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It’s true that most people favor email as their preferred method of communication; it’s immediate and versatile. That said, this same flexibility often leads organizations, including associations like yours, to an over-reliance on transactional emails. Could your email strategy be overwhelming your audience rather than engaging them?

What We’ve Learned from Email Audits

Time and again, our audits reveal a common trend: most organizations, perhaps yours included, have a tendency to send out more transactional emails than those dedicated to building relationships—often at a ratio of 2:1. For instance, one client discovered that in a period of promoting events and membership campaigns, 71% of their emails were transactional, while only 29% focused on nurturing relationships.

This imbalance often results in communications that feel less humane and more directive—simply instructing subscribers to “buy” or “do” something rather than engaging them on a more personal level. We’ve got to start treating our audience like people, not just potential sales.

Comparing Transactional and Relationship Emails

Transactional emails have their place. They are essential for confirmations, reminders, and information about discounts. However, the problem arises when these types of emails dominate your communication strategy, reducing your members to mere transactions. This not only distances your audience but also increases the likelihood of your emails being disregarded or deleted with a simple thought: “Not today.”

Relationship-based emails prioritize building a meaningful connection with the recipient, whereas transactional emails focus on completing or confirming a specific action or transaction.

By strategically balancing these two types of emails, organizations can not only optimize their communication effectiveness but also foster stronger connections, enhance customer satisfaction, and potentially increase the lifetime value of their audience.

Transforming Your Email Strategy

How can you turn a standard transactional email into a relationship-building opportunity? Here are a few strategies:

Instead of just pushing for registration, frame it as an invitation to an exclusive event where they can connect, learn, and grow. Share stories of past attendees who found significant value in participating.

Replace a straightforward renewal reminder with a personalized appreciation message. Reflect on the tenure of their membership and highlight upcoming opportunities tailored for them.

When promoting a benchmarking report, initiate a consultative conversation. Provide snippets of insights they could gain and discuss how these could address specific challenges they face.

Offer more than a simple discount—invite them to an exclusive learning experience designed to enhance their professional growth, adding a preview of the actionable knowledge they’ll gain.

Have You Evaluated Your Email Strategy Recently?

If you’re planning join and renew campaigns or simply aim to improve your communication, consider conducting an email audit. Compare your transactional vs. relationship emails and adjust accordingly to enhance recipient engagement and achieve better results.

Your Next Steps

Transactional emails serve a purpose, but remember, building lasting relationships will sustain your organization in the long run. Begin transforming your emails today to deepen connections and elevate your overall communication strategy.

For more insights into enhancing your communication impact, read our guide on optimizing email strategies here.

Transition your strategy from transactional to transformational with Rottman Creative’s expert insights and watch your member engagement soar!

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Associations that have been around for a while—years, decades even—are doing a lot of things right. A word of caution, though. It’s easy to get complacent, to keep doing what’s always been done because it “works,” or because everyone is too busy to contemplate a better way.

See if this sounds familiar: Your association runs basically the same marketing plans year after year for membership and events. You have similar messaging and a similar value prop every time. You also have the same overall look and feel, the same offers, the same vibe. You might even cut and paste messages from years past into your current promotional materials. Maybe you’re short on time. Maybe you truly believe it’s hard to top a classic.

Even if what you’re doing “works,” chances are you’re leaving something on the table: memberships, registrations, and non-dues revenue. Sure, you are getting members in your door and filling some seats at your events. But consider how many people might be tuning you out after all these years. And imagine how many more people are out there that your association could help and support if only they knew you existed. If only they knew how great and valuable your offerings are.

There’s an old business saying, “If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re getting.” It used to mean that if you don’t change, you’ll never grow. Nowadays, however, that’s a best case scenario. If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll erode your brand. You could see a decline in your membership and event numbers until eventually your association ceases to exist.

It’s time to get more. To shake things up. To ensure your association will still be around for decades to come. Newspapers, print ads, and direct mail were once the backbone of a solid event marketing strategy. Then came email. And now associations are sending lots and lots of email. Too much email. Digital ads, AI, and automation are powerful new tools, but they’re also causing a noisy, always-on, information-overload culture that can actually decrease engagement. It’s essential to put your time and money behind the things that will do you the most good and lay aside the things that no longer serve you well.

Don’t just change for the sake of change. Change is tough. It’s hard to get buy-in for new processes, ideas, and tools. You need to make the right changes. The most meaningful changes. The ones that stand to make the biggest difference in terms of your event and membership numbers and, by extension, your association itself.

Let the data tell you which changes to make. Track performance. Talk to your members to understand their current goals, fears, and pain points. Consider your options carefully. Don’t just jump on the latest digital trends. Think like your members and prospects and do what’s best for them—not necessarily what’s the easiest or most fun for your association. Approach challenges with boldness and scrappy determination to fuel members’ success and to secure the future of your association

Give us a call and let’s talk about your tactics, so that you can blow 2024 out of the water!

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