If you are rabbi or Jewish educator using the Web to reach out to your community, you probably know of the many social networks that you could use.
Facebook always seems to be first on the “to-join” list. Then there’s Twitter and LinkedIn. And have you tried Pinterest, Instagram and Google Plus?
And how’s your YouTube channel coming along?
But if you are super short on time but serious about impact and results, there is only one Social Network that you absolutely have to be on.
This Social Network is many times larger than all the other big players combined. In fact, it has been said that it transmits more than 500 times as many daily, non-spam messages as Facebook. And unlike Facebook, I can almost guarantee that every member of your target audience is an active user.
What is this massive yet overlooked social network of which I speak?
It’s email, of course.
If you look at it, email is basically an old-fashioned Facebook with better privacy. The kind of content that is shared via email is very similar, but more personal and of higher quality.
As a marketer helping Jewish businesses and organizations spread their messages, I’ve noticed that email is also one of the most powerful marketing platforms around. Yet most rabbis and Jewish educators are not making the most of its power to spread their message, encourage participation and deepen their relationships with their audience.
If you are not yet using email in your outreach and community building efforts (or if you haven’t seen great results from your email efforts), I recommend that you put email marketing at the top of your priority list.
Here are 10 tips to help you do email marketing right and get maximum results with minimum effort:
- Bye-Bye Gmail: Never mass email from your personal email account. This is illegal and can get your email address blacklisted as spam. Instead, use email marketing software. I recommend Mailchimp, which allows you to send 12,000 emails a month for free. Don’t worry about graphics and other fancy features. Just create simple emails and send them.
- Send emails weekly or bi-weekly: It’s better that they are short and regular, than long and erratic. Don’t worry if you don’t have exciting events to announce or mind-blowing Divrei Torah to share every time. A friendly hello and brief insight you had while crossing the street this morning are also great. We all know how we feel about people who only get in touch when they “want something from you.”
- Steadily grow your list: Obviously, the bigger your list, the greater your impact every time you press “send.” First of all, anyone who attends any event you host, whether live or online, should be added to your email list. Anyone who contacts you with relevant questions can be added. Previous contacts and participant lists can also be added. Use discretion and try not to add anyone who will resent it. DON’T add people who you have never had any direct contact with or who are unlikely to be interested in your emails. In general, the unsubscribe button that comes with all good email software should protect you from annoying those people who don’t want your emails.
- The Subject Line is King: Make it tantalizing, make it attention grabbing, and make people want to open that email. It doesn’t matter how great your email is, most people won’t open it if the subject line is ho-hum. Here are some examples of subject lines that don’t generate spectacular open rates: “May Newsletter from The Jewish Center,” “Insights into the Weekly Parasha” and “Rosh Hashana Fundraising Appeal.” You’ll get much better results with something creative, like: “Why did the Shofar Cross the Road?”
- Start a Conversation: Always invite response at the end of each email. Tell your readers they can hit “reply” and tell you their thoughts at any time. Ask an intriguing question and ask them to share their thoughts. They will take up your offer when they’re ready. A private email conversation with someone is a great opportunity to start a meaningful relationship.
- Asking vs. Giving: Notify your list about events, fundraising appeals, and holiday programs. This is obvious but still critical, so I’m mentioning it. As a rule of thumb, these “asking” emails should comprise about 20% of the emails you send. The majority should be purely “giving” emails.
- Be Yourself: Be personal, funny, off-the-cuff and honest in your emails. Email is a very personal medium. Email is a gateway into each recipient’s personal world, their heart and their mind. The more real and genuine you are, the more they will be inclined to trust you and value the “relationship.”
- Watch your “open rates”: Any good email marketing software tells you what percentage of your subscribers are actually reading your emails. As a rule of thumb, a quality list should have at least 25% of subscribers opening your emails. If it’s higher than this, you are doing a great job. If it’s much lower than this, you have one of two possible problems: the vast majority of your subscribers don’t want your emails – most likely they were subscribed against their will; or your emails are not attracting interest because they are not interesting enough. I give basic tips to avoid both these problems in this article, though every case is different.
- Unsubscribes are your friend: This may sound counterintuitive, but it is one of the beautiful truths of email marketing. So many people are upset by unsubscribes from their email list. I’ve even met people who are too scared to email their list because they are afraid that readers will unsubscribe if they write “too often.” This fear is totally misplaced. Your email list is worthless unless you use it, and plenty of marketing research has shown that the less often you email, the more your open rates drop. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should be anudnik and email 3 times a day. Once a week is a good time-frame. If people unsubscribe it’s because they are not that interested in what you have to say right now. That’s OK. They leave behind a higher quality community of people who are interested in what you have to say. No harm done. I repeat: you will not lose genuinely interested subscribers by emailing weekly.
- The Rest is Commentary: This is just and intro to get you started. The important thing is to start. And, of course, keep learning and improving your email marketing results.
For more tips and strategies for achieving your goals online, visit Naomi Elbinger’s popular blog, My Parnasa: The Jewish Business Blog and download her free ebook, The Jewish Guide to Success on the Web.
picture compliments of opensourceway.