, trust and confidence in most areas is not super great.

And so this is something they’ve consistently found. Now there is one caveat. Last week, after the inauguration, they actually did a supplemental run of the Trust Barometer, and they found that only one thing gets up into the upper, right-hand corner. So in all seriousness, though, memes don’t always quite work that way, but here’s what I want to communicate and to set us off in the conversation with this is that when we see like they have found in these surveys that trust is low, then what happens is that in order to gain attention, we oftentimes move toward fear or its permutations to try to stand out in the crowd, to win the influence contest.

And we’ve all been there, maybe with the shady salesperson who is trying to use fear or manipulation to make a sale. Some of us have been there with our presidents, and we’re like, “Please, Lord, do not let this salesperson get through.” How do we influence? Well, I want to introduce you to a concept that I named this way. It doesn’t mean there’s not better ways to talk about it.

But a way to approach how we might be able to understand what’s going on and create a model for how we can, as marketers, build trust with our audiences. So I just call it the middle. Really simple. And the way I describe it is that between any two people or between multiple people, an organization, and its audience, and its customers, there’s this space that’s called the middle.

And we have to, as marketers or as just human beings, get past this space in order to have a relationship. We can’t really climb into each other’s skins and heads, and really know what’s going on which would be creepy anyway if we could, like sci-fi or something like that. But we always have to traverse this middle area, this middle ground in order to have some sort of a meaningful relationship.

And let me just kind of mention for a minute a couple of, like, the big-picture things that are in between the middle. There’s nonmaterial things between our relationships, things like language. I am speaking English, hopefully, good enough to get across a message here, and you all understand English.

There’s idioms that we could bring into our language, there’s metaphors. We, as marketers, have a shared history and experience. And if we were doing this in person, which I wish we were, we’d probably be having hallway conversations where we’d be sharing war stories about talking with deans, and administrators, and things like that, right? So all of that is the shared kind of nonmaterial history that helps our relationships thrive in different ways.

Of course, there are things that can get in that category that could potentially create barriers with our relationships as well. And then, additionally, there’s material things that get in between our relationship. In this case, because of darn COVID, we’re doing this through computers, and the internet, and at home instead of in the office, perhaps. And instead of being, you know, in downtown Nashville, which would be awesome, at Emma’s headquarters, I bet they have an awesome seminar room, where we would normally be, and we would be in enjoying that.

Or if you’re trying to get together with a friend, right, you do that over coffee at a really cool local coffee shop instead of, you know, the aisles of Walmart or something like that. You know, that’s not where you would catch up because our material context is part of what makes our relationships thrive in different ways. And again, in the same way, things can be in between us that are material things that maybe don’t foster a good relationship.

So relationships always have this space, the middle, that we have to get through in order to have our relationships flourish. So it’s just like what it means to be a human being, what it means to be an organization and connect well with your customers. But, there is something different about this dynamic and the times that we live in. Even though it’s a little like human 101, there’s something different about the 21st century and how we interact.

There are platforms, there are brands, there are ways of kind of organizing the way that we’re going to interact with our environment and expectations of how we consume that have been inserted in the middle in ways that just, in human history, have not happened before such to the point that we get this crazy environment where the middle has just become really crowded, and really heavy, and really noisy, and pushed us kind of out of the frame and our relationships are strained as a result.

Now, I don’t know again if we were in person or, you know, chatting about this over a coffee, or drink, or something like that we might be able to say, “Oh, I’ve had this personal experience.” Some of us have avoided social media like one of those people here who have ditched Facebook personally just because it’s, like, a little bit too unnerving to see what relatives are doing and things like that.

But we see that in our personal experiences, but we also, as organizations, see that as well. Like, what do we do? Do we knit mittens and put them on, you know, and meme ourself across this divide that’s become so crowded with brands, and voices, and noise, and everything? Do we try to shout louder?

Do we try to find an influencer? How do we possibly get heard when there, all of this context, right, that’s pushing our relationships apart? It’s really difficult. And so I’ve found that just thinking about the middle and relationships is really helpful context to realize there’s something going on here, something different going on here that’s really challenging for us as marketers and as individuals to combat.

So I asked you at the beginning just to think about a brand that has built trust and is doing really well in your experience in terms of building trust. Well, it would be interesting too for you to think about the opposite. And I, oh, I so wish I could hear you all shouting out like, “This brand was so creepy in the way that they stalked me around the internet.”

Or, “How did they know that I was, you know, going to think about going on vacation here and send me a brochure?” whatever. But try to think, in your experience over the last year or several years, about brands that have crossed the line. So, in their defense, they’re dealing with this really crowded middle, and then they’ve come up with some idea, “This is how we’re going to do it, this is how we’re going to get Dave’s attention in the midst of a really crowded environment.”

And then they do it in a creepy way. I’ll share. I wish we were like…everybody’s popping up with answers and stuff like that. Let me share real quick. This is just one of many, many examples that came my way the other day. I was browsing a news site and I got this ad.

And I don’t want to… Not that I’m really excited about getting older. I’ll just say I’m 49. But I was not expecting to get pitched on SUVs for seniors. I’m like, “That’s six years away, right?” Nothing wrong with that, but I don’t know what… And then also it kind of freaked me out.

I’m like, “What am I doing on the internet? What am I browsing on the internet that would make some algorithm think that I’m 55, 58, something like that?” Again, I’m looking forward to getting to that stage, just wasn’t expecting it right there. Or maybe this was a really good tactic. Maybe they knew I was in my 40s, and this was the way that they got my attention in the midst of that crowded middle.

I don’t know what the case may be. But you all probably had experiences like this too as you’ve browsed the internet or received direct marketing of some kind. Well, how do we deal with this as marketers if we’re not going to create the fear environment or some sort of, like, anxiety environment that would maybe get our audiences to respond in the midst of this, you know, really crowded middle area?

So I want to introduce one more metaphor for you. And I call it the flattening of the amphitheater. And I think this is a way for us to bring some hospitality into this environment that we find ourselves in. So this is actually a picture of a ancient amphitheater I’ve been to. It’s in a coastal town in Israel. It’s called Caesarea Philippi.

And I remember when we went to this amphitheater years and years ago, the tour guide had us, at first, sit up toward the top and then went down to the bottom and didn’t shout, but just talked in a normal voice and to show us that, indeed, if somebody was down there on stage giving a presentation or a play was going on, that we would actually be able to hear it without microphones and audio, and the internet, and all these things that we have today.

And it was really cool. And of course, that’s how amphitheaters work. Hopefully, you’ve been to an ancient one and experienced it in stone, but you maybe have been to just a regular old amphitheater somewhere on college campus or elsewhere and experienced the acoustics of this. Well, what we’ve seen in the last number of years, this is, transitions happen really radically, really fast over the years, is I don’t know who’s hands it is, maybe it’s Mark Zuckerberg’s or somebody’s, just imagine up from the top of the frame just hands coming down and just squashing that amphitheater flat so that the flattening of the amphitheaters is taking place, but the acoustics remain the same.

And in some ways, and I love Tyler’s presentation earlier on, and in some ways, this is really nice. Right? It’s given voices, that maybe wouldn’t otherwise be able to speak up and be heard, opportunities to speak up and be heard.

It’s created an environment where more people have a say, more people are on stage and have the ability to say something, share something, and I think we’re all better off for that. But you can imagine that if I’m up on this corner, and you’re down on that corner, and a bunch of people are in between, and the acoustics work the same for all of us, then it gets really tricky to get a message across.

And I might be on one side trying to communicate my message to you on the other side, how do I do that? I can shout louder again, I can knit my mittens, I can try to meme my way across. There’s all sorts of different things I can do. But in reality, it’s going to be very, very difficult. And when we approach this environment and the way it is, I think one of the most important things that we can think about is going back to, again, building trust.

One of the most trusting things that we can do is empower our customers, our audience, human beings, to be purveyors of our message. Not all of us can be in a Super Bowl commercial on stage speaking up to the amphitheater, but we’re in an environment now where we can reach out to individuals and trust them with our message.

Imagine being on one side of that noisy amphitheater and delivering a message to somebody and say, “Hey, would you take that all the way across, you know, the way to that person over there?” We’re in a spot now where that’s actually possible and possible even on scale. And we can build trust and empower, in a really hospitable way, our audiences to become participants with us.

So I’m going to be quiet for a minute, turn it over to Lauren, and she’s going to share a bit about how we’ve tried to go about doing that.

– Exactly. So how can we build trust as brands and stand out in that middle space? Well, even though we all specialize here in digital marketing, we want to propose that building trust with our audience online is actually very similar to how we build trust face-to-face just like these two people here in the amphitheater.

So I’m going to go through five actionable takeaways that we use at Lipscomb. Okay, takeaway Number 1, start with what you have in common. So think about how others stand out to you, in a good way, when you first meet them. It usually starts with bonding over a common interest, shared ideas, or shared goals.

So in the same way, we as digital marketers can create relationships that stand out from the very beginning by talking about the things we have in common with our audience. So for us at Lipscomb, we are a faith-based institution. We have awesome global learning programs, we have all-star faculty that are really well known in the industries that they teach in.

So these are actually all opportunities that we have to connect with our audience over those shared interests, right? And this year at Lipscomb, our advancement team created an online event series on topics that resonate with our audience. So they have the future of higher education as you’ll see here, the Emma and the social media ad that we did for that. And it was a series of different topics so future of higher education, future of healthcare, future of faith.

And because this topic or these topics really resonated with our audience, they had really great results, they went above and beyond the registrations that they had the goals for, for these events, and they had really good feedback for the event. And those are wins for us that are short term, but all those short-term wins also help support our long-term goals of increasing our audience advocacy, and of course, increasing gifts over time. Takeaway Number 2, let the relationship grow authentically.

So you wouldn’t expect someone that you just met to loan you money or babysit your kids, right? Well, I don’t have kids yet, but if I had kids, I wouldn’t ask someone to do that right away. So we, as marketers, shouldn’t expect our video to go viral just because we posted it on social media, or expect our event to fill up magically just because we crafted and scheduled some emails, even if our emails are really awesome emails, and I know everyone on here has created awesome emails.

And this is because relationships take time, and it takes getting to know each other to build trust, which we all know. And one way that we try to do this with our admitted students is that on our admitted students web page, in communications as you see here, we like to focus on Nashville. So we want our admitted students to get to know not only us, but we want them to get to know our awesome city and a lot of other things.

So we want them to know how they would fit in, if they would thrive here, if they would do well before we ask them to take those next steps and have any hard-hitting CTAs, like to submit their deposit, because the more your audience trusts you, the more likely they’re going to take action when you ask. So there are so many ways and so many different topics we can get to know our audience first and build that relationship before we go to those hard-hitting calls to actions.

Takeaway Number 3, show up to serve others. So relationships really are all about serving others. And as brands, yes, we have our own goals that we want to hit, we have numbers that we want to hit, but if we can create our marketing and advertising with the goals and the dreams of our audience in mind, we’re actually going to be a lot more successful and be able to better serve our audience, which especially, you know, being in higher education, that’s why we’re here, that’s why our jobs exist, that’s why we come to work every day, right?

And these are just a few Emma templates that we’ve created for the rest of campus. And we’ve been working with Tyler as he mentioned. It’s been super awesome working with him to really integrate the best practices he shared about accessibility, and then also integrate best practices in general for emails, and really just looking at our emails through the lens of how is our audience going to look at this content?

How is our audience going to interact with this content, and what type of content do they want, what type of content is going to benefit them? And we really try to have this lens of audience-first approach with not only our email templates, but everything that we’re doing in digital marketing and non-digital marketing. So, you know, the print pieces, the newsletters, the landing pages, social media, everything. We try to have that audience-first approach.

Take away Number 4, shake things up. So being in higher education, I’m sure we all have been told at some point in time, one or another that we do things this way because we’ve always done it this way, right? I know I can’t see anyone, but if you heard that before, you can just, like, nod your head at the computer.

I do that all the time or just say, “Uh-huh.” But I’ve definitely heard that before, not from Dave, of course. But in this industry, there tends to be slower adoption to new technology and digital strategies I’ve seen. And just like you don’t want personal relationships to get stale, as digital marketers, it’s really important to be able to grow and evolve with our audiences. So this means not being afraid to try new things, try new platforms, and also new features as long as it, you know, makes sense, and it’s appropriate with your brand, and what you’re trying to do.

And I remember at a time when I used to get 1 cent per click on Instagram ads, and that was when I was working at UC, San Diego. They had just come out, but yeah, but 1 cent per click for Instagram ad used to be a thing. But not anymore because everyone’s on it. So all that to say being one of the first universities to embrace new technology is not a bad thing. It’s actually usually a good thing, and it will usually give you a boost of awareness.

So we also want to encourage you to look for inspiration in not only higher education, but also outside of higher education because there’s a lot of cool stuff going on in different industries too. And then this example here, this is just a fun example of what our alumni team did. So they had one of our professors, who is a former Disney animator, do a Facebook Live tutorial on how to draw Simba from The Lion King. And this video actually did end up going viral for them because it really was a fresh and a different way that they interacted with their audience.

So pretty cool. It’s still on their page if you want to check it out. All right, and then the last takeaway is connect mutual friends. So I don’t know about you, but when I make a new awesome friend, I can’t wait to connect them with my other awesome friends so that we can just build our circle of awesome friends. And I don’t know, maybe that’s just me, but it’s a win-win-win, that’s what I think.

So similarly, as digital marketers, we can connect members of our audiences with other members of our audiences, which not only helps them, but also fosters peer-to-peer marketing which is the most effective type of marketing that there is. So this is when a friend recommends a brand to another friend versus the brand recommending themselves to the audience directly, right?

And this is also where influencers come in, and it’s also where sometimes marketers can go a little bit astray with their influencer strategy. And the key here isn’t always to partner with the most popular influencer, the key is to partner with an influencer who has influence with your ideal audience. So, the influencer that has your ideal audience following them because that’s who you want to be reaching.

So just a little influencer tip there. One other way that’s really simple and easy to connect and foster peer-to-peer marketing is through testimonials. And these are just some examples of how we’ve integrated testimonials into our communications including landing pages and social media advertising. And whenever we’ve done a test, our results have always been better when we’ve used testimonials.

All right, so those were our really quick five key takeaways, and I’m going to send it back to Dave to take us home.

– Awesome. Thanks, Lauren. So glad you’re on the team and doing awesome work. And yeah, I just want to quickly wrap it up, and then we’ll jump into some Q&A with you all just simply by saying, in fact, I really like the point that you made about the, it takes time to build some trust and, you know, get invited to babysit or something like that. But I think we’ve all been on that receiving end of things when somebody’s come alongside us, and this happens one-on-one like in relationship friendships, but also with brands as well where they’ve come alongside us, and they’ve expressed their trust in us to carry a message or to do something that they wouldn’t just let any old person do.

That is a really meaningful way to serve, to ask somebody else to come alongside and serve with you. And it’s one of the most powerful ways to break through that crowded, noisy, oftentimes, combative middle space that’s getting in the way with a lot of our relationships right now. So looking for those ways to evoke trust in our customers, in our audiences, invite them to come alongside our brands and grow our brands with us is an amazing way to do that.

And of course, there are so many opportunities for that to happen. So, we are really excited to be able to present this and talk about this with you. And love to move into Q&A and see if there are any questions out there.

– Yeah, Dave and Lauren, thank you so much. That was awesome. And we’ve got time for a few questions here. Dave, I wanted to say first that Karen wanted to share that AppleCare is one example of how the brand Apple has grained her trust. She said that they’re so responsive and helpful every single time.

So, wanted to call that out in the chat.

– Nice.

– We’ll go ahead and ask this question. We’ve had this actually asked a couple of times, and we posed it in our last panel, was just, what was your biggest challenge last year? In a year of challenges, in 2020, I wanted to pose that same one to you all.

– Wow, the biggest one, right? That’s tricky because there’s been so many… – It’s a big one.

– There’s been so many challenges. Well, one thing I heard people asking about as well along those lines was just how we would get our audiences, particularly our students, to engage with the things that they needed to hear about COVID related. And really, am grateful for our students. They have stepped up.

We’ve been able to keep COVID down quite a bit. But really, the way we approach that challenge was to do a number of things. We did a lot of social media. We did a lot of e-communications through emails to the students. And we designed around, we actually created a whole design system that was unique to anything else that we had that was related to communicating the messages that we wanted students to pay attention to, so that they got an idea of, you know, the signs or the messages that we felt like they needed to pay attention to.

That was probably the biggest hurdle, and I think it’s worked out really well as students, again, have really stepped up, and we have not been a vector of COVID in Nashville or elsewhere.

– Yeah, yeah. Well, yeah, thank you for sharing on that one. Lauren, I actually am going to pose this question to you because I know you shared some really helpful tips in your section of the presentation, but if you just could pick one, what is one way that marketers can be hospitable in their next email send?

– I would say the tip about being audience centered because I think it just stems from that thing, and then everything else comes after that. So if you have, you know, your audience, their goals in mind, what their dreams are, what they want to accomplish, you really can’t go wrong.

– Awesome. Well, I hate to wrap it up because you all have been so amazing. That is actually all the time that we have. Thank you again for being here, Dave and Lauren. I know that I got a ton out of it. So thank you so much. And I’ll close us out.

– Thanks so much, great to be with you.

– Awesome. Thank you.

Closing remarks

Emily McNally • Emma

That was incredible. I hope you all, like me, today are just feeling really inspired to implement some new ideas and strategies in your email marketing plan. And in case you couldn’t tell, we really love the higher education industry at Emma, and our goal is to help you succeed no matter what comes your way in 2021. So this actually concludes our day one of EmmaU, and we can’t wait to continue this fun with you on Thursday, January 28th.

In the meantime, if you’re looking for more email marketing resources to jumpstart your strategy, visit myemma.com. So be on the lookout for your next webinar invite, and we’ll see you Thursday


Priya Shah • Emma

Hi everyone, and thanks for joining us for Day Two of EmmaU, the virtual email marketing event for higher education. I’m Priya Shah, Emma’s director of customer success, and I’ll be your host guiding you through today’s events in the General track. We’ve got a lot of exciting things in store, and we’re so glad you’re here with us. As a reminder, if you have any questions that come up about your own email marketing program during the presentation, you can ask those in the Q & A box, and our team will respond.

So with that, let’s check out the agenda for today. So in just about a minute, I’ll be passing it over to Todd Nucci from Oakland who’ll be chatting about a Case Study of his University. Then I’ll pass it over to Geoff Sharbrough who’ll be talking about Omatic and their partnership with Emma. And then finally, we’ll close things out with Grace Miller from the Emma team who’ll be going through our Higher ed email benchmarks.

