Here at The Bivings Group, we’ve dealt with a myriad of requests for mass emailing services, tools and strategies to help our clients make the most of what is the most powerful weapon in online advocacy. Based on our research and testing, here are some best practice tips for making your email campaigns as effective as possible. Most of these items fit a general theme of narrowing the focus and increasing the personalization in email messaging.

Smaller targets

The smaller the target, the more successful the email open and click-through rate. Emails sent to specific states or even determined areas around specific cities get much more attention than those sent to the whole country. People are generally inclined to get personally involved in local issues rather than national campaigns.

Specific goals

Ask people to do one single, specific thing. Example: “Sign the petition to protect America’s indigenous forests.” When these requests are linked to a form where users could do exactly that, success rates are very high. General requests such as “Support the Environment” with a link to a main homepage result in less clicks and less direct action by email subscribers. Emails that link to multiple items or actions are less successful than those focused on promoting a single action.

Getting to the point

Keep it short and simple. Getting a subscriber to open an email is just the first step. You want them to read and understand your message. Put your message in plain, direct words at the very top. Use short, single sentence paragraphs whenever possible to make the email as easy as possible to get through.

Repetition, repetition, repetition

Once your simple, direct message is at the very top of your email, repeat it throughout the body of the text. Two or three repetitions of the same call to action and link is not too much. Repetition is the best way to drive home a particular point. Repetition is the best way to drive home a particular point.

The visuals

To keep messages from looking like advertisements, it’s best to keep graphics and imaging to a minimum in general. Messages should not look dramatically different from the messages people receive from their friends and family. Some light branding images should be used in the header of the email and to emphasize the actions the email asks people to take. Keep in mind a large percentage of subscribers will only see a text version of the email or will choose not to enable graphics, so make sure all pertinent information in graphics is repeated in email body text.

Special requests

Timing is everything, even email. Give subscribers something to do, the reason to do it, the tools to get it done, but don’t forget to let them know they need to do it NOW. Emails sent surrounding current legislation or events in the news, letting subscribers know about upcoming events, or asking people to help celebrate important milestones, convey more urgency than emails unrelated to a timeline. Time-sensitive emails should be used sparingly, however, because the more you send, the less important they’ll seem.

.. add variation to an even tempo

A successful email effort has to find the right balance between being a consistent, reliable source of campaign news and flooding subscribers’ inboxes. Never let more than a few weeks pass between emails, and we should avoid sending more than two to three emails in a week unless we are in a period of intense activity. Keep in touch with subscribers without overloading them.