Tuesday, November 5, 2013

E-mail Fundraising: Learning From Obama's Success

E-mail fundraising, where a faulty subject line can cost millions of dollars in donations, can be a daunting prospect. Luckily for 2014 political campaigners, the successful Obama 2012 presidential bid blazed a path with extensive A/B e-mail testing. A recent econsultancy.com interview with Amelia Showalter, Obama's director of digital analytics, provided some tips based on that testing. To see how much it matters, consider that the difference in effectiveness of the best-performing test subject line and the worst-performing test subject line was estimated at over $2 million in donations. So take advantage of the lessons learned by the Obama team. No. 1: Test everything, because your "gut" and conventional wisdom are often poor predictors of what works with the electorate. The Obama digital team was consistently wrong in predicting which would be the top-performing test e-mails, Showalter says. In fact, "ugly" designs often beat "pretty" designs; the Obama team found a design with strident yellow highlighting trumped more subtle appeals, for example. And keep on testing! Create a testing culture immune to marketing and political egos, include columns for "tests" in all short-term and long-term e-mail campaign calendars, and constantly compare test results to prior performance (not just industry standards). Don't let the digital team perform in a bubble, however; spread the word about test results internally to get buy-in and generate new ideas from the wider campaign effort. Finally, make your e-mails both personalized and personal. For example, subject lines that are shorter and less formal perform better, per the Obama experience. A subject line that just said "Hey" was consistently most successful! Don't be afraid of mild curse words now and then as well; "Let's win the damn election" worked for Obama. For more on the lessons from the Obama digital team, read http://econsultancy.com/us/blog/63672-seven-lessons-obama-s-digital-team-learned-from-a-b-testing-emails

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