Case study: Oakland University

Todd Nucci • Oakland University

[Priya] So like I mentioned, first and foremost, we have a presentation on brand consistency and email templates by Todd Nucci, who is the Director of Marketing and Web and Digital Services at Oakland University. Please join me in giving a virtual, yet warm, welcome, welcome to Todd.

– [Todd] Thank you for that introduction, Priya. And thank you all for being with me today to hear a little bit about Oakland University’s story, why we chose Emma, how we implemented it, and some of the results that we’re seeing due to our relationship with Emma.

Before I get started, a little bit of information about Oakland University, we are not located in Oakland, California as I wish we were. We are located in Rochester Hills, Michigan which is about 40 minutes north of Detroit and that’s in Oakland County, hence Oakland University. And along with Oakland County, we have Macomb County and Wayne County which is the tri-county area of the region of the state and that’s the most competitive, most diverse area that schools are pulling prospective students from.

So we have a very competitive backyard and Emma allows us to be successful within that space. That’s me. A little quote to get us started here, “When the trust factor is high, communication is easy, instant, and effective.”

And that’s from Stephen R. Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Prior to Emma our trust factor was not high. Prior to Emma all of our internal and external communications were a real mess. We had different departments sending different structural emails, no color consistency, one department using a new logo, one department using an old logo, some departments designing and developing their own logos, so inconsistent branding, lists were not properly vetted, and our emergency communications had no real contacts behind them.

Oakland University is sort of like a city. We have 20,000 students at any time in the year, 2,000 of them living on campus with a faculty and staff over 2,000. So we had no real way of displaying that emergency and it could be anything from a water main break to a potential shooter on campus and we wanted a way for users to just be able to identify that threat level right away.

So we were a city operating without a proper infrastructure. So what we needed. We needed a more consistent approach. We needed a way that we could template emails and lock them down so that users could be successful in the areas that they really needed to focus on which is the content and the call to action.

Content is king, content is what drives that call to action, and that’s really what we want our users to focus on. We needed an image library, we needed something for our users to be able to pull approve images from a repository, and allow them to choose from different seasons. There’s nothing worse than getting an email in the middle of winter what the image of green and sun in summer.

So we wanted them to be able to pull from a variety of images, but images that were sized properly and approved by the university. And we needed better list management. We had departments who were struggling in that area so much that we were looking at getting blacklisted in some local markets which would have been very detrimental to our recruitment efforts. So as we were looking around searching for that solution, Emma was presented to us.

At the Detroit Digital Summit in 2015, I was introduced to Emma and we started talking about what we could do within those templates, locking it down and just focusing on that content, tailoring the user management so that they could just have access to the areas that were most important to them, really those content areas, taking the other areas like the logo and the color, and the branding off their plate so they don’t need to worry about that.

And we needed management of that unsubscribe link. When we’re emailing out emergency communications we cannot afford to have our campus community opting out of email. So management of that unsubscribe link was very important to us and all of the email providers or solutions that we were looking at and talking to us, it was sort of an all or nothing deal.

And so talking to Emma and being allowed to manage that on our side was very attractive and one of the main selling points for us. So that was in the fall of 2015 as I said and then by February 2016, we were live and that’s with the December where not a lot gets done.

So those of you are working in higher-ed understand that that’s sort of a feat in getting something like that implemented in that amount of time and we were very proud of that. So what did that implementation look like? First off, the most important thing like I said was developing that template. We developed two main templates, a general communication that you see here and one for our event registration which we’ll see in a little bit.

But working to develop that template most importantly for us was again to lock down those certain areas. So where we see our Oakland University logo, that is coded right into that template so users cannot change that. That gold bar directly below that, it was important for us to have somewhere on that email where users could identify the department that was sending that email right away and that is just pulled in from that subaccount information.

So again, an area that they can’t change up. Where they can start editing it is in the…for the image right away, pulling from our approved image source is really just a drag and drop situation, giving them an idea of how that’s going to be sized, but really asking them to pull from that library.

Offering a header 1. All of these fonts and the font color, the font size, none of that can be changed. That is all hard-coded in, but of course, they can edit those pieces and the supporting content below that.

And we have an area down here for a header 2 which again they cannot change. They can only work within the provided font and font color, and then some area for supporting content down here, and then the call to action which they can edit. They can add in content blocks, they can take content blocks out, but they cannot change any of the formatting within that email.

It is all structurally sound and just below that we have an area for the address, and some information that again is all coded into that email being pulled in from that subaccount. And just below that, then we have an area for their social media icons which they can delete if they don’t have that platform, but they cannot add to the available social media platforms there.

So again this we thought would increase that user engagement because A, we had a nice structurally-sound template and users were not only going to know it was coming from Oakland University, but they were going to know the department that it was coming from and their connection with those departments.

This allowed us to strengthen the brand as well, implementing our color structure, implementing our logo right at the top ensuring that, you know, the other departments are not going to be using outdated logos or really, you know, using their own which can be very costly for us. And anything that we’re doing, anything that we’re developing and designing, ADA compliance is at the forefront of our thought process while we’re doing this.

So ensuring that this template is tab-friendly, that the color contrast within it lines up within the WCAG 2.0 and that the images are properly Alt-Tagged ensuring that if the user is using a screen reader to interact with this page, then they’ll have the same abilities that an able-bodied user would have.

Twenty-six percent or 1 in 4 people have a disability. This is from the Center of Disease Control and as Oakland University works to become the university of choice which is a charge laid out by our president, this is a population that we are not willing to ignore. So anything that we develop that’s going to be web related is going to be fully ADA-compliant.

So how did we train our staff? This was a problem for us. As I’ve said, we have over 2,000 faculty and staff members all who could be asking for access to this platform and we have very limited resources.

Emma is managed by a team of four, myself and three others, and we just really didn’t have the ability with all of the other projects we’re working on to kind of meet with everybody in a one-on-one situation, take it on a road show, so to speak. So what we did was we developed a training manual.

Highlighting the areas that are most important to user success and we revise that as updates are released. We also developed a 10-question user assessment where we ask for a perfect score for access to the platform. Some of the questions that we’re asking, how will you upload a mailing list? What type of file should the mailing be?

When should you segment groups? What must all emails from Emma contain? And that’s the unsubscribe link. To create a new mailing you must first, blank? And how do you add content? So all of these questions are designed to ensure that the user is successful and creating and sending an email, yes.

But also they are designed so that the user understands that they’re not reaching out, then, to their account manager, to university technology services, or to university communications and marketing to send that email. They have the authority, they can complete and send on their own. One of the issues with that 10-question assessment is that if there are multiple users in one area who are looking to gain access at the same time, I assure you they will work together, they will share those results, but, you know, that’s just the way it goes.

So here’s an example of our event template. Unfortunately we couldn’t get it sized in there perfectly, but I assure you right above it, that logo is there, that gold bar telling you who that department is from is right there, and then directly below that where we have that image spot, for our events we make that a lot larger understanding that for events there may be a design piece or some really strong imagery to go along with that.

So we make that space available and then below that we have that event name, some supporting content, the when, the where, the info, that call to action, and all of that it’s all structured and developed so that they cannot change, you know, the font size, the color. They can delete areas and they can add more content areas, but they can’t change any of the functionality that’s on there.

And so as a result of this, you know, students were now able to quickly identify which department was responsible for each type of communication. That immediately led to open rates increasing, with our calls to action now clearly positioned our click-throughs immediately started going up.

And because of that unsubscribe link being removed from our internal emergency communications, we now know that we are reaching all of our students in the event of an emergency and then we built those templates to have those three different varying degrees of the emergency; so an orange, a yellow, and a red for a student to quickly identify that level of threat and then react on it.

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” This is from our friend George Bernard Shaw. The great thing about Emma is that illusion isn’t there anymore. We now know when that communication has taken place. Here’s an example of a recent communication.

This was for a COVID-19 vaccine distribution that we’re working towards. We sent this on January 12th and this came from Campus Communication which is my area. Great to see we got a 9.8 mailing score, even better to see that nearly 60% opened that email. 13,526 users opened that email and 804 of them clicked within it.

So 6% of them clicking within that email. Now this was an informational piece, but within every email we make sure that there’s some sort of action, some sort of next step, and in this email it would have been a link to our COVID-19 information section.

So 804 people went to go seek more information which is fantastic and delivery rate, 100% delivery rate, 22,857 people we reached successfully, just a testament to our list management. Three soft bounces, we can live with that.

Three opt-outs. So sending to 22,857 and only receiving 3 opt-outs really just tells me that everything we’re doing is really working and the changes we’ve made, we understand how to reach our audience now. So very happy to see all of this information.

What’s next? You know, email has become more important than ever. With everything that’s happening over the past nine months it really has been our most important form of communication.

Sure, we’re looking for some other secondary forms like text messaging to students, but still email is our number-one communication and we’ve leaned on it heavily. With news changing so rapidly, our class structure constantly shifting, online, in-person, hybrid. It’s happening a little bit less now, but certainly that was a lot in the fall.

And we’ve shifted to streaming all university events virtually from commencements to the state of the university, to all of our undergrad and grad recruitment events that we have all throughout the year, upwards of 30 of those all moved to a virtual space and Emma just helping us be successful in reaching them and communicating these changes with them.

Revisions to that template. So we’re always looking at, you know, better ways for us to engage, how do we get stronger calls to action, and we do that through our A/B testing. Always be testing is my motto. In every email there is an element to test out whether it’s the content, the call to action, the image you’re using, where you place a link, you never know what’s going to compel a user to convert or to engage with that email.

So test it out, find out what exactly it is that makes those users engage, and understand your metrics. Don’t just look to see who’s opening them, you know, make sure that you are looking at why they’re opening it so that you can use that information to tailor your next email to make it successful. And segmentation.

If you send out an event invite and 50% of them accepted, 50% of them declined, segment that audience out. Tailor a new message to the audience that didn’t respond, nudging them to convert and then send a new message to the 50 who did so that you can ensure that they’re going to show up for your event. All of these metrics are designed to help you increase the performance of your next email.

So make sure you’re using it, make sure you’re looking at it, and develop and create stronger emails in the future. That’s all I have. So we will open it now to some Q&A.

– Thank you, Todd. That was awesome. I think I speak for all of us when I say that we really gained some inspiration for our own email marketing strategies from your team’s work at Oakland University. Like you mentioned, we do have a few minutes for questions here from the audience. So I’ll go ahead and kick it off with this one.

So this first question is from Laura. She asks, “This might be too granular, but did you run into any data challenges when building campus-wide lists in the system and how did you overcome that?”

– So for our lists we pull… For our main campus communication, for emergency communications, we’re pulling those straight out of Banner. Banner is our customer relation tool. So we’re pulling that information right out of there, ensuring that those lists are up to date with our most current student list.

Other areas, you know, they’re managing their lists. Once a user opts out, of course, they’re removed from that. So you know, over time we have learned how to better manage our lists, but ultimately it was Emma that gave us, you know, the structure for us to be successful.

I hope I answered that question right.

– I think that’s perfect. The second question here is from Leah. “How do you manage your testing? I’m new to testing, what should I start with?”

– How do we manage our testing? So that’s all done within a Google form. We created that 10-question assessment and just internally once those come in, we review them and assign the user access based on the results of that test.

Of course, the user see the results of their test right after they’re done so they know if they’ve passed or failed. This is not an impossible test if you review the manual. It’s very simple to pass. We have designed it again really so that when a user is reviewing that manual the takeaway is that they do not need to contact their account manager, they do not need to contact the university technical services, or UCM.

– Perfect. The questions are rolling in fast here. The next one here is from Caitlin. “What happens if the student unsubscribes?”

– If a student unsubscribes from one of our… So if they unsubscribe from the school of music, theater, and dance, they will stop seeing the emails from school of music, theater, and dance, but they’re still going to see our emergency communication as again, users cannot opt out of that email.

And here’s a little secret, of course, anybody can opt out of any email they want to, right? The link may not be in that email, of course they can go to the top and they can find a way to unsubscribe from that email. And in the event that they do, you know, we work with Emma, we work to get them back on that mailing list to ensure that they’re going to get it on that next round.

So we do have people opting out, we just work to get them back in to those lists, but not to like, an SMTD. If they opt out or unsubscribe to one of our our secondary subaccounts then, you know, they’re not going to get that communication anymore.

– Okay. That’s perfect. I think that’s all the time that we have for questions. So thanks again for the time here. This was awesome. I know we all learned a thing or two, and thanks for joining us.

– Thank you for having me.

Omatic marketing cloud connector and email

Geoff Sharbrough • Omatic

– [Woman] Next up, we have a presentation from Geoff Sharbrough, who is the senior sales enablement engineer at Omatic. Founded in 2002, Omatic works with thousands of organizations around the globe to remove their data barriers by integrating systems and allowing their teams to leverage their data instead of being burdened by it. Currently Omatic partners with Emma to power our Blackbaud CRM, Raiser’s Edge, and Raiser’s Edge NXT integrations for the higher ed industry.

We’re excited to welcome their team to share how your institution can get the most out of these integrations. Over to you, Geoff.

– [Geoff] Hi, and thank you for joining me today. My name is Geoff Sharbrough from Omatic Software and I’d like to talk to you today about the Omatic Marketing Cloud Connector and Email. So in a study done back in 2013 by Infosys, who is a global leader in consulting on tech and outsourcing solutions, they published a study titled “Rethinking Retail,” insights from consumers and retailers into an omni-channel shopping experience.

Certainly that’s, you know, for profit organizations, but the trends that we see in for profit obviously, also carry over into the nonprofit sector. And while there were facts and figures in this study, things like 85%, 86% of consumers saying that personalization plays a role in purchasing and decision making, I thought that this was kind of a more interesting statistic in that of those, 38% which was the most common factor that was cited was lack of technology that prevented them from creating that more integrated customer experience from within their own organization.

So with that, I’d like to talk with you today, some of the key concepts that we’ll be going over are things with your email preferences, and how those are critical to being tracked whether you’re tracking that at a overall opt-in, opt-out level, or tracking on a per subscription type of basis.

Those now are even more vital in the fundraising ecosystem that we’ve seen with the change in the past year. By not doing this, not tracking those types of preferences and actions that supporters and donors may take, you’re going to miss opportunities all together or not be able to deliver on that supporter donor experience as well as you may have been if you had all of that information there.

And then, of course, that experience that a donor or supporter may have through different facets of your organization directly drives the outcomes that we have and has a direct impact on some of the important things that we tend to focus on in the nonprofit industry with retention and donor acquisition.

So my name is Geoff Sharbrough. A little bit of background, I’m a senior sales enablement engineer with Omatic Software. I’ve been with Omatic now for over three years. Prior to that, I was it Blackbaud for 10 years. I supported both Raiser’s Edge and Financial Edge, and then I worked as a technical account manager in their enterprise users with basically clients who were using the BBCRM application through various verticals and areas of the United States and Canada.

So certainly have a great deal of the background between Raiser’s Edge and other disparate systems that organizations may be using. And for those of you who may not know about Omatic, so we’re our own company, we’re not a subsidiary of Blackbaud.

We’ve been around since 2002 and we have over 3,000 clients. We’re growing. We’re up to 90-plus team members. So not only do we have our own products team and professional services team that deliver our solutions to clients, but we also have, you know, client success managers and our own support team that you would expect in a larger enterprise-level technology organization.

And our mission is to empower your organization to be able to deliver that right message at the right time to the right supporter. And the way that you can do that is by collecting all of those various data points that tell the overall story of engagement with your donors and supporters.

I really like this quote from Angela Fraser from the Canadian Cancer Society, just speaking to how our overall team was instrumental in allowing them to achieve their data integration goals because it’s not just a product or service that helps you do that.

It takes a team, it takes a village, right? And that’s kind of what we’re here to talk about today because we’re talking about aspects of your fundraising and aspects of your marketing teams that you may have at your organizations. You know, gone are the days of a single application that might be used to capture and track activities in kind of all areas of your fundraising strategy.

Organizations are now piecing together a fundraising ecosystem with the best in breeds. So here with kind of an example, you know, we’ve got… On one hand, we’ve got a Swiss army knife and as you see, there is a very small saw on there and that’s probably okay, right?

If I was needing to have all of that functionality and some bit of that functionality, but if I’m going to, let’s say, chop down a tree in my yard, I’m going to use a specialized tool. I’m going to get a chainsaw that excels at chopping down trees, instead of having to use something that has the ability to do that, but may not do it to the capacity that I need.

But again, there is some trade-off in that risk versus reward of best-of-breed technology. So let’s talk about those technologies that we’re looking at today. You know, Raiser’s Edge has long been industry standard in the nonprofit industry, designed for nonprofits, specifically for nonprofits, and understands the nuances of fundraising in the nonprofit environment, and does allow the overall democratization of data, you know, with the ability to capitalize and capture things like your fundraising, special events, volunteers, any of those aspects of engagement that you might use to gauge your supporters, gain new supporters, and keep those supporters, convert them into donors.

And Emma, well, Emma kind of crosses or checks off most of the things or all of the things that you would expect from a email platform. They have that tiered Emma HQ platform. So you can easily manage the email marketing across maybe different departments or locations that you may have depending on your organization structure, the ability to automate, drive who gets what content based on audience actions, the ability to incorporate that A/B testing, and then those reporting tools that are going to back up that A/B testing or content testing that you may do to determine what is effective and what’s not, and allow you to pivot your strategy as needed.

But, as I said before, with the best in breed, that does come with some inherent challenges. And some of the more common challenges that we hear, and I’m not going to read through all of these, but these are just kind of examples, you know, maybe these are things that you’ve heard in a meeting at your organization or maybe even some of you have said some of these things yourselves.

So let’s talk about some of these challenges and how we can overcome those and turn that into a leveraging point for your organization and your fundraising strategy. So with email preferences, those can come in really from anywhere, you know, maybe you’ve got a email preference that is given to you when somebody purchases a ticket face-to-face or maybe that information is tracked in one system, let’s say in Emma, but maybe not in Raiser’s Edge and vice versa, you know, that can cause issues for you for sure.

Because, at that point, if it’s being tracked everywhere, what’s your confidence level that it’s up to date or is there one system of truth. So if, for example, we have supporters that unsubscribe via Emma, how is that getting back to Raiser’s Edge or is it?

And if we’re not taking that data back to Raiser’s Edge and tracking that in our system of record, that’s going to reduce the number of data points that we have and overall going to lower that retention and increase missed opportunities for us. So obviously, a solution is using Raiser’s Edge as that CRM, so your system of record, the system of truth. For all of those up-to-date preferences and contact information, we can use Raiser’s Edge query to identify records that we can then update back into Emma, driving either your segmentation or just record updates.

