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If you’re still sending out 30,000 identical emails to people, from past board members to a parent whose kid took a swim lesson six years ago, it’s time to make the cut — in the form of a “delete” key. It might be time to trim the fat from a list that, if you check your open rates, has died long ago.

I feel for you. It’s painful, even a little judgmental, as you sit there wondering why in the heck “those people” are not opening your love letters.

It’s simple. They’re just not that into you — well, not all of you. Some may love your fun facts about fitness, while others are attracted to your special events. A few may hunger for your programming menu, while a handful may eagerly await your plea for an annual donation.

Yet, each month, you give them your all.

Whether you use Constant Contact, Mail Chimp, or one of the dozen other pay-to-play providers, chances are your list is too big and too comprehensive. Ask yourself, “Do all 30,000 of those addresses really need to know that the Silver Sneakers Dance-A-Thon is happening next month, hold an interest in a 5K, care about lifeguard certification, or need to see the packing list for an overnight camp?”

You know the answer, even if you’re too tired to admit it.

Being a one-person operation, with so much information to externally communicate and not enough time to digest an inherited “who’s who” email list, I found it so much easier to create one e-blast a month. It was long and wordy, and it contained everything I could brag about in the previous month and promote for the next.

It was the same process: write, spellcheck, send, breathe and repeat. I did this for years.

Occasionally, I’d get a comment back, usually about a typo. But, truth be told, the positive feedback was non-existent and the results, when I finally got smart about checking the open rates, were dismal.

Big surprise — I was targeting everybody for everything. And of course, I knew better. But this was such a timesaver. It was also a guaranteed way to miss the mark.

Why was I spending days of diligence getting information from people, crafting it into something creative, finding a politically-correct and photo-released image, and getting just the right layout to only please myself? No one else was reading the e-blast, much less opening it, to applaud my efforts.

There were a few vigilant viewers — maybe 10%. But with a desired open rate of at least 25%, and a click-through rate almost as high, my measly 10% was an epic fail — even though I worked really, really hard on the content. If nobody is reading, what good is good writing?

So I got smart — I finally took the time to segment that list of 30,000. I deleted those who had not opened an e-blast in the last nine months.

With the remaining addresses, I started from scratch. I crafted a short survey thanking them for being on our distribution list. I also gave them the option of opting out (risky, I know) or selecting what information they would like to see in the future, such as general news about our organization or things to do with children’s programs.

Then, I set up varying templates designed for these interest areas and a schedule that didn’t drive me crazy. I set up different, smaller e-mail lists and created a new sign-up form for the website that better segmented my target markets. I still gathered my information — but when I decided to throw it out there, I was a bit more intentional with my aim.

Shorter, more specific e-blasts resulted in people actually opening, reading and clicking through to our website. And, according to Constant Contact, this is what I can (and do) expect:

  • Opens: 14.31% higher than non-segmented campaigns
  • Unique opens: 10.64% higher than non-segmented campaigns
  • Clicks: 10.95% higher than non-segmented campaigns
  • Bounces: 4.65% lower than non-segmented campaigns
  • Abuse reports: 3.9% lower than non-segmented campaigns
  • Unsubs: 9.37% lower than non-segmented campaigns

It’s a work in progress, for certain. But, honestly, what’s not?


Judi Christy is the director of marketing and communication at the Akron Area YMCA.

Judi Christy

Judi Christy is the director of marketing and communication at the Akron Area YMCA.

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