Strategy and Operations

Report: Targeted Emails Draw Higher Engagement

Higher Logic’s analysis of more than 2 billion messages showed the advantages of moving beyond email blasts.

Associations have more opportunities than ever to engage with their communities via email, though challenges remain in terms of personalization, targeting, and data security.

The 2023 Association Email Benchmark Report, published last month by the technology firm Higher Logic, highlighted the virtues of sophisticated email marketing. Automated marketing campaign messages had higher open rates than individual emails—39 to 36 percent, according to the report. Automated messages also had higher click rates than individual emails: 3.05 to 2.71 percent. 

Similarly, messages with dynamic content—that is, targeted to the particular interests of a recipient group–-performed better than more general messages. Dynamic content messages had an open rate of 47 percent, compared to 38 percent of those that did not. Dynamic messages also correlated to lower unsubscribe rates. The findings were based on Higher Logic’s analysis of nearly 2 billion emails sent by approximately 1,500 associations in the United States, Australia, and Canada in 2022 and 2023.

“Associations are used to doing blast emails,” said Rob Wenger, cofounder and CEO of Higher Logic. “I’ve heard them say, ‘Well, if I get five more people from that blast email, then it’s worth it.’ But it’s really not, because blasting really erodes those opens.”

Related to that, Wenger cautions that while many associations do basic personalization around their emails—including the recipient’s name, for instance—savvier targeting acknowledges the target group they occupy and makes recommendations around it. The report offers an example: “You might target a section of your newsletter to explain the benefits of attending the annual conference to any recipients in a non-registrant list, while anyone on the registrant list is shown a different targeted section of recommendations for attendees.”

“Don’t send messages to the people who are unlikely to cause the action to do the action,” Wenger said. “Because you’re just eroding everything over time.”

The more data you have, the better your predictions.

Higher Logic CEO Rob Wenger

The report also spotlights emerging trends around data security and generative AI. As the report puts it, “AI can save time and resources and elevate the precision and impact of email marketing, fostering stronger connections between associations and their audiences.”

Wenger said associations will likely benefit as much from AI’s capacity for predictive analytics as it will content generation. “The more data you have, the better your predictions,” he said. “You don’t know a lot yet about first-year members, but after 10 years you know a lot about the courses they’re taking, the events they’ve attended, the meetings. You can be a lot more segmented. The further they go forward in time the more you can be specific about addressing things they want, then those rates can go way up.”

The report, unsurprisingly, found that emails sent on Saturday and Sunday had the lowest open rates. Looking for more clicks? Messages sent on Wednesdays had the highest click rate of any day of the week.


Mark Athitakis

By Mark Athitakis

Mark Athitakis, a contributing editor for Associations Now, has written on nonprofits, the arts, and leadership for a variety of publications. He is a coauthor of The Dumbest Moments in Business History and hopes you never qualify for the sequel. MORE

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