Continually sync data changes whether they happen in Emma or happen in Raiser’s Edge so that you’re always ready to contact your supporters, but didn’t have the confidence that that’s the right list of supporters that you’re needing to reach out to.

And then obviously, have those results or the activity that these individuals may take back on your Raiser’s Edge records. And, you know, really I kind of think that that email activity is almost kind of that holy grail of the information that you can get, you know. Those are the actions that individuals are taking and certainly you can use to drive your fundraising strategy and content.

So what are those other challenges was, you know, sending kind of blanket emails. Do you send just a single blanket email or are you using more targeted emails? You know, I think we already established that there is a strong desire for personalization and that directly impacts the kind of actions that individuals may take.

So are you doing things to drive targeting emails? So with two separate systems, a Raiser’s Edge system and Emma, we have teams working in different systems. And so we need to ensure that we’ve got that information coming from one to the other because if marketing is tracking their data in Emma and fundraising just doing their data in Raiser’s Edge, if there isn’t the ability to see at least the supporter, you know, opt-in, opt-outs, and that email activity, you don’t see in that full round trip that constituents or supporters maybe making within your organization, and then obviously it’s hard to analyze the success of that one campaign.

So in Raiser’s Edge we can use that to track interests, you know, that could be tracked as attributes, that could be tracked as solicit codes, various ways that obviously you can track that in Raiser’s Edge, depending on how your organization is using that. Obviously, we can also use Raiser’s Edge queries and sync that data to drive the information we’re syncing between system so you do have that kind of complete profile in Raiser’s Edge.

So the Omatic connector for Emma works within the import Omatic plugin in the plugin section of Raiser’s Edge, it works in both that NXT and the Raiser’s Edge 7 classic installations. You have flexible field mapping, we have data cleanup tools, things to properly case values, let’s say if somebody entered there, subscribed with their information in in all caps or all lower case, and there’s business rules on the left-hand side that drive things like how we’re going to match the records, how we want to update records within that system.

And the overall outcome of precision in data management and we’ll go into this a little bit further here in just a few minutes, but it’s going to reduce those bounce backs, reduce the amount of emails that you’re sending because if we’re tracking what content supporters want to receive, we are not going to be kind of bulk blasting out content that maybe they don’t want to receive and would reduce the propensity to maybe opt out completely from communications.

Having the ability to create specific segments and audiences in your email system to deliver that personalized communication obviously is going to generate that higher response which is ultimately what we’re looking for there.

So let’s talk about this as it applies to the donor journey that they may have coming into your organization. So a typical supporter journey that may be in place at your organization is that a individual makes a donation, that comes in through Raiser’s Edge NXT, we create a new constituent record, and without an integration, you’ll be doing things like a monthly data extract of an export from Raiser’s Edge to import into Emma.

And maybe with that, we’re then only sending out a single generic newsletter. And the overall impact of that is got to be lower conversion rates, lower ROI because we aren’t incorporating that personalization that is really needed to drive responses as well as is generally expected from supporters these days.

And here’s how we can elevate this to a superior supporter journey or be a more realistic capturing of a supporter journey because there’s not a single way that individuals can come in contact with your organization, you know, maybe they don’t make that donation first, that goes in to Raiser’s Edge.

But with these different points taken into account, we can create a superior supporter journey for different avenues that they may go through depending on when they either take an action or don’t take an action. So for example, maybe we have one workflow that does do that initial gift from Raiser’s Edge, constituent record created triggering a “Welcome Series” email.

Maybe as part of that “Welcome Series” email, there’s maybe either a call to action or some other type of interest at its peak and that then triggers an action from that supporter, right? And so then we want to be able to take back that information to Raiser’s Edge and also be able to use that to drive the content that we’re sending.

So maybe once that action is taken from that volunteer, you know, with their interests, maybe we then throw them into a different email series with content specific to let’s say, our special events or an event that they could volunteer for and then we would invite them to the annual gala or whatever that event may be, and then that supporter journey kind of continues there.

Now, throughout the supporter experience there are issues and things around data that it could potentially and will damage your supporter experience, and those come in the form of blind spots and fuzzy spots. So blind spots are going to be those types of data that you don’t have insight into, right? So without an integration in place, we could have disparate systems that could be spreadsheets, maybe, you know, on one of our coworkers computers or a shared drive, but that is static data.

And if we’re not all on the same page about what is kind of that system of truth, that could certainly end up with things like duplicate records, data that’s not accurate, not complete. And then also, if you’ve ever had a data conversion or absorbed another database into your Raiser’s Edge database, there could also be those types of, like, purged or deleted records that could create those blind spots as well, whereas fuzzy spots, fuzzy spots are going to be you’ve got the information, but it’s not correct.

So things like data inaccuracies, misspelled names, old address or old email addresses for individuals, you know, those are the types of things that, while you have that data, if it’s not correct, it’s going to impact that perception and that personalization, you know. My name is Geoff and I use the old English spelling of G-E-O-F-F, commonly get that misspelled, but it is something that is sensitive to me in that if somebody uses the J-E-F-F version, you know, I immediately feel that they haven’t taken the time to read what my name is and use my proper name.

So when we have these best-of-breed solutions there, you know, it is siloed data because there is data that is in Emma and it lives in Emma, and there’s data that lives in Raiser’s Edge, and if we’re not syncing that data between those systems, that is going to create that bad data in between our systems, right?

So we could have duplicate records in one system or the other. Not having that complete view of actions that somebody has taken or if we’re not keeping our systems up to date on an ongoing basis, we could obviously have inaccuracies between those. And this is an interesting statistic here that email addresses are changing at a rate of 31% per year. So if we are obviously not keeping people’s email addresses up to date, we could potentially lose out on a donor or a supporter that maybe is already in our system, right?

And if we’re not capturing that updated information about them, we’re not staying engaged and in contact with them as the way they want to communicate changes. So how do we fix that, right? How do we deal with those data that damages your supporter experience and kind of the common challenges of siloed data?

Well, we change that with integration, right? And not just a blanket send every field of data from one system to another, we’re talking about strategic integration. Obviously, there’s a reason to have specific fields where maybe you track information in Emma that doesn’t necessarily need to go back to Raiser’s Edge and vice versa. I’m not going to, let’s say, take somebody’s volunteer history necessarily unless that’s a field of value that I’m segmenting on and send it back to Emma just on general principles, right?

We also need to have that bidirectional control so that not only are we syncing from Emma to Raiser’s Edge, but also from Raiser’s Edge back to Emma, standardizing and cleaning up that data, things like proper casing, standardizing your address fields, if those are custom fields that you’re tracking in Emma, applying the business rules.

Obviously Raiser’s Edge has a certain way that it is designed to handle things like addresses and updates to fields. So the integration that we have with our connector does allow for that business rule application and that’s really what takes the movement from point A to point B, and takes it a step further, right?

Because it’s not just the movement of data from point A to point B, when we’re talking about different systems, there also has to be some of that data translation and standardization between those two systems. So the integration that we’ve got between Emma and Raiser’s Edge focuses on your either subscriber or unsubscribed data, that email activity data so the actions that your individuals maybe taking as well as any of those custom fields that you may have created on your contact records.

So oftentimes, you know, you may hear from a supporter who, you know, maybe hasn’t been completely unsubscribed yet or you may hear different communications from them, and these are all some of the things that maybe you here, but I think also what’s important to take into account is what are those things that you maybe are not hearing, right?

Because for somebody to kind of raise their hand and vocalize the impact to you, it has to impact them enough to drive them to do so. So what about those people who you’re not hearing from, right? What kind of things are impacting them and what are your fundraising and data practices doing to contribute to this?

There’s also the internal impact within your organization. So between your marketing and fundraising teams, could you answer some of these questions, right? Do you have a defined place where you can go to see that complete picture of the communications that you sent out?

Are you able to look at things like metrics? So what are the effectiveness of your communications? What is the ROI that you’re getting, you know? How many touch points or communications does it maybe take to turn a supporter into a donor? You know, if you’re not tracking these type of data between these systems, those are key data points that contribute to the story of that constituent or that supporter that you’re missing out on.

So in order to have data centralization, the information is really at the focus there, right? And I think I’ve said this before, but, you know, those individual data points, they tell a story, you know. The fact that somebody has subscribed and, let’s say, on subsequent monthly email newsletters, we’ve tracked that they’re opening and clicking links, maybe they forward that to a friend, something like that.

Those different data points there, when looked at from a overall view, tell the story of how that constituent is engaging with your organization there. And then the ability with using a Raiser’s Edge query, for example, to take information from Raiser’s Edge that you want to use to drive that engagement, you know, maybe it’s constituent codes or philanthropic interests that you’ve tracked, the ability to use that to drive that segmentation so that you are delivering that personal communication is extremely effective.

So where does that take us, right? So essentially, what is the impact of a strategic integration? Obviously, with having a strategic integration in place, you’re going to improve your donor retention rates, right?

Because we’re going to leverage Emma for both that kind of stewardship and relationship management as well as the content that our constituents are receiving, but also to overall build that relationship with your supporter because they don’t necessarily see a difference between the organization that they receive emails from versus the organization that is the fundraising arm, right?

So let’s say we’ve got a constituent, you know, they would look at the emails they receive from your marketing teams coming from the same company that the…or I’m sorry, coming from the same organization that, let’s say, their gift officer is reaching out to them about. It’s also going to allow you to build that awesome supporter experience, you know.

I think there’s two types of experiences we come away with that we’re willing to talk about. The first being bad experiences and then the other is awesome experiences, you know. I don’t typically go out and, let’s say, like, leave reviews on online for products or services, but if I have a really great experience, I’m more inclined to do so.

And having that awesome supporter experience between the marketing and fundraising sides of the organization are going to allow both sides to have that complete picture that they need to deliver that personalized communication and we’re going to thereby prevent ourselves from overcommunicating or or undercommunicating to them.

And when we use that personalized information to call out things that are specifically important to that supporter, let’s say, the example of my name spelling, right? Treat them with that respect and dignity. And I was never great at math growing up, but communication and data centralization equals retained donors and this is kind of a self-explanatory equation here.

But, you know, the most effective communication is communication that speaks directly to that donor or that constituent, you know. If they recently got married and we tracked that name change, for example, that kind of…and if we’re using that on that next communication out, that’s obviously going to show that we’re listening to any type of data updates, it’s personalized, it’s current.

And then that allows you to actually focus on your communication strategies when you’re not having to worry about is my data correct, where do I go to find the latest actions that somebody may have taken, having that in one system of record is going to be paramount to allowing you to spend more time on the communication strategy, the content development, and the ways that you want to interact with your supporters based on kind of their needs and kind of what they’ve raised their hand for for how they want to interact with your organization.

So in closing, I just want to kind of summarize some important takeaways here. Obviously, supporter engagement is not one direction. There are numerous ways that an individual can come in contact with your organization and your data and your ecosystem need to provide support for that, and allow for all of those different ways that a supporter may start communications with your organization.

Data cleanliness and a strategic integration are going to allow you to deliver that right message the right time to that right person, and then through effective leveraging of those strategies, it’s really going to allow you to focus on the entire life cycle of your supporters and ultimately lead to that kind of thing that we’re all looking for to increase that lifetime value of that relationship and the retention of that constituent.

Thank you again for your time today. If you have any kind of questions or interested in learning more, you can reach out to us at [email protected] or check out our website at omaticsoftware.com. Thank you so much and enjoy the rest of the conference.

Higher ed email benchmarks

Grace Miller • Emma

– [Priyanka] For our third and final presentation of the day, we’re very excited to introduce our very own, Grace Miller, who is a content specialist at Emma. She’ll be covering everything you need to know about our 2020 higher ed email marketing benchmarks report. Thanks for being here, Grace.

– [Grace] Hi, thanks, Priya. I’m glad to be here. I am thrilled to be here to talk about the benchmarks. So just to get us started, I’m Grace, as Priya, said, I am a content specialist here at Emma, and I also work with our sister brand, Campaign Monitor, and I spend a lot of time looking at email benchmarks. I’ve looked at them for different regions, for different industries so hopefully, I’ll be able to provide that little bit of context that makes these from a random list of numbers to something that’s actually super valuable for you.

Okay, so let’s get my face off the screen. Okay, so what we’re going to talk about today, we are going to look at the different data points that we have for you and I’m going to give you some context there, what they mean for you, what you can do with them, some action items that you can actually do today, right, because this information is only so helpful.

The point that we really want to make here is that you leave here feeling confident that you know exactly what you can do to improve your benchmarks and to hit those goals. I’m also, at the very end, going to do a quick summary of some of the big takeaways of the larger trends that we saw in 2020. So going a little bit out of order, but that’s fine. All right, so the data.

Okay, so just to get us started, I want to make sure we’re all on the same page here. So email benchmarks, what we mean by that is basically the average of how everyone in your industry, how their emails perform. We get a lot of questions, you know, a lot of people understand these are my numbers, this is my open rate, this is my click-through rate, but is that good?

Is it bad? I don’t know. And that’s what these are here for. They are here to kind of let you see where you land amongst higher ed organizations. It’s also not meant to be a hard and fast you need to get to the exact decimal point of these benchmarks and then you’re done, right?

Or if you’re not at this exact decimal point, then, you know, you need to do better, right? What really we want you to use these for is just to help you understand where we’re at, help you decide on some goals and things you want to test. You know, I know someone mentioned that question earlier, like, it can be really overwhelming to know exactly what to tweak and where.

You know, we know that one of the great things about email is that you can constantly refine your strategy but that can be overwhelming because you don’t know where to start, where to finish, and that’s what these benchmarks are for. They’re really to give you that context so you can place not only what you’re doing in the history of how your emails have performed but how that compares to other organizations like yours.

Hopefully, that can help you articulate your goals and your aims to, you know, someone higher up, someone else, whatever. Hopefully, this will help you understand those and be able to voice those easily and confidently. Okay, so don’t get too concerned here with these exact numbers because I’m going to dig into them a little deeper as we go.

What I want you to know here and what I want you to notice is that 34.3% open rate in 2020 versus a 23% open rate in 2019, that’s like 50% increase. That’s huge. And even though, 6.8 to 4 with click-through is another huge jump, 19, 17, not quite as big.

Again, I’ll dig into that in a second but still, we’ve seen, across the board, big improvements for higher ed emails this year. So what’s, again, important here to remember is that momentum is key. As we’ve talked about testing and as you can study your own email, see how they’re performing, you know, what’s really important and crucial, you can’t do that without having some engagement, right?

If you’re going to test, you have to have people to perform the test, right, to tell you, “Oh, I like this. I didn’t like that.” And this has been a year of just record-breaking engagement. In 2020, you know, we’ll see what happens in 2021 but as we’re still continuing to see really increased engagement, now is the time to make the most of it.

And if you are even beyond these benchmarks, then, you know, there’s still room to improve. We actually see some of our greatest improvements from our best performing industries. And if you’re not doing quite as well, that’s fine too. Again, you don’t have to have a 30% increase or a 30% open rate to see good results from your test, right? So you’re in a good place, now’s the time.

Okay, so well, we will give that a second to think through. All right. So one thing to keep in mind here is that higher ed email benchmarks are usually one of the highest in all the industries we see.

So one of the reasons, I mean, as you all probably know is that higher ed organizations are obviously crucial to students, to families of students, to faculty, staff, whomever you might be talking to, alumni too, like, people have to know what’s going on. It affects their daily lives.

And even if, you know, someone isn’t there, like, say an alumni or a donor who isn’t there every day, there’s still a lot…there’s a lot of emotional connection with universities and higher ed groups. So that’s one reason why we see such high engagement from universities regardless of what’s going on in the world and that should be, you know, kind of at the heart of engagement when it comes to email is that that’s a huge advantage that higher ed groups have and it’s something that you can return to, you know, when in doubt, what is going to connect with your audience at a human level, and that’s the direction you want to go.

Okay, so open rates equals opened emails out of all the emails delivered. And the average for higher ed groups was 34.3 as we saw in 2019 was way less than that and the average for all industries was 17%. Right. So 34 is literally double and that’s huge.

So again, don’t panic if you are not at quite this high but you’ll want to dig deeper into which emails have done well, which ones haven’t, you know, Todd mentioned a 60% open rate on their COVID emails. I mean, obviously, that’s been huge. And something to keep in mind is that you cannot look at your benchmarks and your open rates, your click-through rates in a vacuum, right?

It’s directly related to what’s going on in the world and what’s going on in your subscribers’ lives and that’s something that you’re going to definitely want to keep in mind as you look into these. So something else that we are going to do is look at these open rates, click-through rates, and click-to-open rates broken down by month, that is, I mean, as you all know, universities are very cyclical and being able to look at them, look at emails and open rates in any of your benchmarks and that context is going to really help.

It’s going to help you understand, like, what’s going on and what you can do and how to reach out to people when you need to. Okay, so email benchmarks by month. So you can see in September through December here that growth is tracking kind of as we’d expect. We almost always see a year-over-year growth but it’s usually like 1% to 2% and you can see here that that’s what’s going on.

There’s even a bit of a drop in December, not a big deal. December’s not…obviously people aren’t super involved there. It’s the holidays, people don’t want to think about school. So but you can see in January, February, same thing, and then suddenly, in March, there’s a huge spike. April, same thing, right? And this is exactly what you’d expect to see. This is when especially here in the U.S., COVID-19 was really starting to wreak havoc and change everything and a lot of universities had to pivot, you know, in March and around like that spring break timeframe.

So you can see too just how exactly external events like COVID have affected email for everyone. Something else to take away from this slide is that, again, cyclical nature of universities, December and the summer months don’t usually have quite as good engagement but that was not true this year because obviously people were trying to figure out what in the world was going on.

So as you look at your goals for 2020, did you hit them? Did you not? Something to keep in mind is that those numbers are going to be a little off this year. Also, something to keep in mind is that these might not be sustained trends that we see in 2021. You know, we’ll see what happens in the world but, you know, if you’re hitting things like a 60% open rate, you know, you might not see that if things start to kind of cool off and things go back to, you know, normal after here.

My bad. All right, so a few ways to improve open rates. You probably know that one of the best ways to make acute changes to your open rates is to do work on your subject lines and pre-header text. Those things are great. It’s a great way to make sure that this email gets opened but I want to talk about some things you can do and implement and test that will not only help you open this email, get this email opened, but the next one and the next one and the next one as well.

