Don’t Add to Your Members’ Email Fatigue

Your members are inundated with email every day. When you know and cater to their habits and preferences, you make it far more likely that your next email will be received, opened, and read. Here are the important takeaways from two new reports on the email marketing landscape.

Do you suffer from email fatigue? According to a new survey, nearly three-quarters of us admit to feeling overwhelmed by the number and frequency of messages in our inbox.

Count me in—especially as I stare blankly into the abyss of my inbox after a holiday weekend. Email fatigue is an all too common problem, and chances are your members are experiencing inbox overload too.

Two surveys, released earlier this summer by Adobe (last week) and Informz (in June), detail a plethora of useful data points related to email habits that should influence every association marketer’s thinking about email.

The Association Email Marketing Benchmark Report from Informz is required reading for membership teams considering how to tweak their next email campaign based on their members’ behaviors. Here are a few of the top-level findings:

  • Email volume is rising. Associations sent 12.3 percent more email messages last year than they sent in 2015. And nearly 90 percent of associations say they’re concerned about sending too many mass emails.
  • Open and click rates are dropping. While certainly not cause for alarm, email open rates declined slightly, from 36 percent in 2015 to 35.6 percent in 2016. And click rates dropped from 16.1 percent to 15.6 percent.
  • Marketing automation is growing—significantly. Associations are getting savvier about how they interact with members and other audiences via email. In 2016, associations sent 70 percent more emails through marketing automation campaigns than in 2015, which means they are delivering more customized experiences to individual members based on how and why they interact with the association’s communications.
  • Less may be more. Associations sent a large majority of subscribers (86.6 percent) 10 or fewer emails per month, and associations that sent 1 million emails or fewer per year achieved the highest average open rates overall.
  • Fridays are better than you think. Many association marketers subscribe to conventional wisdom about email, such as the “rule” that you should email members only in the middle of the week, avoiding the beginning- or end-of-work-week rush. While most emails (64 percent) were delivered on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, it turns out that Friday afternoon might be the best time to hit “send.” Email open rates (36.7 percent) and click rates (16.2 percent) were highest on Fridays, and messages sent late in the afternoon had the highest open rate overall (36.5 percent).

The Adobe report, a survey of white-collar workers, may not speak directly to how members are feeling right now, but it does reflect how organizations and businesses alike can engage with audiences via email. A few key findings:

  • Email frustration is a real problem. Twenty percent of respondents said they were frustrated by having to wait for images to render and load in an email, 19 percent were upset when they had to scroll too far down the page to find important information, and 40 percent said they wanted emails that are less promotional and more informative.
  • Timing is everything. As a broad trend, many people wake up in the morning and immediately go to their inbox. In the Adobe survey, 26 percent reported checking email while still in bed, and 37 percent do so while getting ready or eating breakfast in the morning. But that doesn’t mean consumers are constantly consulting their inbox. One in five respondents said they never check work email outside of work hours.
  • “Five-minute member” opportunities abound. Email doesn’t require a lot of time to get a message across, especially when five-minute members are accessing their inboxes as they stand in line for coffee or wait in the lobby for the next elevator. For example, according to the Adobe survey, 28 percent of consumers ages 18 to 24 read email while working out.

Finally, while it’s not backed by survey data, there are some quick and easy ways to improve your next email campaign. Start by using a headline analyzer tool, like the ones offered for free by ShareThrough or CoSchedule. Something as simple as a subject line or message headline can increase the odds of a member engaging with an email. It also helps to know the various writing styles (the expository, narrative, descriptive, and persuasive email) as well as the ideal length and tone for receiving a reply message.

What types of tools or techniques do you use to reach members on email? Are you testing or experimenting with anything new? Share your experiences in the comments thread below.

(PeopleImages/DigitalVision/Getty Images Plus)

Tim Ebner

By Tim Ebner

Tim Ebner is a senior editor for Associations Now. He covers membership, leadership, and governance issues. Email him with story ideas or news tips. MORE

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