Small Tricks, Big Results

Small Tricks, Big Results

You’ve experienced this before: You subscribe to your favorite store’s email and get a message that features the greatest pair of shoes you’ve ever seen. You click the link that leads you to their website. Then, you see the price tag and think, “The shoes are great, but not that great.”Over the next couple of days, the shoes follow you everywhere—on Facebook, Instagram, and of course, email (Subject Line: “Did you forget about these shoes?!”). You click on a few of the links and consider purchasing, but aren’t quite sold.

About a week passes and you get one more email: “Last Chance! Shoes 50% Off.” You automatically click on the link and see the newly reduced price tag and think, “These shoes are great! I’m finally getting them”.

This technique—called marketing automation—is a common tactic that businesses use to engage customers.And while we know big businesses and corporations use it to sell shoes, there are a number of ways a small organization, nonprofit or government agency can put these ideas to use as part of a data-driven communication strategy to generate big results.

Some of these tactics are easier to conduct with specialized software, of course. But we have a few hacks to implement data-driven emails—with or without the technical tools. Read on to find out how to get the most out of your emails!

Welcome message

What is it?: When someone signs up for a newsletter or email list, send a simple message letting them know what to expect, some resources that they can use at the moment, and a simple confirmation that they are subscribed.

Sample subject lines:

  • “Thanks for subscribing!”
  • “Look Out for our Newsletter on Wednesdays”

How to implement: Each time someone signs up for a particular list, set up a trigger that sends a confirmation email immediately. Keep the message simple, but try to include a few actionable, relevant resources that automatically engages the new customer.

Don’t have the software?: Task a staff member daily or weekly (whatever works best for your organization) to see who has recently subscribed. Send a simple message to welcome them.


What is it?: This form of communication is great for new subscribers, especially for membership organizations. Onboarding messages provide awareness and let new subscribers know about resources or programs. By creating an onboarding sequence, an organization avoids sending a single, overwhelming and overly long message.

Sample subject lines:

  • “Welcome to ABC Association”
  • “Learn about these great resources:”
  • “Let us take you to coffee”

How to implement: Map out your most important content and a timeline of when you’d want to send it to your new customers, then create time-based triggers that sends these as emails. You can send these a day, a week or a month after that new customer joins. Maybe even consider using a theme for each email.

Don’t have the software?: Onboarding builds and nurtures lasting relationships. While automation may scale this up, your team can still develop a plan to communicate with new customers, either by email, snail mail or phone. Be sure you create an attainable and consistent chain of communication to distribute these.

Promoting an event

What is it?: Conferences or special events are a great opportunity to utilize some type of smart communication, especially to people who have showed interest in the event by continuously opening emails or clicking on the registration link.

Sample subject lines:

  • “Register today for the industry event of year!”
  • “Don’t forget, early bird ends tomorrow”

How to implement: Pull together your target list of people most likely to attend or register, including people who have attended similar events in the past, have made any relevant purchases or serve on related leadership committees. Think about narrowing down the list to people who have shown interest by opening previous messages or clicking on links. You can even use the technique of “abandonment” —email customers who have added the event to their cart but failed to register.

Don’t have the software?: Once you have your targeted list and start to send emails, take a close look at the analytics. Manually put together new lists of those opening and clicking. By having a more honed list of people interested in the event, you are more likely to get them to register and avoid spamming people who are uninterested (and may potentially unsubscribe).

Evangelist building

What is it?: Part of what makes automation so helpful is that it can help you determine who should be receiving an email and those who may not need to see particular content. An evangelist-building campaign can help determine who your most loyal subscribers are, in turn helping you target those who will eventually help you spread the word organically.

Sample subject lines:

  • “You’re the first to know about…”
  • “This is something that you’ll want to share”
  • “Exclusive content for you!”

How to implement: Automation software can help you build a dynamic list that determines who has been visiting your website, clicks on your emails or social media posts, or completes a form submission. You can then create an email workflow to leverage this list as a way to encourage evangelism of your top content on social media.

Don’t have the software?: Many organizations’ first instinct is to send an email to everyone in their system. Take a step back to see if there are certain trends to your most active customers (who’s purchasing items, registering for events, or following you on social media), and build a list around them. By sharing content that makes someone feel special, they are more likely to feel connected to your organization and share the content with others organically.

These are just few of the ways that you can make smarter, data-driven email marketing decisions. Automation software will help drive these actions, but even without that investment, you can be a leader in implementing some of these ideas to bring the results home to your organization. By using these strategies, you’ll see more conversions, higher open and click-through rates, less unsubscribes and, ultimately, more engaged customers.

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