Okay, so one of the best ways to do that is through a welcome series. These tips and tricks I’m about to give aren’t only relevant to a welcome series but it’s a great example to give. So we’ll, you know, carry with me here. All right, so something you can keep in mind, as I mentioned, universities’ higher ed groups have a lot of human connection with their subscribers, you know, whether that’s students, families, alumni, whatever, and that’s definitely going to be a key advantage and something you’re going to want to, you know, take advantage of.

So for instance, right, including images of your university in colors and logos and anything that can really remind readers why they care about these emails in the first place and to create that emotional connection with everything you do. Another good thing here is, especially in a welcome series, you can set expectations.

It’s important that you don’t, you know, promise…get people on your list by promising one thing and then doing something else. It’s obviously not good practice. It’s kind of rude. It’s a no. So instead, here, you can set up your expectations and not just, like, you know, we’re going to email you on X day, don’t forget your preference center, those sorts of things which are important, but also you can expect, you know, highly valuable content, they’re going to be easy to read, they’re going to be beautifully designed, those sorts of expectations as well so that after someone reads this email, they’ll know that the next email is also going to be valuable.

And if, you know, maybe somebody reads this email and there’s no call to action there that really resonates with them, well, they’ll still open your next one because they know something important is coming, there’s something that they are interested in. Even if this email, they don’t have time or whatever, they’ll still open those emails and engage with the next emails to come. Okay, something else that’s always important here is to get to know your audience, right?

We’ve talked about this a lot, and that’s not just, you know, get to know your audience from a demographic perspective but understanding what kind of content they like, what they don’t like, what their interests are, pulling on that data, also setting up preferences. You know, there’s asking people to take a survey, you know, in a welcome series, it’s a good time to say also, you know, get in touch with us here, let us know what you think and those things as well that will really just build loyalty to keep people coming back to your emails time after time.

All right, so now let’s look at higher ed average for click-through rates. So what we see here is that the average for higher ed emails is 6.8. So click-through rate is the measure of emails that have been clicked out of all the emails delivered and a 6.8 click-through rate is really good.

The average for all industries is 2.6. So 2 to 6, obviously, that’s like triple. There’s a big difference here. So what that tells us is that people are finding like very important information in these emails that they are feeling compelled to click-through and take some action, you know, whether that’s reading more on your site or, you know, reading what the president has to say about COVID, reading whatever, you know, there’s obviously something in these emails that people are really wanting to connect with.

So when we look at this from a month by month perspective, what we see here, again, is exactly what we expect to see. We see big jumps around February and March and even in the summer. Those numbers continue to stay pretty high.

So something we’ve seen in other industries is that people can get email fatigue, you know, you’re really involved at first but then your attention kind of wanes, you do other stuff, you find other things that are really important to you and you read those emails, but higher ed groups don’t really see that. That’s something that they get right is that consistently, they are seeing these numbers stay high. And again, this is going to be crucial to whenever you test, those sorts of things, to make sure that you have that engagement high so that you can do a lot with it.

Okay, so improving click-through rates. If your numbers are a little bit closer to that 2 than to the 7, obviously, this is going to be a good place to start doing some testing and working out these benchmarks. So looking at these two examples we have here, so you can see on that left email that they…just skimming that email at a glance, especially something like this where obviously that text isn’t huge and it’s hard to see, it’s so much easier to see on that edited email with the colors and the buttons and the bold and the clear hierarchy, it’s so much easier for you to see the highlights.

You know, people, even today when people are sitting at their desk more, they’re not really commuting, people still only skim an email. They skim an email, see if it matters, see if it resonates, and then they move on. And so you want to make sure that your emails are really clear from the get go, what’s the most important thing, and that way, you’re being polite, right? You know that people are just skimming so you’re making that as easy on them as possible.

You’re not wasting their time, going to make them read through everything. You’re going to see much better results from it too, you know. For instance, these buttons are going to be way easier to click or tap than an inline text link. And that really draws the eye, draws the attention. It makes you want to click in a way that that inline text in the original email doesn’t. In the second email, you can see where that image is just a lot more interesting.

Something they’ve done here is they really shortened that image, right, which makes sense. The hem line of this t-shirt is only so interesting, right? If you’re skimming, if you’re in a rush, if you just, you know, that’s just not going to hold your attention. And even if you’re not in a rush, no one needs to see that. Instead, so cut it, crop it, done, it’s way better. And that leaves you more room for more important things.

Again, if people are…people are only going to scroll occasionally so you want to get the most important information to them as quickly as possible. So in the second email, that “Vintage Tees,” that button, they’re way higher, it’s much less wasted space, there’s not nearly as much copy. And now, they’ve also been able to include that your new segment and get people to that much faster which means that people are actually likely to pay attention and look at it, which is great, right?

That’s what you want. Okay, so click-to-open rate. Click-to-open rate can be a smidge confusing. So the difference between click-through rate and click-to-open rate is that a click-to-open rate is a measure of your emails clicked out of the people who opened your emails, right? Where the first click-through rate is out of the people who out of everyone who got your email, this is specifically the group who opened your emails, what did they do?

So we do see a higher number here, not that we’re used to. The average for all industries was 14.3. So again, another big jump here for higher ed groups. So people think often of these click-to-open rates as being a more accurate measure of how well your email is performing versus a click-through rate where we look more specifically at those…well, I’ll just skip that.

We’re running a little low on time so we’ll skip that one. This is more of a measure of how well your exact email is performing and getting people to ask versus a click-through rate, which is more, you know, how many people that you’re sending to are finding this valuable.

So a great way to improve click-to-open rates is to make sure that you’re sending content that your audience wants to receive. We’ve talked a little bit about, like, dynamic content, we’ve talked a little about making sure that you’re segmenting and personalizing emails so that people only get what matters, and this is a great example of that. So for example, you have that first email on the right that says, “You’ve got, you know, sports, you’ve got news,” but then on the left, you’ve seen where they’ve got two different versions of this email.

There’s one that’s all sports and one that is all news. And this is a great way that it doesn’t actually make you do a lot more work, right? You actually can just design this email one time and then add in some different like dynamic content which means, you know, oh, if a person is on this segment, they see this versus if they’re on this segment, they see that and you’ve created, like, a really hyper-personalized email here with not that much extra work, which is key.

All right, there’s only so many hours of the day, only so much you can do here. All right, so real quick, I’m just going to kind of blow through these. Open rates correlate with current events. We’ve seen that in the month-by-month breakdown. You cannot separate what’s going on in the world with how many people are reading your emails. So the important thing to know is as you look at your own numbers, as you look at them by month or however you want to look at them is that those are going to see…external events are going to have a major impact on what you see there.

Click-through rate saw a 70% spike this year. That’s absurd as we’ve seen it. Said goodbye to the usual summer lull, right? Normally, people disengage when they’re not going to class every day or when the majority of people aren’t going to class every day but this year, this summer, people stayed really invested in what was going on in their universities, their higher ed groups, even when they weren’t there. Universities were not intimidated by inbox competition, right?

Obviously universities deliver a lot of really important crucial information and so that email fatigue that we see for other industries wasn’t really relevant here. That is not an excuse to just keep doing business as usual but it is a great opportunity to make sure that you are sending the information that they need, that you’re putting your subscribers’ needs first, whether that’s making them easily skimmable so that you’re not taking more of their time or segmenting and creating new newsletters for your COVID-19 news, something like that, to make sure that you’re really treating your subscribers well.

Email is there for universities in tough times. People need email, especially today, when we see that there’s ongoing distrust of, like, social media and other connections and you’re not seeing people face to face, you’re not having events. Email is still a trusted channel because it is like connecting with someone directly. There’s nothing here, you know, there aren’t weird algorithms, all those rules around email because it’s been around a while, they’re known integers and they’re known for subscribers as well as for the people like us who are designing the emails.

So email is a great lifeline for us. Your goals are going to look a little different this year. It looked a little different in 2020, they will probably continue to look a little different in 2021. If you don’t continue to see 30%-60% open rates, that’s totally fine. Don’t panic. You know, the point of the benchmarks isn’t so to say you have to be hitting these numbers, it’s just to give you the concept of what is possible so that you know where you land and where to focus your efforts when you go to test and continue.

Okay, so I think we’ve got a couple of seconds, a couple of minutes left here for questions if there are any.

– Awesome, thank you, Grace. We do you have a few questions actually. The first one here is from Patti. She’s asking if you can be more specific about the types of higher ed emails these are. Are they open to current community, prospective students, current alumni, etc.?

– Yeah, so these are basically all higher ed emails. So we didn’t break them down by different departments at all. So it’s really they’re going to internal, external, they’re going to students, they’re going to families, and donors too. So it’s all of them.

– Perfect. And one more question here. You mentioned this briefly but this customer is asking, our click-to-open rates and click-through rates are a bit low compared to the averages that you put out in the higher ed benchmarks, what can we do to change this? What’s the secret sauce?

– Yeah, the secret sauce is, unfortunately, to just keep testing, right? There’s no, like, easy answer here unfortunately but what you can do is just continue to test. You know, what makes email powerful and what makes it so crucial for people like us is that you can constantly refine what you do, right?

So look back over your emails and find the ones that have done really well and find the ones that have not done well, right? I would take your best and your worst and compare. Did you have a different format? Is it a different subject matter? Is it a different design? Or is it one was in December when people were not going to pay attention and one was in March when people were worried about like, is my university going to close, am I doing online class, what?

So I would start there and look at your top and your worst performer and compare and see the differences. And there most likely will be differences there to see, you know, even if it’s like, oh, this segment, that segment, something like that. And you can do the same for click-to-open too.

– Yeah, and always best to keep in mind to stick to best practices. I know it’s, like, tempting to look for like the short-term wins or the short-term bump in metrics but it’s always important to stick to the best practices like you mentioned.

– Yeah, exactly.

– Cool. I think that’s it for the questions. So thank you so much again for your time and your presentation.

Closing remarks

Priya Shah • Emma

All right. So that wraps up our presentations for today. I hope all of you, like me, are feeling very inspired to implement some of these new ideas and strategies into your email marketing plan. In case you couldn’t tell, we really do love the higher education industry here at Emma, and our goal is to help you succeed, no matter what comes your way in 2021. And so that concludes our Day Two of EmmaU. But if you are looking for more higher education resources as you’re building up the rest of your email strategy, please visit myemma.com.

And lastly, we want to hear your feedback. So please click on the survey link in the chat and tell us what you enjoyed about this experience and what you want to see more of next time. Thanks again for joining us, and we wish you a happy and healthy 2021.


Caroline Matis • Emma

Hello everybody, and thank you so much for joining us on Day Two of EmmaU, the virtual email marketing event for higher education. I’m Caroline Matis, marketing manager here at Emma, and I will be your host guiding you through today’s events in the Alumni track. Speaking of, we have a ton of exciting things in store, and we’re so glad you’re here with us. But before we dive in, a few housekeeping reminders. If you have any questions that come up about your own email marketing program during the presentations, you can ask those in the question box, and our team will respond.

Also, we are recording the presentations, and we will send them via email following our event. Now, let’s go ahead and check out our agenda for today. First, we’re going to hear from Allie Bush from the Ole Miss Alumni Association. Next up, we’ll hear from Patrick Deming from Omatic, and finally, Logan Baird from Emma.

Getting to know your alumni's family tree

Allie Bush • Ole Miss

– [Caroline] First up, we have a presentation on email surveys and data by Allie Bush, graphic web designer at Ole Miss. Please join me in giving a warm and virtual welcome to Allie. Hello, Allie.

– [Allie] Hi. Thank you for having me. I’m Allie Bush. I work with Ole Miss Alumni Association. And today, we are going to talk about the importance of family and getting to know your alumni’s family tree. Everybody knows the importance of family and that family is important.

Your family’s thoughts and beliefs, they can and often do influence your values and decisions, and that can even impact you when you’re choosing a university. And so it also influences what team you cheer for, where your sentimentality lies, what campus you visit. And oftentimes, people will want to give back to their alma mater, where their family ties are.

And so what we’re wanting to do is see how you can tap into that and how it can help benefit the university and your alumni association. Oftentimes, people want to give back to future generations. We have a quote here from Archie Manning who is a Ole Miss alum.

And also like I’m talking about it, it also has to do with Eli Manning and Cooper Manning both went to Ole Miss, so that’s a family tie there. And so we want to know, like, how do we encourage future generations to consider the same school as their parents or grandchildren?

How do we target them specifically? How do we encourage the parents and grandparents to give back to the university? And we do that by, we get to know them. And we decided what we wanted to do was start an email campaign where we encouraged alumni to give us the names and the birth dates of their children or their grandchildren.

Basically, what the email campaign would do was it sends them to a form where they fill out their first name, last name, their member ID. With our alumni association, we use their member ID as their unique ID for each person. And we wanted that to be prepopulated in the form with the information from Emma so that we could have data accuracy and make sure that it was filled according to what we have in our database.

The data is later used by us, the alumni association, but it can also be used by admissions, and also development departments within the university. So we have a view here of our email. And this is the email that we created to send to all the alumni.

And if you look here, you can see a little button where we say Click Here To Tell Us More. And then we also have a link to our Alumni Scholarships. And we basically started the email by saying, you know, “We want to help grow your Ole Miss Legacy.” And so we want to know about, you know, “Tell us about your children.”

Tell us about your grandchildren because people love talking about their children and grandchildren. And we wanted to encourage them to tell us about them so that we would have this data in our database and knew how to connect people. This screen is kind of how we did the pre-population which I’ll show in the next slide.

But basically, how we set it up so that when they clicked the button that said Tell Us More, that they would be…to build the form, we used Formstack. And so when they click the button Tell Us more in the Emma email, it already filled in their first name, last name, and member ID.

And that’s helpful to us because not many of our alumni have their member ID memorized. So this is helpful because then we can connect them exactly with their member ID and have that accurate information. So Emma calls these PURLs or PURLs which is a personalized URL. And so the button that we use that said Tell Us More, we used a personalized URL to link that button so that when they clicked it, it went to the form and it filled it all out.

If you can see the link at the bottom here, you can see that the beginning, it says olemissalumni.formstack.com, and that’s the link to the form. And then the fields where you see like a percentage 20Membership ID, that’s the field within the form. And the part where Emma is targeted, you’ll see a bracket and a percentage mark.

And you see member:member _id, and then a default number. And basically, I don’t know if any of you have used personalization in your emails before where it would say, you know, “Hey Allie, become a member of our alumni association.” But basically, you can put that information in a URL as well so that you don’t have to remember, you know…okay, I know the format for Emma is a bracket and a percentage and then the field.

So that you don’t have to remember all of that, you could use what I have here, and act like you were going to put the personalization in an email which you would just go to the Insert button, Personalization, and then over to the left where I have First Name circled, then you would choose under first name…I mean you could use First Name or you would hit the button and then there’s a list of all your contact fields.

And so that would be the field that you’re going to do the personalization for. And then the placeholder is just like a default like if that information wasn’t in there, like, you didn’t have their name, you could put “Dear Friend.” And so basically, this is a shot of the form that we use. And as you can see, it populated my not-so-super-secret member ID which is not a big deal.

But there’s my alumni ID and my name. And this was prepopulated to the form from the Emma data, and then we asked them about their children and their grandchildren, and then they would put in the names and their birth date.

We sent the email to alumni age 40 to 49 first. We were just kind of wanting to segment that with different emails so that we got the data back differently. And then we sent to 60 to 69-year-olds. We had 150 total submissions, and that garnered 238 children and then 20 grandchildren that we were able to then put into our database that we didn’t already have.

How can this data be utilized? We use this to encourage…not only does it encourage people to give to the alumni association which then funds alumni scholarships, but it also encourages them to check out our Alumni Scholarships. Like, some people didn’t know that we had those.

And our admissions department will use that information to kind of target juniors and seniors. And they will use that information to kind of encourage them to take a campus visit or send emails directly to them and we know that their parents went there, you know, or their grandparents.

And it also helps our development department to know, kind of, the family tree of this family that, yes, their grandparents went here and their parents went here and their children might go here. And it kind of encourages them to…they want to give back to the university.

They want to, you know, show that they support the university. And so it helps in the development and giving as well. And then if we have…I think we have time for some questions, and if you have any questions.

– Yes, absolutely. Thank you so much. That was so wonderful, Allie. And I think that I can speak for everyone in when I say that we really gained a ton of inspiration for our own email strategies and from the team that worked at Ole Miss. And we do have a couple of questions, so if you just give me one second, I will fire it up. So first, “How has the pandemic impacted Ole Miss’ alumni engagement through email?”

– Oh, a ton. We’ve been very busy. You know, we had to make the shift from all of our events from being in person to virtual. And I mean, basically, digital marketing, and I’m reaching out to people through email and Zoom and all of those.

You know, it’s like that’s all you have. That’s the only way you can reach people now. And so we switched all of our events to virtual events. And you know, we had to send out marketing in emails to let people know about those events. And we found that people are more open to attending those events because you don’t have to really dress up for it.

And so we had a great response for some of our virtual events. We had a lot our deans talking and giving talks about things that they are doing within their departments and it went really well or it’s going well.

– That’s awesome. Yeah, we can relate over here at Emma on the virtual event as we sit here on a virtual event. So totally understand that one. So I have another question, “Are your alumni typically willing to provide additional data that you don’t have?”

– Yes. I mean, I do think there’s a line at which you’re like this is not information that is helpful for an alumni association to have. But I do think our alumni realize the value in having the children’s names and knowing their birth date just so that we know, okay, this child is this age so that we can know when they are more than likely graduating high school or things like that.

I don’t believe we would ask things about their children or grandchildren like interests because, of course, we know those change pretty quickly. And so really I think they would be open to share more information about themselves as adults, but no, we don’t ask a lot about children or grandchildren more than just name and birth date.

– Totally, I totally understand. And thank you for answering that. I think that that was all the time that we have for our Q & A, but I really wanted to thank you. We so appreciate you being here with us.

– Thank you so much for having me. It was fun.

– Absolutely.

Omatic email integration and alumni integration with Emma

Patrick Deming • Omatic

– [Female] Next up, we have a video presentation from Patrick Deming. He is the senior sales enablement engineer at Omatic. Founded in 2002, Omatic works with thousands of organizations globally to remove their data barriers by integrating systems and enabling teams to leverage their data rather than be burdened by it. Currently Omatic partners with Emma to power our Blackbaud CRM, Raiser’s Edge, and Raiser’s Edge NXT integrations for the higher ed industry.

Now, we’re excited to welcome their team to share how your institution can get the most out of these integrations. Now, over to you, Patrick.

