Written by Greg Elliott on October 16, 2014
in Email Marketing

Here at Ariad’s Toronto office, we’re in the midst of a mayoral election stretch run. With all of the political madness going on, I thought it might be fun to do some high level research on the Email Marketing efforts of the top three candidates, and compare them with a few of Canada’s Federal parties.

Consistently across the board, all candidates and parties are using email collection as the primary focus – or, at least – as one of the first things you see when you land on their websites. One Federal party has gone as far as pseudo-gating their web content with an email sign up prior to letting the user view or download any material.

As for the welcoming experience upon email signup, everyone I looked at except for one had delivered a welcome message. Some came instantly, while others took up to 48 hours to arrive. Even though all of the parties requested my postal code as part of the sign up process, none of them utilized it for localized content within their welcome messaging. This would have been a great chance to feature a local candidate from the area, and represents a missed opportunity.

All of the messages I signed up for delivered to the inbox, which is a good thing. However, for the most part they were all using pretty unsophisticated text heavy email communications, and none were responsive. As for the technology being used, most candidates were using either a small business email tool (Mailchimp, ConstantContact, Campaign Monitor) or a home built solution. The home built solutions if not configured and managed properly will ultimately pose a spam risk for the Federal candidates as deployment volumes heat up during the election cycle.

I also found that several parties and candidates were using agencies from the United States. While their technology and expertise is likely second to none, it does seem a bit wacky that a Canadian agency isn’t helping candidates in a Federal election. Surely they would have a better understanding of the Canadian audience versus an American agency.

As email becomes an increasingly large part of political communication strategies, it’s imperative that their email campaigns utilize some basic best practices to bring them up to the standard of industry. Here are a few examples of where I thought they could improve:

  1. Send a timely welcome message: Welcome messages help subscribers ‘open up’ to the idea of receiving communications, even though they’ve already opted-in. By sending a timely welcome message, you are reminding your subscribers that they have subscribed, and that you’re happy they did. This should help increase KPI’s with subsequent emails, as your subscriber is less likely to view them as unwanted spam.
  2. Less text, more responsiveness: Avoid using text-heavy templates in your messages and ensure that they are responsive and optimized for mobile. Emails with multimedia properties perform much better than archaic-feeling text blocks.
  3. Use gathered information to its fullest: When you’re asking for more than just a name and email in your signup form, you had better make use of your information to deliver more relevant content to your subscriber. Did you ask for their postal code? Deliver localized content. Whether they have children? Send them education-heavy content. You have to give to get, and gaudy forms with multiple required fields elevates expectations for your content. Make sure you deliver.
  4. Know your audience: If you don’t understand your audience – what motivates them, what their consumption behaviour is, and what they’re likely to respond to – your emails will be doomed to failure. Only by taking the time to lay your strategic groundwork can you maximize the effectiveness of your email campaigns. It may seem easier to send a standard message to a massive list, but your return on investment will be much lower – even when factoring in the time and effort used on strategy and audience understanding – than taking a metered, thoughtful approach.

Greg Elliott is the Head of Email Marketing & Digital CRM at Ariad Communications

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