Five email marketing lessons from Canada's political parties

What's the most powerful communications tool to generate sales leads, solicit donations, and raise awareness of your brand? 

Email. 

Yes, despite the hype about email being dead, email marketing remains an important marketing tool. Unfortunately, it is often neglected by smaller businesses and charities. 

It shouldn't be. Some email marketing stats for you:

  • For every $1 spent on email marketing, the average return on investment is more than $44.
  • Email conversion rates are three times higher than social media.
  • Email is nearly 40 times better than Facebook and Twitter at acquiring customers (I'd guess that applies to donors, too, for charities). 

Email isn't dead; in fact, it's in the midst of a resurgence. Take the example of Lenny Letter, launched by Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner. It's an e-newsletter with more than 40,000 likes on Facebook.

So how can you harness the power of email for your organization? 

After Canada's recent election, I signed up to the mailing lists of the four national political parties for fun. (Yes, this is the kind of activity I consider to be fun.) Examining their email marketing gives insight you can use for your organization.

So let's take a look at some of the emails I received from the Liberal Party, the Conservative Party, and the NDP. (To date, the Green Party has not sent me anything. If anyone from the Green Party is reading this, take careful notes for the next email campaign you send, hopefully ASAP.) 

A December 7 email from Christina Topp, the Acting National Director of the Liberal Party of Canada.

A December 7 email from Christina Topp, the Acting National Director of the Liberal Party of Canada.

A December 10 email from Irving Gerstein, the Chair of the Conservative Fund Canada. 

A December 10 email from Irving Gerstein, the Chair of the Conservative Fund Canada. 

A November 30 email from the NDP, as viewed on mobile. 

A November 30 email from the NDP, as viewed on mobile. 

What can we learn from these emails? 

1. Simplicity

These emails aren't fancy. They don't rely on polished videos or slick images. Only the NDP email has a graphic that requires design skills. 

Email newsletters don't need to dazzle, they need to get your message across. 

This is great news for organizations without huge marketing teams or in-house graphic designers. You can still put together a great email. 

2. Represent your brand

They’re not fancy, but they are branded. In addition to the logos, the Liberal email has a red marker writing on a whiteboard, and the NDP email graphic is in orange. 

Your email needs to match your brand. 

3. Call to action

A call to action is an instruction to your audience to do something. Every email you send needs one. 

These emails include strong calls to action to donate. The Conservative email even includes their call to action twice, a good tactic for increasing the number of people who will act. 

The emails lend a sense of urgency to the call to action whether through deadlines (“Just 10 hours to go.”) or the possibility of terrible consequences (“… the Conservatives are poised to out-raise us — which means attack ads and smear politics could be back.”) 

4. Make it scannable

Online, people don’t read, they scan. These emails are written to be easily scanned, with bolded text and short paragraphs to make it easy to understand the main ideas even if the viewer isn’t reading word-by-word. 

5. Mobile-friendly

I included the NDP email as viewed on mobile, but each of these emails is designed to be mobile-friendly. Half of emails are opened on mobile, so if your email isn’t mobile-friendly, it’s not user-friendly. 

This relates to our first point of simplicity. One of the advantages of keeping your emails clean, without many images or videos, is that they are easier to format for mobile and quicker to load when a viewer opens them on their mobile device.

Don't make your email marketing needlessly complex. Take the lead from Canada's political parties by following these five rules to send clear, branded emails that people will read (er, scan) and act on.