– [Patrick] All right. Well, thank you, everybody. Good afternoon. And thank you all for joining us today, and welcome to EmmaU. My name is Pat Deming. And today we’re going to be talking about really the Omatic Email Integration and Alumni Engagement with Emma. So we’re going to take a look at maybe some of the do’s and don’ts with that, maybe some of the challenges that a lot of you and in the higher ed space are kind of facing today trying to figure out, “Okay. Now, that I have Emma, you know, how do I make the best use of it? How can I have really successful email campaigns and solicitations as we head into and make way into this new year?”

I’d like to start off today with a quick demonstration, really, by comparing this image to your college, or your university, or your school, and how your alumni play a pivotal role. So go with me just for a second on this. So what we see here are a couple of scuba divers, and it looks like they’re going to be cleaning up some trash here either at the bottom of the ocean or maybe even the bottom of a lake.

Now, that’s going to be the initial cause. The cause is the litter, and we need to be able to clean that up. The cleanup process is the overall mission. So now that we have the litter at the bottom of the lake or the ocean kind of polluting that, we need to be able to clean that up.

And this is going to be done by the do-ers. Now, you yourself joining us today, you guys are the do-ers. The ones who are going to be utilizing the Emma platform trying to figure out how to maybe segment out your market and to have the best, you know, solicitations in the campaigns. How to get the best bang for your dollar so that you can raise more money increase, maybe your endowment scholarship type of funds.

But you’re probably thinking, “Okay. What does this picture have to do with anything?” Well, basically, looking at this picture, the most important thing that doesn’t really stand out, but is very, very critical is the oxygen. The oxygen as it relates to this picture is going to be your alumni. Without your alumni, there is no fundraising.

So they play a critical role on not only how successful or not successful your fundraising is, but they also play a critical role into how you’re segmenting your markets, how you’re keeping your data clean. Really tracking that full lifecycle, so that by the time you send that message, it can be as powerful as possible.

So those are some of the concepts that we’re going to take a look at today. So we’re going to be talking a little bit about, you know, the email preferences and why they are so critical to your overall mission and to your segmentation kind of philosophy in your management there. Quite honestly, it should be integrated within your system of record. And we’ll talk about why that is. And then also vice versa. Not only should it be integrated with your main CRM, but it’s also be integrated there with your Emma platform.

Now, your alumni experience can be stunted by inaccurate or incomplete data. What do I mean by that? Well, it’s no known secret that siloed data can really be the root of all evil, especially with kind of in the space that you’re in. Because, you know, every college and university or school is made up of all these different offices, every office has their own maybe CRM platform that they’re using.

And so data becomes very siloed. Well, when the left hand and the right hand don’t work together, that’s when you have all of these incomplete pictures. And the same holds true with kind of the space that you’re in when you have, you know, your admissions team collecting information in their own platform. And then your advancement team doesn’t have all of the information they need.

It just becomes this snowball effect so that by the time it reaches your marketing team and Emma, you kind of have a disjointed, incomplete picture and your solicitations aren’t as powerful as they could be. And still inaccurate or incomplete data directly impacts donor acquisition and retention. So we’ll certainly dive into, you know, really what that means because quite honestly if you’re just sending out generic messaging to all of your alumni, this can actually have negative effects.

It can do the opposite of what the message that you sent intended to do, and we’ll talk about why that is. Now, before we get going, I just want to take a few minutes to introduce myself as well as Omatic. So my name is Pat Deming. I am a senior sales enablement engineer or solutions engineer. I’m the head of many titles, I guess, here at Omatic.

I’ve been with the organization almost two years now. Did come from the world of Blackbaud. Certainly, bring with me plenty of Raiser’s Edge experience. I actually worked in the education space there at Blackbaud. So I’ve seen firsthand a lot of the challenges that schools and universities face. So very, very excited to be talking with each and every one of you today.

If you are new to the Omatic world or have never heard of us before, not a problem. So we have been around for quite some time now. We’ve been in operation since 2002. So just about 19 years now. We are Blackbaud’s oldest and largest technology partner. And we were actually founded by a Blackbaud developer who were just…you know, basically was seeking out a better way to integrate all of the various systems that nonprofits use, so that you have that main centralized database of Raiser’s Edge with clean, accurate, complete data.

We are growing very, very rapidly as a whole. We’re up to over 90 team members now. Those team members range anywhere from people like myself, and sales enablement, or sales team, product developers and service as well. So we certainly are, you know, made up a very innovative and compassionate people that really strive to see the success of our organizations, and the people that you serve.

And we’re made up of about 3000 worldwide clients now. So again, just kind of growing at a very rapid rate. Our mission, very simple. You know, we’re looking to empower your organization to deliver the right message at the right time, to the right supporter, by connecting all of the valuable data you have to really be able to strengthen those relationships and achieve your goals.

So it’s sending, you know, the right message to the right people at the right time, is really what we’re going to focus on today and how we do that. So you’re probably thinking, “Well, Pat, you know, why is this so important? Like why is, you know, Alumni Engagement and Segmentation like, why is that so important?” Well, the statistics definitely don’t lie.

So according to a latest research here, 86% of consumers say that personalization plays a role in their purchasing decision making. So let’s stop and think about that. And then I can…you know, a test and probably everybody that’s joining us today has at least made one purchase online, probably over the past few months, especially since we just came through the holiday season.

You know, we’re all guilty of purchasing things online because of the ease and the convenience of it. But what leads us to these websites? Is it email solicitations that we get from them? Is it coupon codes that we send to them? And what keeps us as repeat customers? You know, after we make a purchase, what happens? Normally, we get, you know, the, “Thank you for your purchase,” and we get all the confirmation to let us know that our purchase is on the way.

But typically, what happens is just a couple of weeks after we start getting coupons. We start getting a, “Hey, get ready for our spring lineup.” or, “Hey, did you notice that we’ve made some recent changes?” or, “‘Pricing is dropped?” Well, your alumni are no different. Not only do they expect personalization and those type of messaging, but it can really play into effect on whether or not somebody actually makes a donation or not.

So this really kind of boils down to, you know, why we’re here today. And we can kind of comprise this of what I call the five W’s of email marketing. So as you have now been invested in the Emma platform or getting ready to, well then becomes the challenge of, who should I email?

What should I be sending them? Where should I send the recipient of the email? So where am I…you know, what am I directing them to? What action am I looking to get from it? When should I be emailing? And why should I email? Why is this important?

Now, there’s some challenges when it comes to email marketing. It’s definitely a trick of the trade there. So it takes some, you know, some customization. It takes some thinking outside of the box. It takes some creativity to be able to gain attention and capture your audience and then ultimately, get them to do what you’re seeking them to do whether it be make a donation, subscribe to something, attend an alumni event, you know, whatever that may be.

But there’s challenges with that. So the first challenge is just capturing all of your email preferences. You know, you’re using Emma, you’re using Raiser’s Edge and probably thousands… or not thousands but probably many other systems inside of your school, and you have data that lives all over the place.

So then, the challenge becomes, “Well, I just have email preferences that are coming in from really every corner of the organization.” And this goes back to, again, the challenges of having siloed data and not a centralized area to where I can easily track that. When you have email preferences that live all over the place, well, then you have start to have challenges amongst your team that you’re working in.

Do you have confidence in the data that you’re looking at? Do you know if it’s up to date? And if it’s not, why? Why is it not up to date? Or when was the last time you actually did some data cleanup or made some updates to that? And that simply leads to just the wrong messaging getting sent to the wrong person at the wrong time. Supporters can be unsubscribing via Emma, but it may not be making its way back to Raiser’s Edge if that’s your CRM, or even vice versa.

You have people that are unsubscribed and Raiser’s Edge but if you don’t have that track in Emma, and again, you’re just sending out messages to, again, the wrong people that asked to maybe not be solicited to or maybe you have them unsubscribed, and they do want to receive messaging from you. And overall, that really causes some lower online retention.

And quite honestly, just missed opportunities, because having data all over the place and siloed areas, can definitely cause disjointed messaging amongst, you know, being able to use the Emma platform for what you’ve invested in and afford. But it’s also creating some, you know, lack of competence on not only which data should you use, but which is the most current.

Well, there’s a solution for that. There’s definitely a fix for that. So, you know, if you’re using Raiser’s Edge, or whatever your CRM platform is today, I definitely strongly recommend of keeping all of your preferences and contact information up to date with it. If you’re tracking unsubscribe and subscribe, you know, solicitations with Emma, bring that data into Raiser’s Edge, make sure all of your records are up to date and vice versa.

If somebody fills out maybe an event card and they’ve asked to receive type of a notifications, email, solicitations from you, make sure that data is also being tracked in Emma. And then obviously, there should be a repeatable process. This is not something that you just do once. It’s just making sure that you kind of have a timeline laid out of when your updates should happen, and just make it repeatable.

The next challenge becomes really, who should I be emailing? Should I be sending out to everybody? Or how should I segment out my alumni? So just being able to really focus on those targeted emails to different types of segmentation groups. Now, this really boils down to, you know, inside of your CRM, what are you tracking?

Are you missing data that you wish you had or do you just have maybe an overload of data, but you’re not really sure what to focus on? So it’s being able to track, you know, the history of your students, and, you know, everything that they were actively involved with…at the time that they were students from the time that they become a graduates?

What type of interest did they have? What type of behaviors? Were they involved in athletics? What type of extracurriculars were they actively engaged in? So really, the more information that you have, the better off solicitation and the segmentation that you can provide. But if you don’t have that, if you’re not tracking that, well, where are you tracking at?

Are you relying on your marketing team to try to focus on that data inside of Emma? Are they working out of maybe Excel documents to be able to create these segmentations in Emma? You know, what is your kind of overall process today? You know, what tweaks can you make to make it better? Well, are you finding yourself now to where your email activity and your engagement? So when you do send out your solicitations through Emma, are you tracking all of that data back?

And if not, where does that data actually live? And if you’re not tracking in Raiser’s Edge, well, now not only do you have kind of that disjointed siloed piece of information but now you have records of information that…I’m sorry, records in Raiser’s Edge that you’re really missing critical pieces that you should be using Emma for, and you’re capturing email activity.

You’re capturing people who subscribe and unsubscribe. But it’s going to be very, very important that you’re also bringing that data and tracking it into Raiser’s Edge so that you can report on it and use it later. So whether you’re tracking that as like attributes or solicitation codes, it’s going to be important that you track it to fields, then you can actually use and report on later on. If you’re not, really this creates the challenge of just everything that you’ve been doing, all the work that you’ve put into your solicitations, you can’t report on it.

You can’t track on it. You can’t really see how successful that it was or how unsuccessful that it was so that you don’t repeat that same process. Well, again, there is a solution to this. And it’s being able to use your main system of record, Raiser’s Edge or whatever CRM that you’re using today, to be able to track all of those interests along the way.

You know, a big challenge that I always solve working with schools is that, you know, you have your admissions team that is tracking all of your student-parent data. And either they send the information upfront to their advancement team when that student first enrolls, which is fantastic. If you’re not doing that today, that’s something I certainly recommend. And the reason why I recommend that is that on the opposite side if you wait to a student becomes alumni, and then send that information over to your advancement team, well, the biggest challenge that I always heard all the time was that, “Hey, that’s great. I’ve got all the student-parent data. But man, I wish I had X, Y, and Z. I wish I knew if they were, you know, involved in this particular group. If they were in this fraternity or sorority.”

There’s always kind of that giant missing piece of the puzzle that the advancement team wishes they had. And if they had it, that’s where those segmentations can become even more powerful. So just kind of a tip or trick that I would recommend is that the minute the best student enrolls and says, “Yes, I’m coming to your school.” go ahead and send that information over to your advancement team so they can get that record created.

So that now the advancement team is responsible for tracking all the information that they wish they had, well, now they can. So now Emma becomes even more powerful of a solution. Because you can create better segmentations, you can create better groupings, and your messaging becomes less disjointed and more powerful, because it all goes back to, again, sending the right messaging to the right people at the right time.

And you’re not wasting time, money, efforts of just sending out one message to absolutely everybody. Now, as I said, there can be some negative effects to sideload data and disjointed data or negative effects of just missing information that your advancement team or your marketing team wishes they had.

So I want to take you on just kind of a basic or a typical as a supporter journey. So you know, as it relates to I have here maybe somebody just initially making their first donation or this could be somebody enrolling in the university and becoming, you know, a first-time student. So something has triggered them to now potentially have a record in Raiser’s Edge.

So we’re going to send that data over. We usually do that maybe by a monthly extract, or if you wait to the person becomes a graduate, you’re doing it once every, you know, at the end of every year, so maybe just once a year. And then, the people on the advancement side, you’re saying, “Okay. Well, that’s great to have this information. But again, I’m missing critical pieces that I wish I had. So the only thing that I can do is send out that generic e-newsletter. Hoping that maybe I can gain some interest. Or if I’m looking to gain additional fundraisers or if I’m looking to fund a particular project that I have going on on campus. The best that I can do is work with the data that I have. And if I don’t have enough data, that’s when generic messaging goes out.”

What does that look like in real-time? Or what does that look like in the real world? Well, if I myself, you know, was a student for four years, and I was actively engaged in, you know, maybe some extracurriculars, and maybe I was also an athlete, but you don’t have that information on my record, and now you’re looking to maybe fund a new athletic facility or looking for donations to lay down.

Maybe a new football field or whatever that may be. Wouldn’t it be great if you knew who all of your football players were or maybe who all of your alumni group from a particular date range may be or who was actively involved in this particular program, or whatever that may be.

So that you can focus on that particular group to help fund that project and you’re not just sending out a blanket messaging for everybody hoping for the best. So how do we achieve that? Well, it’s the reason why we’re here today because you’ve invested or about to invest in Emma for that particular reason. To be able to create segmentations so that you can trigger some effects.

So that now when I send that data over into Raiser’s Edge, we bridge that gap between the two. We can create things like welcome series. We can create different types of segmentation projects, so that when somebody subscribes to something, that triggers the next event. When they maybe make a donation, that triggers the next event.

And you’re creating the supporter journey. You’re creating this lifecycle of somebody that came to your university now makes a first donation, and you can see all of the events that actually led up to that donation along the way. And the reason for that, and the reason why that’s important is so that you can repeat that whatever events led up to somebody making a donation, use that same process across your other types of segmentations.

And that’s how you create, you know, positive segmentations, you create successful segmentations. And you start to see your ROI come back. You start to see that the amount of time, and money, and efforts that you’re putting into creating these targets, where you’re achieving your goals because, again, you’re sending the right message to the right people.

So what is the difference between those two different types of journeys? It’s all about integration. It’s all about connecting the moving pieces together, bridging those gaps. You need to be very strategic with your data. And you can never have enough. The more data that you have on all of your students from the time they enroll, to the time they graduate, the more, the better.

You know, collect as much as you can. And that’s why I said, it’s a good, best practice to go ahead and, you know, go and create that record when they become brand new students so that you can track their full lifecycle. And by the time they graduate…I’m sorry, by the time they graduate, and that first messaging goes out, it’s creating a positive effect. Because that students can receive that message and say, “Hey, this person knows who I am. This university remembers me.”

And you’re not missing critical pieces that could send the opposite of effect of, “Hey, they’re asking me to donate to this particular project. But I was never even involved in that program. Do they even remember me? I just…I came to school there for four years and paid X amount of dollars in tuition. I kind of wish they knew who I was, or I would hope to think they would know who I was.” So it’s going to be important to have that automation and bi-directional control to be able to pull data into Raiser’s Edge and push it back into Emma so that you can create those positive segmentations and you can track the results in Raiser’s Edge.

You’re going to be able to use the data collected along the way to determine how successful something was, how unsuccessful something was. And you can make the tweaks and changes along the way. And as I said, information is imperative. So it’s being able to collect as much data as you can on all of your students so that you can see their full journey through your university, through your school, so that you can send the right people the right message.

Everybody has a story to tell. But it’s up to you to connect the dots and collect as much data so that you can see that story. You can have further enhance that relationship because you know who your alumni actually are. Combining student data, gift data, and interest in offline engagement with online characteristics and behaviors, that’s really what creates that deeper understanding of who your alumni actually are.

You can capture their interest by your solicitations that go out, what are they subscribing to? What are they unsubscribing to? Why did they make a donation? You know, what are the events that led up to it? So again, so that you can repeat that. And then again, it just all comes down to using Raiser’s Edge for what you’ve invested it in and for, your CRM.

And using Emma for what you’ve invested it in and for. It’s sending out the right communication to the right people at the right time. And you’re not just sending out generic messaging, really doing the opposite effect of what you’ve intended to do. Now, it creates real-life results. So you know, with this comes improved donor alumni acquisition rates.

You’re going to have further enhanced relationships. You’re going to have better retention rates because again, you’re leveraging Emma for what you’ve invested it for. You’re leveraging your Raiser’s Edge or your CRM, and all of the data that you’ve collected along the way. And you just continue the cycle of success, of collecting more data, creating segmentations in Emma, collecting more data, creating segmentations.

And you’re just being able to bridge all of the offices together from your enrollment and your admissions, all the way to your advancement now to your marketing team. And your…those are, you know, all of those kinds of data points go into really creating a positive and improved campaign effectiveness. So if you haven’t seen success in the past, you definitely will start to see it going forward.

Because you have the right pieces in place with the technology, now it’s just being able to bridge that gap between the two. And that’s really where the Omatic partnership comes into play. It’s providing that integration piece so that you can focus more on using the data. You can focus more on collecting the data, and less time is being spent of having to manually enter it.

Manually clean it up. That’s where we come into play. We can connect the dots, keep the data clean. But we’re putting time back in your day, which is never a bad thing, to focus more on creating those successful campaigns, and tracking the data that comes with it. And this all comes down to the most important thing out of everything. And that’s going to be delivering that awesome supporter experience.

Building those stronger relationships with your alumni. It’s letting them know that, “Hey, I know who you are. I know everything that you’ve been involved with. We appreciate your time as a student. And now it’s time that, you know, hopefully, with our right messaging, and everything that goes out, we can earn your donation. Because, you know, maybe everything that you were passionate about, you also want to see others to have success with as well.”

You’re going to be able to gain trust, you’re going to prevent that over communication, as well as under communication. And then, you’re simply treating your alumni with dignity. You know who they are, because of all the data that you’ve collected along the way. I cannot stress enough how important that is. Being good stewards of your data is the least that you can do. Making sure that all of your data is clean, making sure that it’s complete, that your names are spelled correctly, addresses are up to date, your salutations are correct.

