How-To: Send automated emails to move your supporters to action - cStreet Campaigns

How-To: Send automated emails to move your supporters to action

Ah, the dreaded promotions tab. Inevitably you’ve probably heard complaints about it for some time now.

The arrival of smart inbox filtering has been called the death knell for email campaigning, cruelly relegating our important digital communications to the domain of special limited time pizza offers.

But that doesn’t have to be the future for us all. In fact, the new weight placed on recipient behaviour should be looked upon as an incredible opportunity for advanced campaigns to cut through the noise with smart tactics, and cut out weak and ineffective competition for valuable inbox real estate.

With the NationBuilder memberships feature we’ve successfully adapted some of the best email onboarding procedures from around the web to engage your lists in ways that actually increase deliverability over the course of a campaign.

Memberships have been part of the NationBuilder toolset for some time now, but most users barely scratch the surface of their potential, using them as a way to track various levels of paid memberships, or have more granular restrictions on front end content.

Hidden away though is a secondary function that is pure gold: two auto responses with time sensitive triggers.

Here’s how to use memberships to create an onboarding process:

First thing’s first. Before we do anything we’re going to grab our real live notebook (or open up notepad) to plan out what our onboarding journey will look like.

Here’s what I consider when designing my onboarding campaigns:

  • What action pages will start the journey?

    • Home signup / e-list join

    • Join the organization

  • How many days between automated onboarding emails?

    • Email 1 = instant.

    • Email 2 = 3 days from signing

    • Email 3 = 7 days from signing

  • What are the main themes, or asks for your emails?

    • Email 1 = Welcome to the campaign, here is our story, are you a real person behind that email address? Text only!

    • Email 2 = Survey asking for feedback on what you think about the organization/ what are your hopes/dreams. Has a big feedback button in the email.

    • Email 3 = Thanks for telling us what you are thinking about us, here are some exciting things that we are working on right now, and here is the best way to get involved in the one that interests you the most. Links to other action pages, but not fundraising.

Now that you’ve planned out your journey it’s time to create a new membership level. Let’s pretend we’re taking the extremely original approach of calling it: Onboarding.

Initially you will have to specify a default renewal page, usually your main home page sign up. Since this is a default field you will have to fill it in, but it is actually does not control where individuals get the membership. That is controlled from the individual action pages themselves, so don’t get too hung up on this step.

It will ask you to set time trigger for sending a reminder of the membership expiration, as well as a grace period. Best practice here is to leave the grace period blank, while setting the membership reminder trigger to be the difference in time between email 2 and email 3.

You can always change it later based on your organization’s needs and community characteristics, but since we already decided this before we got going we’re going to set it to 4 days.

Membership setup

Next, we’re going to edit the autoresponders that will form the tail end of our onboarding experience. You’ll notice that there are three autoresponders in this menu: Expiration warning, Failed payment, and Expired. Expiration warning is email 2, and Expired is email 3 and we’re going to ignore Failed payment since it is not part of our user experience.

So you’re going to want to delete the placeholder email and replace it with your own, engaging content that corresponds to the journey you mapped out before starting, here you can also choose to change the organizational voice or sender but if your goal is to increase deliverability on your main email communicator it is strongly recommended you keep it consistent, and you choose your primary communication profile.

Membership autoresponders

With the back end of the journey all loaded up all you need to do is set up the entry points on your site for the journey that you wrote down earlier.

In most page type settings you’ve probably noticed that there is an option to attach a membership level to all action takers, and to choose when that membership expires. This is your onboarding point of departure.

To do this you will have to be in the page type settings, and select your onboarding membership from the drop down menu. Be sure to specify that the membership expires in the total amount of days between email 1 and email 3, in this example it is set it to 7 days.

Assigning memberships

As you add a membership trigger to each action page remember to go into the autoresponder section for that page and paste in the content from your onboarding email 1.

Note that this completely replaces the auto-response for the page you are setting up, so issue specific campaigns, or action pages that are not explicitly related to joining your organization, movement, or campaign tend to make bad points of entry for the onboarding experience.

That is totally it. You’ve done it. Great job. Wow. 🐕

Some things to note:
Do you already use membership levels? Afraid this will mess up everything you hold near and dear?

Fear not- NationBuilder memberships are created in a way that users can have multiple membership types and they won’t get in each other’s way.

You can have custom onboarding experiences for each action page if that’s how specific you want to get, and still take paid memberships without sacrificing the onboarding experience.

One thing you will want to do is make sure you’re not over saturating the entry points for the onboarding experience.

This is because if someone already has that specific existing membership given from one specific page on your site like the home signup and then they go to an issue based petition which also gives out the membership a few days later they will renew their membership, setting back the date triggers and potentially sending them the same email twice, which is just awkward for everyone.

Make sure you are planning out your onboarding journey with the end user experience in mind, and you’ll be all right.

Good luck out there, and hope to see you in my main inbox tab!

originally published Monday, October 31, 2016