Something as small as that can actually create a negative effect to your potential alumni and potential donors. And I’ll kind of leave you with just a quick story here of why that’s important. I myself over the past couple years have made multiple donations and actually volunteered time to a particular nonprofit.

Over the last year, I happened to make another donation online, and not even thinking about it, I entered my name as Pat Deming. Well, when I got my thank you email, and a thank you letter, it was addressed to Miss Pat Deming. Well, I think we can all clearly see today on the video I am a male.

I’m not married and I seriously doubt that making a donation guaranteed a free wife or a free gift. So I’m not really sure how the salutation came from, how it got added to my, you know, record or where it was kept. But that’s being a bad steward of data. What happened was when I got that, I’m thinking, “Okay.

I have donated, you know, often in the past. I have volunteered time, and you have no idea who I am. You don’t have the technology in place or you’re not utilizing the technology that you have. And now you just sent me a general, ‘Thank you for your first donation.'” That kind of put a sour taste in my mouth.

And I haven’t made a donation since and honestly, probably won’t. No matter what you’re always going to be in competition for donor dollars, even with your alumni, you know. Even though your alumni spent time at your university, there’s other things they are going to be passionate about from other nonprofits. The least that you can do is be good stewards of the data that you collect.

But collect as much as you can, so that you have a more impact with the messaging that you actually send. So I’ll leave you with this. And kind of everything that we’ve talked about today is just data that’s going to be maintained in your main CRM, whether that be Raiser’s Edge or something else, and your email marketing system should support each other.

You can’t have one without the other. You can’t have successful messaging without the correct data. You can’t have correct data without being able to track, you know, all of your email preferences and things like that from Emma as well. Your integration of email marketing and CRM-based data, that’s certainly going to enhance your alumni experience. Again, it goes back to using Raiser’s Edge for what you’ve invested in and afford, and leveraging the power of Emma to create those positive impacts, and create those positive stories that you can now start to import back in.

And data centralization is extremely imperative to overall success. Having siloed data is really, again, kind of goes back to the root of all evil. When you have data that lives all over the place, it creates just this disjointed effect, not only within your organization and your university, but it creates a disjointed effect when the messaging goes out.

Well, I certainly appreciate everybody’s time today. Thank you for your attendance. I hope you see continued success as we head and make way into this new year. If you’d like to be in…or if…I’m sorry. If you’re interested in learning more about kind of how the Omatic partnership or what we can do to help bridge those gaps, certainly reach out to us at [email protected] or if you want to check out our website, it’s just simply omaticsoftware.com.

Certainly happy to answer any questions that you may have. Certainly send them our way. But I certainly appreciate everybody’s time, and you all enjoy the rest of EmmaU.

Making the most of your list: Alumni

Logan Baird • Emma

– [Caroline] Now, for our third and our final presentation of the day, I am super excited to introduce Logan Baird. He is the Director of Professional Services at Emma, and he will be covering everything that you need to know about segmentation and making the most of your email list. Logan, my friend, the floor is yours.

– [Logan] Well, thank you so much, Caroline, and welcome gentles to making the most of your list for alumni relations departments, whether you are spending your days planning events, sharing post grad achievements, communicating with local chapters, if your goal is to build and maintain long-term relationships with alumni, you’re assuredly in the right place.

As Caroline mentioned, I’m Logan Baird, I am the Director of Professional Services for Emma, and my team works with a large number of universities and alumni departments just like yours to do the very sort of work that we’ll be talking about today, whether that’s helping train your team up, strategizing, or doing hands-on implementation, our professional services team is here to help. Today, we will be covering multiple levels of, taking a look at multiple levels of email expertise and list segmentation, we like to have something for everyone.

So, whether you’re just getting started with email marketing, perhaps you inherited this role or just came into it, or if you are looking for what the next steps might be to take, we want to always give you something to build on, something to aspire to. But we will begin by taking a look at the importance of segmentation, certainly something that Patrick referenced a good number of times in his presentation which is very helpful, but also giving you all a place to start.

Then, moving on to ways that you can build on that foundation through adding additional data points, and then, iterating and testing to understand what works best and what you would like to keep doing. So, very much in the spirit of what we’re talking about today, we would like to kick things off with some relevant data.

So, at the end of last year, we took a look at hundreds of millions of emails sent from Emma and other CM Group brands during 2019 and 2020, and higher ed usually sees pretty impressive metrics from their email marketing programs. But you can see that there was an even bigger increase there in 2020.

Now, that’s not entirely surprising. We, I think, are all familiar with like the huge pivot that so many universities and colleges had to make in light of COVID-19 and had to rely more and more on digital communications and email marketing more than ever.

So, that’s not a surprise, but it is something that we can really build off of. Now, I’ll say comparatively, the average stats for industries overall, average open rate for the industry overall is 17.8%, average click-through rates 2.6%, and average click-to-open rate is 14.3%. So, universities and higher-education institutions such as the ones that you work for are definitely starting at an advantage with that higher rate of engagement.

Of course, more email communication overall certainly means more to compete with in the inbox, it is harder to stand out. Chadwick Martin Bailey study had indicated that 56% of people unsubscribe from emails due to content that’s no longer relevant to them, and if any of you have been part of a group conversation that did not concern you, you can understand that urge to unsubscribe from that experience.

So, the question being like if the volume of emails has gone up and we know that people unsubscribe when things are not relevant for them, how do we stay relevant, how do we stay top of mind, how do we stay valuable to your alumni subscribers? Now, perhaps unsurprisingly, given the day and what we’re talking about, we’re going to say that the key to that is segmentation.

And also so that we don’t fall into the trap of using a word over and over that maybe not everybody is intimately familiar with and sounds kind of technical, just to kind of break that down, segmentation is simply taking your overall email list and dividing it into sections, or segments, according to certain criteria, certain sets of data.

Now, that’s a technical explanation, but the very personal reason why that is important is just that we want people to feel known, we want people to feel seen. Patrick touched on that idea at the end of his presentation, talking about his experience there. Segmentation is a very technical term, but it reflects a need for a very human experience of feeling seen and known.

An example that I like to use sometimes is like if you’re throwing a large dinner party and you have a number of people with different needs for food and beverages, you can walk into the middle of the room and you can shout all of the relevant information at the group and hope that everybody is paying attention, or you can move from group to group and talk to the vegetarians about the vegetarian options, you can talk to the people doing Dry January about the sodas and tea situation, and you are much more likely to get their attention and for them to feel seen.

So, email marketing, in some base level, is a competition for attention. So, it’s trying to make sure that we are presenting information to people in ways that connect with them. So, in that sense too, segmentation can be an actual like act of care and of humanization and to show them that they’re more than just a name and an email address.

And so, that will be something we touch on time and again. It’s like bringing it back to this very human level for sometimes what seem like very technical subjects. So, to start with segmentation, if this is kind of new to you and to thinking about it, we’re going to start with thinking about, like, what do you already know about your subscribers? And then maybe simple things that you take for granted because we, you live in that world and you think about that kind of thing all the time, so you don’t maybe see it as being particularly relevant or impactful.

But for instance in using like the data that you already have, you most likely already have their graduating class, their major, those are two really easy ways to start segmenting if you have not done that before, and use them to start creating your first segments. We’ve got a good example of this here with The Association of Former Students at Texas A&M. They segmented their list by graduating class to to announce open offices for the class of 2022, and of course, that allows them to send personalized news and events segmented by graduation year, something that just feels a little bit more relevant and it calls back to like that point of connection that your alumni subscribers might have.

But they also, I think, did a really smart thing here too in that they used this as sort of an, like a way of connecting to existing students before they became alumni. And then, that allows them to sort of introduce that relationship early on that they’ll be hearing– they can expect to hear from you kind of moving forward.

With email marketing too, one of the key factors is to have transparency and clear expectations, set clear expectations of what they can expect to hear from you around. So, it’s a great way to segment in that sense. And then, of course, to continue to reach out to older graduating classes with personalized events, news which of course they’re much more likely to engage with than a one-size-fits-all alumni newsletter that they have to sort of scroll way down to find themselves in.

So, if you, moving along here, if you’ve used your existing data to create those initial segments, the next step that we want to take is to build on those segments by additional data points. And most likely, these things might be things that we need to ask for from the alumni subscribers, or it might be a great time to leverage any third-party integrations that you have, like Omatic, to be able to kind of pull in some more of this information.

As you have created the initial segments and you’re thinking about what additional data points to add, it really is a great time to step back and consider a little bit about how your subscribers are three-dimensional people with full lives, that they have a lot that they are likely involved in.

But also like all those other ways, as some of which Patrick mentioned, like, they may have been involved with school organizations, what’s their volunteer history like, what are other ways that they have found meaningful connection with the university and their university experience?

And so, how can we use that knowledge respectfully to make the messaging even more relevant? So, one fairly straightforward way of doing that that we’ll want to take a look at is geographical location. So, people graduate, they scatter to the four winds, and settle themselves, and often times might find themselves in places with other alumni.

I went to a college in Abilene, I moved to Nashville, and have a surprisingly large number of alumni here of which I’m aware. So, something that you will of course want to work to maintain is to have current contact information, to create segments based on current location, to vary your messaging a bit, taking the extra time and effort to personalize it geographically so that, again, people feel seen, and that also makes it a lot easier to create like event invites and like organize volunteer opportunities as well.

Moving back here, one. So, something that University of Central Florida here did was they sent out a call for volunteer leaders in Palm Beach. Now, of course, if I was very into volunteering and had gone to the University of Central Florida but I did not live in Palm Beach and I received an email asking for volunteer leaders in Palm Beach, I would feel sad. I’d feel sad that I couldn’t volunteer there because I don’t live anywhere near.

And so, since we’re wanting to avoid that kind of experience, and sadness is not the emotional response we’re wanting to evoke with our subscribers, that… being able to segment geographically is a way to stay current and relevant for them. And then, touching on this as well, the, again, A&M’s Former Student Association did a great job of segmenting by alumni chapter.

Now, this is something you can do, at Emma you can segment using contact data fields, or if you make use of our HQ tiered account system, you can also create individual child accounts for each franchise chapter and kind of keep the data nicely separated, but not siloed, that way to make sure that we’re always sending the most relevant work.

So, we’ve gotten comfortable with creating segments, you’re requesting and using data, leveraging those third-party integrations where you can to make sure that you’re staying relevant, and from there, it’s like how do we iterate from here? What are some other additional steps we could take based off of these initial segments that we’ve created, and what are some good ways to think about testing as well, because testing is the only way that we know for sure that what we’re doing is successful?

So, we’ll take a look at that. Again, the next step here really is to start combining those data points, right? It’s to, like, take a look at not only graduating class, but also graduating class and college or school that they graduated from, degree program, or it’s combining degree program and location, it is mixing and matching a bit to be able to see, like what might be the way that they connect most with it.

I mean, alumni, like at the core, they’re a group of people who have had a shared experience, and they feel connected to that, and one of the roles of the alumni kind of associations is to find what are the particular aspects, the particular factors of that that they feel most connected to, and how do we provide them with relevant info that speaks most to those places they feel most connected, again, coming back to that idea of feeling known.

So, this is an example our team created with our fictitious university, North State, but you could combine the data points of, like, educational program and geographic location. So, nursing students in Nashville could find specific events to them in their area. Or another idea that we’ve seen work really nicely is you’re looking for new alumni ambassadors.

You can create a segment for a particular range of graduating classes, and then, also volunteer history or participation and something like a mentor network. People who have already been very engaged and have shown themselves to be active and they find fulfillment in being active in other ways.

And so, using them to start creating the kind of nuclei of strong alumni chapters in different cities and different geographies. So, the next step of course is to test, right? It’s to see what are we doing and how are we working. And testing is another topic that can feel a little technical and can feel a little confusing at times as kind of where to start.

My advice, and our advice kind of as an organization, is to test, not constantly, but frequently. Think of testing as a program that you’re setting up and not a one-off, something you want to kind of go back to, and test incrementally. It is an understandable urge, one that I feel myself from time to time to want to test and then change a whole bunch of factors, and then, test again.

But you really lose out on being able to pinpoint what are the most effective ways of changing it. So, if you’re changing up not only your segment, but also like your content and also your calls-to-action all at once, that can be a lot, and it will be difficult for you to tell what was effective.

So, certainly, it’s like breaking it down to like just one or two factors at a time. If you’ve tried combining geography and school and you’re not finding a lot of resonance there, then maybe try geography and graduating class, maybe people feel more connected to the people that they graduated with than they identify with their school or degree program that they came from. That would be certainly something we’d recommend, is just taking it in small doses so that you can identify what is most effective.

Another great idea would be to allow them the opportunity to self-select. With Emma Subscriptions Center, or with manage preference forms, you can set up, people can either choose what sorts of communications they might want to receive. And I can’t overemphasize the importance of autonomy in email marketing, is giving people choice and giving them the options to choose how they hear back from you can go a long way towards building what may be a life-long relationship.

You all are in the enviable position of potentially working with email subscribers that might last the rest of their lives. So doing everything you can to offer them the things that are great for any healthy relationship, autonomy, to give them a voice, to listen and reflect back what’s relevant. And so, testing these things, segmenting in these ways, these are all ways we can respect those values and to make sure that the folks that you are emailing are feeling seen, feeling heard, and feeling connected to the work that you are doing.

And now, I believe we have a little time for some Q&A.

– We absolutely do. Thank you so much, Logan. That was fabulous.

– Well, welcome back, Caroline.

– Thank you. Okay. First question. It is from Alex, “What’s the best way to ask for data you don’t have about your alumni?”

– That’s a great question. I would say that framing it in an email to them saying, “How would you like to hear from us?” Right? Or, “We would love to send you information that’s more pertinent to your interests,” right? Framing it is an active listening exercise and reaching out to them to allow them to, again, self-select in kind of how would they like to hear from you.

I think that’s probably the most effective way that we’ve seen, for sure.

– Awesome. Thank you for that. So, our next question is from Carol, and she says, “We’ve seen an increase in open rates in 2020 like your report shows. How do we keep this momentum going?”

– Sure, absolutely. So, you’ve already kind of gotten their attention, right, like just through sheer necessity in this time of the pandemic. The way to keep their attention is to allow, I would say not only just the types of information that they hear from you, if you have the option of allowing them to choose between cadences as well, giving them the opportunity to choose how often they hear from you, that can also go a long way because as we see kind of across industries people are receiving so much email.

And so, that can also be this act of care that can help you stand out as one of the people sending to them is saying like, “We understand that you may feel overwhelmed that there’s so much information that is being sent, how often would you like to hear from us?” And it might be more often than you imagine.

– Absolutely. I guess it doesn’t hurt to ask, right?

– I think incremental and enthusiastic can turn to something we strive for in email marketing across the board.

– Absolutely. Okay. We have time for one more question, and it’s from Kim. “Our open rates are high, but our click-through rates are low. Any advice on improving the click-through rates?”

– Sure. I mean, I think I would take a look at calls-to-action, take a look at how you’re breaking up your content. It means that you have a trusted enough relationship with them for them to continue to open from you, which is great, but it also means that perhaps the things that you’re asking them to do in the email are not connecting with them.

So, one of the first ways I would think of, and one of the things that often gets neglected I think is calls-to-action, we can sometimes default to very generic calls-to-action. I find that using very specific language, if email is, marketing in some ways is an exercise in setting those kind of transparent, clear expectations. If we can be very transparent and clear about what they are getting into when they’re clicking and what we’re asking of them, that would be one of the first changes that I would make.

– Awesome. Well, thank you so much, Logan. We really appreciate you being here today.

– Thank you so much. Have a great day, everyone.

Closing remarks

Caroline Matis • Emma

hope you all, like me, are feeling super inspired to implement some new ideas in your strategy and in your email marketing plan. But in case you couldn’t’ tell, we really love the higher education industry at Emma, and our goal is to help you succeed, no matter what comes your way this year. So this does conclude our Day Two of EmmaU. But if you’re looking for more education resources as you’re building out the rest of your strategy, visit myemma.com.

Lastly, we want to hear your feedback. Click on the survey link in the chat, and please tell us what you enjoyed about this experience and what you would like to see next time. Thank you, again, so much for joining us. We wish you the happiest and healthiest 2021 imaginable. Thank you so much.


Carly Kendrick • Emma

Hello everyone, and thanks for joining us for Day Two of EmmaU, the virtual email marketing event for higher education. I’m Carly Kendrick, business development representative working exclusively within the higher ed space here at Emma. I’ll be your host guiding you through today’s events in the Advancement track. Speaking of, we’ve got a lot of exciting things in store, and we’re so glad you’re here with us. Just a few housekeeping reminders, if you have any questions come up about your own email marketing program during the presentation, ask those in the question box, and our team will respond.

Also, we are recording all of the presentations, and we’ll send them via email as they are available following the event. As for today’s agenda, first, we’ll start with a Case Study from The University of Central Florida, have a presentation with our new partners at Omatic, and finally, our very own Lane will take it home with Making the most of your list for advancement.

Case study: The University of Central Florida

Kelsey Moscater, Stephanie Odierno • University of Central Florida

– [Carly] So first up, our presentation on Automation Data and The Evertrue Integration by Kelsey Moscater, Assistant Director of Communications and Stephanie Odierno, Senior Associate Director of Annual Giving at the University of Central Florida. Please join me in giving a virtual yet warm welcome to Stephanie.

– [Stephanie] Thank you so much, Carly. Kelsey and I are so excited to be here and talking to our colleagues across the advancements space in higher ed. So Kelsey and I are really big fans of Mrs. Maisel and we just couldn’t help ourselves today. We decided to name our presentation Advancement powered by Emma, AKA “The Marvelous Mrs. Emma.”

I will start by talking a little bit about the University of Central Florida so the people on the call can get to know us a little bit better.

What you may not know about UCF is we are one of the largest public institutions in the nation and we are the largest in the state of Florida. We have 70,000 students and over 300,000 alumni for a relatively young university. We were established in 1963 and you may know that we are in Orlando, Florida, but we are about 30 miles northeast of Walt Disney World.

In April of 2020, really it was the height of the pandemic, we onboarded a brand-new president. Our advancement staff is over 120 people strong and in June of 2019, we finished a comprehensive campaign raising over $500 million.

So setting the stage for success. Before we can really talk about all of the great ways that we’re using Emma, we had to set the stage for success ourselves. So one of the ways that we did that is making sure that our database, we are a Blackbaud CRM customer, was able to talk to our Emma HQ account.

We really wanted to be able to pull, create segments, queries in Emma without having to use our Blackbaud database pull query and upload lists manually into Emma. So this took a lot of IT support and we really had to lean on our IT staff and the developers at Emma to make sure that this happened.

And this took us about six months. We’ve been partnered with Emma now for about 18 months, but that first 6 months was really laying the groundwork and getting everything ready in the system so we could optimize all of the features moving forward. So once we had all of that set up, we have regular data refreshes that happen every week, so we’re getting refreshed alumni data every single week that we can query off of and build lists really, really fast.

All of that data is shared with our parent account in Emma and then specific data that we want shared across our subaccounts are shared that way. One of the other ways that we really set the stage for success was through custom fields and so some of those things were either really specific for annual giving or really specific for alumni engagement.

But everything just comes together to make us, you know, an advanced to shop in higher ed. So we have the custom fields like last gift date, last gift amount, birthdate, city, and zip. Those are some of the more basic ones, but this really enables us to target specific groups when we want to on the fly.

– [Kelsey] So now that we have Emma implemented, what we love about it is that it streamlines our communications. So Stephanie mentioned that we have a department of 120 people, but this 120 people is talking to over 300,000 alumni and even more donors.

So internally everybody wants to be able to operate independently and get their messages out, but externally our audience wants to think we’re all coming from the same place. They really want to see that branding and they definitely don’t want to be overwhelmed by a million emails from UCF. So what’s really awesome about Emma is that we have subaccounts. So subaccounts allow these departments like Alumni Communications, College of Business, our student tier, different colleges, and other departments to be able to get into their specific account, build their messages, and be able to operate independently while still using all of our branded messages and template.

And what’s great about this too is as a 501(c)(3), we have protected data. So not everybody can manage their own email lists who’s using Emma. So we can lock down their permission levels to say, “All right. You can go in and create your email, but what you can’t do is send it and you can’t manage the list. We’re happy to do that for you as long as you create that email.”

So these permission levels have been key to help us get our partners using the platform and falling in love with it like we did. And what’s nice about all this is there is an approvals dashboard. So you get to operate as independently as you want. You can go from creating the email all the way up to scheduling it and then I get the notification. So as someone who manages at an admin level I can say, “Oh, it looks like the college of nursing wants to send their email.” “Oh, but I noticed a typo. Let me jump into that approvals dashboard, hit the edit button, and then fix that for them real quick, and then I’ll just go ahead and hit approve, and they’re good to go from there.”

What’s also nice about Emma is that we have really awesome audience management tools. So Stephanie mentioned a lot of the contact fields we’ve loaded to be able to segment easily. What’s nice about the segmentation tool is that you can build one segment and duplicate it, and easily modify it. So we are a very popular alumni chapter and club program around the nation. So if we wanted to make a segment from New York and Chicago, and Atlanta, we can make one segment, fill out all the fields for the data as far as if they’re an alumni, a donor, a friend, and then we can duplicate it and just switch out that city, Chicago, Atlanta, New York, no problem.

They’re also refreshable. So we never have to worry about the data being stale. So anytime we’re going to send from a segment, we just go in, make sure it’s up to date, and send it to the newest group of people who’ve maybe moved to the area. What’s also nice is there’s a group feature. So we didn’t upload every single bit and piece of our database to Emma. We picked the specific contact fields that we use the most, but every once in a while we have a really advanced list that maybe our IT team has to pull for us.

We may pull that out from our database, we can just load it in and it loads in as a group. So this is a little bit of a static feature that says, “Hey, this specific list you wanted lives here, add it to your email, go ahead and send.” And then we have integration groups. So we’ll dive into Evertrue a little bit more, but what’s nice is that we can pull information from the system, send it over as a group, and then add it to our emails to send.

Finally, we love the subscription options. So in our previous system we didn’t have any way to use interest-based marketing. Now we get to ask people, “What would you like to opt in to? Do you want to hear about young alumni communications? Do you want to hear about our events? Are you interested in the alumni book club?”

They can opt in and out and manage their preferences. And that way we can really target what they’re interested in instead of just assuming, “Hey, do you want to come to our event? We thought so because we have your email address.” Now we get to say, “You’ve asked us to hear about events. So here’s one that we’d like to tell you about.” So I promised to talk a little bit more about Evertrue and for those of you that aren’t familiar, Evertrue is a platform that takes your database and kind of matches it up with what you’re doing on social media.

So me, Kelsey, I am an alum of the University of Central Florida and I can interact with the post, and I can see that, thanks to Evertrue. Well, what’s great about this is that it integrates with Emma. So it’s very easy to use and it’s nice because it kind of has a discovery acquisition piece to it. If you are a fan of our athletics team, but you’re not an alum, Evertrue might tell us, “Hey, this person is interacting with your Facebook posts.”

Maybe next time you’re asking folks about season tickets, you might want to include them in your email list. So this is been really great for some micro campaigns that we’ve run. We ran a Small Business Saturday campaign where we posted from our business directory and tried to encourage more signups, both to the platform and to the directory itself. So we pulled a list of people who engage with the term “small business” from Evertrue.

We said, “Please send this list to Emma.” Emma took the list and filtered it and said, “Hey, three people have already opted out, but you can send to this list.” So what we did was send an invitation to join the platform as well as register their business with the directory. So what was great about that was we got a targeted list with an 18.2% open rate and 30.2% click rate.

It spurred us 96 new users and 12 new businesses on that directory from one email using our targeted tools.

– So I’m going to talk a little bit more about the Emma automation feature that we really, really love. In our previous email system we were not able to do any type of automation.

So all of the emails that we were sending were completely manual and we knew that if we were going to keep up with email best practices, we needed to somehow figure out how we were going to work in automation into our programs in alumni engagement and annual giving. So as an annual giving professional, one of my biggest initiatives is making sure that we’re keeping our donors, we’re retaining them and we’re reactivating lapsed donors.

So just to give some context, in the past before we were partnered with Emma, we would be sending renewal email reminders, however those email reminders were only going out on a quarterly basis once we dropped a mail piece and an email would go out following those mailers. Well, what we’ve done in Emma now is sending an automatic email based off of donors’ last gift date and they’re getting an email on their gift anniversary reminding them to renew.

And we’re doing this with our LYBUNTS and our SYBUNT1 donors. And if you don’t know what that is, go ahead and put it in the chat and I’ll address it at the end of the presentation. But we’ve been doing this since July and on average we’re getting a 22% open rate and 18% click rate. We’ve only had 6 opt-outs and our response rate is 0.85% which is…it doesn’t seem very high, but it’s actually much higher than our response rate across all of our other emails.

And our average gift with this email is $368. And to help our open rate with this email, we are using personalization in our subject line. So we’re saying, “Today is your anniversary with us,” first name.

So this is going really, really well for us even though it’s only been implemented for about six months so far. So we’ll love to see how it works out after one full year. The next steps that we’d really like to do to enhance this automation workflow is to add either a 30-day reminder, 15-day reminder, and then maybe 7 days after the donor has lapsed, send them a final email reminder.

So that way every single donor is getting a personalized email right around the time that they should be renewing instead of one quarterly email that doesn’t really feel like it’s part of their own personal donor cycle. And then we may start introducing this and experiment with some of our SYBUNT2 through 4 donors.

– Awesome. Thank you so much, Kelsey and Stephanie. I think I speak for all of us when I say, we really gained some inspiration for our own email strategies from your team’s work at UCF.

We do have a few questions coming in. So let’s start with this one from Cynthia. It looks like there’s several questions within it. So we’ll start with the first one. “Do you get specific reports on opt-outs, opt-ins, and bounce backs?”

– Yes, we certainly do. I don’t know if that just means from an overall account basis or per email basis, but I believe we can get all of that information in any type of way you’re looking for.

– And continuing with that. “Do the reports display the error codes for why an email may have bounced back?”

– Yes. I don’t look at those reports as in-depthly as maybe our IT team does. Maybe Kelsey, you can help to answer this one.

– Sure. So I don’t want to put you off, Steph, but we do see if it’s a hard or a soft bounce. Unless it’s pulled from a specific email campaign, I don’t see much deeper than that. Our IT team did work with Emma’s tech team to help get on this weekly data refresh where we sync the data in each week and then they give us files back, but that was a special part of our contract.

So I think you’d have to work with the Emma team to learn more about that one.

– Awesome. And the final part of this question is, “Do you maintain separate lists for people who have opted in to something specific like, say a book club?”

– Yeah. So that’s a great question. The way we do it is we offer the form where you can opt in and when you opt in to the book club, you’re held in a subscription. So what we do is pulled everybody within that subscription anytime we’re going to send a book club email, we’ll click the subscription opt-in’s list and we send it only to them. So when we pull other segments we make sure that we’re pulling not from that group.

So we’ll say, “We want to pull anybody from our database specifically to these fields.” If they have not opted in, we’ll make sure that the book club list is either excluded or not included in the data pull that they are being kind of targeted out of. I hope that helped.

– And another question here from Toby. “Do you need access to Evertrue as well to be able to utilize that integration?”

– You do. Part of my role is managing social media as well as email. So I am the person who connects the Evertrue or the Facebook account through Evertrue. For that reason I have access to the account. So I hold a “seat” for our Evertrue contract.

Anybody who would use this, I guess you don’t necessarily need access, but you do need one teammate who would be willing to pull that query for you and then send it to your Emma platform.

– And from Louisa, “How do you add a first name or other personalization to the subject line? I didn’t know you could do that.”

– Oh, it’s so fun. So if you were going to add it into the email itself, what we do is we just copy the code when you insert personalization, we copy that piece and then paste it into the subject line.

– Awesome. From Sherry here. This one is specifically for Kelsey. “Earlier when you were talking about subaccounts you mentioned an approval process and dashboard. Can you explain more or share how that works a bit?”

– Sure, definitely. So Emma has great resources to see screenshots for what this looked like, but internally for us the way it works is that we have anybody across the organization who might want to use Emma, they go into the system, into their specific subaccount. What’s great is if you work for the college of nursing, I give you only access to the college of nursing account.

If you straddle a couple colleges, you get access to all three. So you get to drop down and pick the account that you have to work on. So when you go in, you create your email, you get it all approved by your superiors, and it’s all well and good. And then you would either let me know it’s ready and I’ll jump in, and schedule it for you or we have the ability to let you pick a list that’s predetermined from a drop-down box.

You can’t see what’s on the list typically because your permissions are locked, but you can know the name of your list, the college of nursing alumni. So you would click that list, you would hit the next button and schedule it, and then you’re done. Then it comes to me, I get email that says, “Hey, college of nursing wants to send this.” So I say, “All right, great.”

I jump into Emma and right when I log on, there’s a dashboard of every single account and every email going out. And it’s kind of like a stop light. So the green ones are good to go, the red ones need approval, or the yellow ones are pending. So from there it gives me a preview of the email and I get to review it, and then I can either approve it or deny it.

It is super self-explanatory once you see it, I think, but it has been an awesome tool for us because I am actually on a small communications team of just 2 people and with a 120 people, and many, many more alumni donors, we have a lot of messages that go out. So this has been crucial in letting everybody take ownership of their own projects and then just letting me go in and do the final piece for them.

Because I still have to hold that accountability to get the final send, but they did that we do all the legwork themselves and take ownership.

– Awesome. And we have one final question here from Hillary. “For appeals, what do you find is a typical open and click-through rate?”

– So really, really great question. So this definitely, for us at least, depends on what donor segment we are emailing. So alumni non-donors are a much lower open and click rate for us. And I typically would say that for our non-donor groups if we see between like, a 14% to 16% open rate, then I’m pretty happy.

But on the other hand with our LYBUNT donors or current donors, we can see open rates upwards of 30% to 40%. So I think it really depends on who you’re emailing and why. Do you have established relationships with that specific group of subscribers or are they more people that you’re trying to warm a little bit to get them into the pipeline and establish a donor relationship with them?

Omatic email integration with Emma

Stu Manewith • Omatic

– [Carly] Next up, we have a presentation from Stu Manewith, the director of Thought Leadership and Advocacy at Omatic. This is one that I’ve been really excited about for a long time. Founded in 2002, Omatic works with thousands of organizations globally to remove their data barriers by integrating systems and enabling teams to leverage their data rather than being burdened by it. Currently, Omatic partners with Emma to power our Blackbaud CRM, Raiser’s Edge, and Raiser’s Edge NXT integrations for the higher-ed industry.

We’re excited to welcome their team to share how your institution can get the most out of these integrations. So, over to you, Stu.

– [Stu] Hi, everybody. Welcome to Omatic Email Integration with Emma. I’m Stu Manewith from Omatic software and I’ll introduce myself in just a minute, but I wanted to start this morning/afternoon with a few statistics. Online engagement. Email lists grew by 8% in 2019 and by 40% over the 3 previous years. Email messaging drove 28% of all online revenue.

Click-through rates for most e-newsletters grew by almost 13% in 2019. And those statistics are from both Blackbaud and from Nonprofits Source. In addition, this statistic from the for-profit world shows us that 86% of consumers say that personalization plays a role in their purchasing decision-making.

We wanted to just start off our presentation with those statistics to give you some food for thought as we move into the key concepts for this presentation. Email preference and activity data are critical. The data needs to be effectively integrated with Raiser’s Edge or whatever your main database CRM is and vice-versa.

The alumni or member or donor experience can be stunted by inaccurate or incomplete data when the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. Users of the CRM may not have the most up-to-date email information on alumni. And the email marketing team may be segmenting based on incomplete data if they don’t have data from the CRM system available to them.

Stale, inaccurate, or incomplete data directly impacts donor acquisition and retention. If you are targeting alumni, targeting alumni too generically or based on incorrect or untimely data, the entire prospect or donor experience may be affected. With that, let me introduce myself.

My name is Stu Manewith. I am the Director of Thought Leadership and Advocacy here at Omatic. My job really is to put my ear to the ground of the non-profit sector and understand what your needs are in the world of data health and integration so that Omatic can build products and deliver services that meet your needs.

Just a little bit about Omatic before we get started in earnest. We were started in 2002, so that’s more than 18 years ago. We have about 3,000 satisfied customers that we work with across the non-profit sector, and we only exclusively work with non-profit organizations. And we are growing.

We have more than 90 members of the Omatic team right now. When I started working here 5 years ago, we only had about 35 employees. And now, we have more than 90. Omatic’s mission is to empower your organization to deliver the right message at the right time to the right supporter by connecting all of the valuable data you have, which will help you strengthen relationships and achieve your goals.

And just to give one little testimonial, “The Omatic team was instrumental in achieving our database integration goals. It continues to be a great experience working with Omatic.” From Angela at Canadian Cancer Society of Ontario. Because we work only with non-profits, we hear such wonderful things from people who are actively fundraising and working to engage constituents on a day-to-day basis.

But let’s get right down into it. And I want to start talking about best of breed technology, which is in one way, function or functionality over form. Best of breed technology means that using specialty systems that each do one or just a very few things or functions very well.

Often, what that means is a number of separate solutions, that each solution does one thing exceptionally well. Emma is a great example of that for email or VolunteerHub for volunteers or Cvent for event management, but there will still be Raiser’s Edge or another main CRM database, a system of record, that needs to be a common data repository for the organization.

Your main CRM database Raiser’s Edge, Salesforce, Blackbaud CRM, those are built to serve colleges, universities, and other types of non-profits. They are a common repository for the broad variety of information about alumni, members, donors, and other constituents.

All of this data can be used to engage and cultivate various audience groups and to effectively target communications based on activities, interests, etc. The main CRM system give us broad teams of end-users access to data. On the other hand, Emma, or really the reason I put an asterisk there is because it’s really any email marketing system, but we’re talking about Emma today, does email very well, better than the email functionality in most suite systems.

Having a separate excellent email system like Emma provides a consistent look and feel to email communications that works well regardless of the recipient’s email tools or level of tech-savviness if we want to be frank, provides an easy subscribe and unsubscribe process so that audience members can easily opt-in or opt-out of email communications, provides end-users with advanced email data and analysis tools like A/B testing, and provides a platform for targeting discreet email messaging based on unlimited number of audience segments, email packages, etc.

With best of breed models though, there are also a common number of challenges. Let’s look at some of these. Any of them sound familiar? “We send a weekly newsletter to 100,000 people but we don’t know who’s opening them or reading them.” “Email interests are meaningful to our Gift Officers, but they don’t log into our email system. It’s hard to have visibility into all of those interactions.”

“If a member wants to unsubscribe, then the front desk writes their name on a sticky note and puts it on my desk where it will take me a few days to process.” “To create segments, we have to manually export a query to upload into our email system.” The solution. Well, let’s take a couple of those challenges one by one.

Let’s look at just the challenge of email preferences. Email preferences come in from every corner of the organization. Are they entered or updated in a timely fashion? Is there a confidence in the data? What is up to date? Supporters unsubscribe via Emma, which doesn’t always get back to the CRM. Supporters are thinking what’s going on here?

What the hell? It leads to a lower online retention and missed opportunities. So, here’s the solution. Use Raiser’s Edge or your main system of record as the repository for the most all-encompassing up-to-date data on preferences and contact information. Use Raiser’s Edge or your main CRM’s queries to identify records that need to be updated in Emma.

The CRMs normally have a more sophisticated querying and filtering functionality, but more importantly, they pull, you know, offline changes from alumni, you know, or other supporters and donors. Synchronize changes that originate in Emma so alumni and supporters are always contactable and so the Raiser’s Edge or your main database is continually getting updated information.

And lastly, make sure that email-specific data gets imported back into RE or into your main CRM system so that your supporters’ records are always current. Let’s take another scenario. The challenges in disparate data. History, interests, and behaviors are kept in a Fundraising Database, Raiser’s Edge, for example.

The marketing team works in a separate system, for example, Emma. Email activity and engagement are unknown to the fundraisers who use Raiser’s Edge. And the supporter profile, the broad supporter profile, is unknown to the marketing team that use Emma.

Disparate data makes it hard to analyze the success of any one particular campaign. Here’s the solution. Use your main CRM database to track interests and all of the other data about alumni, donors, and other supporters that Emma doesn’t manage. Use your main CRM’s queries to identify constituent data points that have changed and that needs to be updated in Emma.

Synchronize activity from Emma so that you will always maintain a complete profile in your main CRM system. And use all of the data at your disposal to build segmentation queries in your main system and then send them to Emma for deployment. You can use the power of your CRM to build segments that are as discreet and as targeted as your strategies dictate.

Another way to grasp these concepts are to look at them perhaps from a donor journey perspective. In this example, there’s no integration between systems, just a monthly dump of limited data from Raiser’s Edge to Emma leading to low conversion rates, low ROI on communications, poor supporter experience, and missed opportunities.

On the other hand, look at this more complex superior supporter journey when there’s integration. Real-time integration with Emma provides many opportunities to improve the supporter experience. In this example, when a new alumnus makes a gift, automated synchronization with Emma triggers a welcome email series for new donors, perhaps different series for different graduation years or for different schools.

That welcome series ensures more robust proactive engagement. And when a recipient demonstrates interest, that information is sent back to the main database, in this case, Raiser’s Edge. That activity, in turn, triggers subsequent engagement interaction, such as being invited to an event. This will increase acquisition and retention rates and galvanize the supporter experience.

The difference was integration. Integration provided strategic data, and more of it, automation and bidirectional control, using data for strategic segmentation, and business rule application along the journey, based on constituent response.

Data centralization is the key. Since communication drive constituent engagement, it’s fundamental to ensure that you are sending the right communication to the right person at the right time. And only if your data are centralized from your various best of breed solutions, like Emma, into your main database, can you be assured that you can do that.

We sometimes look at this map of the United States as a way of codifying data centralization, of making it into an illustration. You need to be able to look at all of those different data points comprehensively and in the right order for all of the information to be productive.

Knowing a lot of information about each individual states may be great, but unless you see the whole picture, you see where they are and what order they’re in, you’re not going to be able to get, say, from Miami to Seattle or from Boston to San Diego easily. Information is imperative. Individual data points need to work together to tell a story.

And you want as complete a story as possible to acquire, engage, steward, and retain your donors. Combining gift information, interests, and off-line engagement with online characteristics and behaviors, this is going to lead to and create a deeper understanding of your constituents resulting in a more impactful relationship.

You have a current and complete view of supporters so that you can effectively target ongoing communications with them. And as the data repository grows, all of that information can be used to segment donors into relevant categories, making it easier to deliver the right communication to the right person at the right time and using the right method.

And the outcome of precision in data management is going to really drive more efficiency and more effectiveness for you. It’s going to reduce email bounce-backs and diversions to junk or spam boxes. It’s going to reduce duplicate messages being sent to the same constituents. There’s a very well-known and large non-profit and I always get duplicate emails from them.

They haven’t de-duped and whenever there’s an email from them in my inbox, there’s always a second one right behind it. It’s very frustrating. Precision in data management allows more discrete segments and email audiences to be built, supporting very individualized messaging.

And it’s been demonstrated that personalized communication generates a higher response. And precision in data management supports retaining donors through personalized stewardship messaging as well as acquiring new donors through personalized cultivation messaging encouraging solicitation messaging.

So, we’re getting ready to wrap up, and I just want to move from the outcomes that we’ve just been discussing to what impact they’ll have. The results of strategic integration. Improved donor acquisition rates through relationship building, improved donor retention rates in leveraging Emma for both stewardship and relationship management, as well as for solicitation opportunities, and Emma has native analysis tools to even further help discern what’s working and what’s not, improved campaign effectiveness through repurposing time saved to strategic planning.

Time saved by using automated data exchange rather than working with rudimentary and error-prone import tools or manually keying in data. Let me just rephrase that. Time saved from using integration can be repurposed for strategic purposes. Omatic Integration for Emma will provide access to data subscriber and unsubscribe data, email activity, data, custom field data.

All of this can be easily brought into Raiser’s Edge, BB CRM, or Salesforce using Omatic’s data integration tools powered and secured Omatic Cloud. Deliver an awesome supporter experience. Build stronger relationships through tailored, personalized communications, gain trust by delivering a consistent experience, prevent over-communication and under-communication because you know who your constituents are, treat your supporters with dignity.

Nobody wants to get the bloody duplicate email messages or wants to inadvertently be resubscribed to something from which they’ve unsubscribed. Communication plus data centralization equals retained donors. The most effective communication is personalized, current, and complete. All communication strategies, overall, and segment by segment, need to take this into account.

And siloed data handicaps strategy, there needs to be a single system of record. Very lastly, cautionary tales, the dangers of siloed data. When data remain siloed and not integrated, you’ve got outdated information in Raiser’s Edge, outdated information in Emma, bad data that haven’t been taken care of.

And the DMA, that’s the Direct Marketing Association, found email addresses are changing at a rate of 31% per year. That’s up from 20% in the last 10 years, about 10 years ago. So, that just gives you a feel for how often email addresses are changing and how often you’ve got to be aware of that and make sure that they’re up-to-date, or else there will be missed opportunities.

People will not be getting the emails that you send them. So, finally, getting ready for the end of this presentation, here are some important takeaways. Data maintained in your main CRM database and in your email marketing system support each other and augment each other in terms of messaging and the targeting of that messaging.

Automated integration of email marketing and CRM-based data will enhance the alumni or member or donor experience and better support new donor acquisition, stewardship messaging, and donor retention. Siloed data can damage or lessen donor relationships and impact long-term donor value. Data centralization is imperative overall.

Individual data points work together to tell a story, an automated data centralization will make sure that all of your systems remain current, clean, and complete. I want to thank you for your time this afternoon. If you’ve got any further information about Omatic or if there’s anything that we can help you with, please contact us at omaticsoftware.com.

Thanks very much, and enjoy the rest of the conference.

Making the most of your list: Advancement

Lane Harbin • Emma

– [Carly] For our third and final presentation of the day, we’re excited to introduce Lane Harbin, Director of Marketing at Emma’s parent company, CM Group, who will be covering everything you need to know about segmentation and making the most of your email list. Thanks for being here, Lane.

– [Lane] Thank you so much, Carly. I’m excited to be here. I think the presentations so far have been amazing, so, thank you to Stephanie and Kelsie and Stue on that front. And welcome everybody to making the most of your list for advancement departments. Whether you spend your days planning, giving campaigns, connecting with donors, or setting fundraising goals, you are definitely in the right place.

And I’ll start with just a quick introduction. Carly already mentioned that I am the Director of Marketing for Emma and CM Group, I’m based here in Nashville, Tennessee. And I actually, my very first marketing internship was at the Auburn Alumni Association, War Eagle, and…working on alumni communications there. So, I definitely have a soft spot in my heart for the hard-working marketers of higher ed. And that’s why I’m really excited to be here today talking about how to make the most for your list.

So, in this presentation, we’re going to be covering multiple levels of email expertise and list segmentation. So no matter where you’re coming from, there’s definitely something here to build on and aspire to when it comes to segmentation regardless of if you’re just getting started with email marketing or if you’re looking to really level up your strategy today.

So, looking at the agenda here, we’ll begin with Level 1 which covers the importance of segmentation and how to get started. And then, we’re going to move on to some ways that you can build on that foundation, starting with adding data, and then we’ll look at how to get more creative with it, have a little fun, including testing to understand what works best for your audience. But first, we’re going to talk about my favorite thing, the data.

So, at CM group, we are kind of data nerds, and we, we actually look each year at all of the data that our customers are getting about their email engagement, and we love looking at those trends in email marketing to understand not only what’s changing but why it’s changing when it comes to email marketing.

And I would say that sometimes, the reasons behind those changes aren’t super clear to us, but last year, in 2020, many of the trends were very obvious, especially when it came to higher ed because there was so much change happening there. So, at the end of last year, we did look at hundreds of millions of emails sent from Emma and from other CM Group brands during 2019 and 2020.

And so, we’re looking specifically at the higher ed industry here, and we generally, in the time we’ve been tracking it, always see pretty impressive engagement from higher ed email programs which is great, but you can see here that there was a dramatic increase in year over year from 2019 to 2020.

And my guess is that probably anybody on this call could give us a good guess of why just based on your own experience for the last almost 12 months. This obviously reflects the huge pivot that most universities and colleges were forced to make in light of COVID-19 and all the changes that entailed. I mean, we all had to rely on digital communications, and particularly on email marketing, more than ever last year.

So, looking at these numbers, I think it would be helpful to just give you a sense of where the higher ed benchmarks land in response to the sort of general benchmarks, so all industries combined. So, I’ll run through those really quickly. Comparatively, the average stats for industries overall are an average open rate of 17.8%, and that’s compared to higher ed’s 34%, an average click through rate of 2.6% and that’s compared to higher ed’s 6.8% here, and then, an average click to open rate of 14.3% compared to higher ed’s almost 20% in 2020.

So, I think the numbers speak for themselves there and you can see that higher ed is definitely outperforming the average for other industries, especially in 2020. And I think what that tells us and what you can take away from that as marketers is that your audiences really are highly engaged.

Now more than ever, they’re interested in what you have to say and the communications that you’re sending out. And so, it’s your job as marketers to think about how you can capture that interest, convert those subscribers, and nurture that sort of short-term or moment-in-time engagement interest into a long-term relationship. So, that is what we’ll be talking about today, and I did want to point out one study found that 56% of people unsubscribe from emails due to content that’s no longer relevant.

And as the volume of emails has gone up in response to COVID-19, we can only assume that this rate of unsubscribes will increase. And remember that that increase in email volume isn’t just in higher ed. Our customers, again, looking at the data, our customers sent billions more emails per month in 2020 than they did in 2019, and that’s billions with a ‘b’.

So, I would guess that your subscribers are probably experiencing that increase in volume in their inbox and feeling some serious email fatigue, and you are probably feeling it yourself to some extent too. So, I think the question, when it comes to segmentation, is how can you cut through the noise and cut through those cluttered inboxes and find relevance so you can stay top of mind with your subscribers?

And the key to that really is segmentation. If you’re not familiar, segmentation is a word you probably heard thrown around in the email marketing world quite a bit, but it really is simply just taking that overall email list and dividing it in sections or segments according to certain criteria. So, to begin with segmentation, what you need to start to think about is the information you already have about your subscribers.

This data I would guess probably includes stuff like their name, their email address, and then, you probably also have things like their graduating class or their major. So, you can really start there to start determining what your list segments are going to be. And my advice here is just get started.

Start somewhere because if you don’t have a ton of experience with segmentation, this can feel a little intimidating and you might think, “Okay, I hear segmentation, and to me, that means I need to have these very specific segments of like English majors in the South East who graduated in 2014, and while that would be great, you don’t have to have that, especially right when you’re getting started.

You can always get more granular with your segments later on, and we’ll talk about that more in a little bit. But by creating these initial segments with the data that you already have, that’s going to be the best way that you have to begin understanding your audience and what they respond best to. So, let’s talk about Level 1 of segmentation. When you think of the data you have, we’ve covered subscriber email address, we’ve got first and last name, and you probably have their graduating class as well.

So, think about ways you can create segments determined by something like graduating year before you send out messaging for your next annual giving campaign. And this is something that I think alumni relations professionals in particular need to consider. Segment out the alumni who just graduated, who probably have student loans, and maybe aren’t able to donate at this time.

But that doesn’t mean that you’re going to leave them out altogether. What you want to do is just send them different messaging to continue nurturing that relationship so that when they are ready to donate, you have that strong connection. And as an example, I’ll point to this email on screen which is from the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, and it was sent to past graduating classes with the intent of asking for help to welcome the new class.

So, when you do this, you can vary the intensity of your ask or what your CTAs are based on those segments. And this is a great example too of just providing some fun, personalized content as well. You can see cut out here that one of the links that they have to a recent graduation video asking past graduating classes to watch it and remember their own special day.

So, the focus here really is more on educating, more on building that long-term relationship with these younger alumni so that when they are able to give, the connection feels strong. So, now, we’re on to Level 2 of segmentation, and once you’ve used the data that you already have to create segments, your next step is going to be to power those segments with even more data.

So, you can get that either just by asking for it, like I think Stephanie mentioned, they have birth date. So, just ask subscribers what their birthday is, or you can use third-party integrations like what Stue was talking about. When you think about the way to take your segments to the next level after Level 1, it’s really finding more data is going to be your best bet.

So, integrations like Blackbaud, like Evertrue, they’re going to make it really easy to sync up your donation data with your subscriber information, and that’s when you’re really going to be cooking. So, let’s look at an example here from The New School. They actually created segments based on donation tiers. And this is really important when it comes to asking people for money, to make sure that your messaging is hitting exactly the right tone.

This email that’s called out on screen here, you can see that they actually sent it to donors at a certain level. In this case, it was ones who had contributed $100 last year in their annual giving campaign, and it simply asks them to match that same donation this year. And so, this is just giving you an idea of how you can segment based on donation history or maybe based on donation frequency and then customize your campaigns based on those groups.

So that way, you aren’t scaring off smaller donors with really big asks or vice versa, underutilizing some of your larger donors with smaller requests. And so, one other callout here, and this is key, don’t just segment when you’re asking donors for money. Really, segmentation, like all email marketing, is about building relationships.

So, you want to also segment when you’re following up with them, sending thank you’s, or when you’re updating them on what your institution has been able to do thanks to their support, and I think that last part is really important to consider. Are you, in your email marketing, telling a story that connects their donations to how it’s impacting your college or university?

In this email here from our friends at UCF, their VP of Advancement does exactly that. He reaches out to donors with a thank you message, says, “Thanks to donors like you,” and then goes on to say, “We were able to launch a virtual spring 2020 commencement,” which I think everybody here can probably appreciate the amount of work that goes into hosting 12 separate online graduation ceremonies.

So, props to them. But really here, UCF was able to tell donors that they helped to make this possible, and that’s an emotional connection. In a year unlike any other, this graduating class didn’t have to miss out on that meaningful graduation or moment in their lives, and that kind of story really helps build those long-lasting relationships, and ultimately inspires people to give.

So, now, we’re on to Level 3. Once you’ve gotten comfortable with creating segments and using data to make them more relevant, you’re kind of in a position now to get more creative and start testing your segments as well as the content that you’re sending to them to see what they tend to engage with the most. So, one way to do this is to start combining multiple data points, and we talked about this a little bit at the top, but once you are feeling comfortable and you’re a pro at incorporating the data we previously mentioned, so graduating class, geographic location, major, you’re then able to kind of level up your strategy by using more than one of these data points.

And so, it’s an opportunity to get creative, layer data from different categories and different sources, and make your donor communications even more targeted and relevant, and therefore more effective. So, this is an amazing example from Florida State University. In a recent Veteran’s Day social campaign, FSU used Evertrue to create a list of email subscribers who engaged with their Veteran’s Day social post.

So, this is really, when we talk about advanced segmentation, this is now cross-platform segmentation. And from there, from that social post, they took their new segmented list and sent a donation request email that would specifically benefit student veterans. And I will point out if you’re, this is the email you’re seeing on screen, they did not make it creepy.

They did not say, “Hey, we saw you liked our social post,” which is as unwelcome in an email as it would be in real life, but instead, what they did here is that they used that data point, they used that engagement on social to learn more about this particular segment, and then refine their messaging. And as a result, FSU actually saw that 41% of gifts received were from new academic donors.

So, it really worked for them, and I think for us as marketers, that confirms that finding where your subscriber passion lies is really crucial in making the ask and securing the gift. And I think this is great inspiration too because it causes us or kind of prompts us to think outside of the inbox and see where else our subscribers are showing us important information about what they’re interested in, and then as a marketing team, really brainstorm on how can we meet them there, and I think FSU has done a phenomenal job of that.

And the last thing I’ll say here is of course about testing. So, testing your segments on the content you sent to them is as important as creating them because I think that if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that adaptability is key.

And us as marketers, we’ve had to adapt and pivot and change our strategies probably like never before. So, we never want to just set and forget our email communications or our email programs, and to me, that’s the best thing about segmentation, is that it really is an exercise in learning more about your audience as you go.

And so, make it an ongoing conversation. It’s an ongoing conversation between you and your subscribers, and then, whether you’re a one-person marketing team or you have a whole department of 120 people like Kelsie and Stephanie, have that conversation and constantly be coming up with new ideas. What can we test, what have we learned that might want to cause us to tweak our messaging? And that is ultimately how you get to know the most about your audience, and if you can put a solid testing system in place, then you can continue to grow in that knowledge and ultimately maximize your email list.

And that’s it for me. Thank you so much.

– Amazing. Thank you so much, Lane. We do have a couple questions here for you. The first one comes from Madalyn, and it looks like you’re referencing the higher ed benchmarks report that you called out at the beginning. She asks, “Our click-through open rate, and click-through rates very low compared to the averages you put out in higher ed. What else can we do to change this? Is the secret more frequent emails with less call to actions inside?”

– There are honestly so many factors that go into those numbers, and my big caveat with the benchmarks is that I love the data, I love looking at the data, I know that other marketers do too, but they are not hard and fast standards. What they are is just a good kind of litmus test for you to understand where your peers in the industry are landing, but what you really, what I’d recommend you focus on is your audience, and a big part of that is going to be testing, it’s going to be segmenting.

So, if you’re seeing low engagement across, Carly, did they say just click and click to open?

– It was their click-through open rate, and general click-through rates.

– Yeah. Got you. So, in that case, you really do want to start testing and considering segmenting to ask, is this content I’m sending relevant, are these CTAs the right fit for this audience, and I think that will start to give you a good understanding of what works and what doesn’t. But I would by no means put pressure on yourself to get up to that, I think it was a 34% open rate, 16% click-to-open rate, it’s really about using your own past performance as your benchmark and seeing how you can improve from there.

So, that’s my recommendation.

– We’ve got one final question for you here. “We’ve seen an increase in open rates in 2020 like your report shows. How do we keep this momentum going?”

– I love this question, because engagement is up. People are, especially if you think about people being so eager to figure out what was going on in 2020, but there was a huge boost in not only send volume but also in open rates. But that boost in engagement is really only useful to you if you can figure out a way to, yeah, like you said, maintain the momentum.

So, a couple of things that come to mind there. One is again, I have to say testing, to see what those audiences are responding to, and how you might be able to take those learnings and apply them to your general campaigns, but the other thing is you have their interest. Is there a way that you can switch up your campaign strategy or your send sequence to really capitalize on that?

One example I’ll bring up is that storytelling aspect of they’re interested, they’re opening the emails, can you start to hook them with more information about what their donations are going to, more information about what impact they’re having, because I think that is the key to not making this just a moment in time experience of piqued interest, but building those long-lasting relationships.

Closing remarks

Carly Kendrick • Emma

I hope you all, like me, are feeling inspired to implement some new ideas and strategies into your email marketing plan. In case you couldn’t tell, we really love the higher education industry, and that our goal is to help you succeed, no matter what comes your way in 2021. So this concludes our Day 2 of emmaU, but if you’re looking for more higher-ed resources as you’re building the rest of your strategy, visit myemma.com. Lastly, we want to hear your feedback.

Click on the survey link in the chat, and please tell us what you enjoyed about this experience and what you’d like to see more from us next time. Thanks so much, again, for joining us, and we wish you a happy and healthy 2021.