E-mail marketing has this unfortunate stigma of being spam almost immediately, before you even send it.  But with e-mail reaching virtually everyone, it’s a desirable platform to market to your audience.  The question is, how do you make your e-mail blast a welcome sight to most of your audience without them automatically sending it to the trash?  Marketing Sherpa just did a study on a company called charity: water, which used video in their e-mail campaigns, targeting people who actually asked to be sent these e-mails.  How did they do that?

charity: water’s Video E-Mail Campaign

charity: water is a non-profit seeking to bring clean drinking water to the 800 million people who don’t have it.  The Marketing Sherpa article presents the problem: they wanted to increase the amount of e-mails they were sending out, but they didn’t want to burn out people when sending them.  It’s quite the quandary: since the ability of a non-profit to generate donations depends on awareness, sending reminders and notifications is a big part of the job, but you don’t want to upset people who think your e-mails are a nuisance.

They decided to go with video in their e-mails, and focus their campaign on those who were eager to receive them.  They would inspire and educate, instead of just asking for donations.  To do that, they had to tell a story.

In charity: water’s campaign, they:

  • Sent a pre-launch e-mail to their most dedicated subscribers announcing a September Campaign to raise $1.7 million for efforts in Rwanda.  Through a simple “Sign Up Here” button, interested parties would go to a landing page where they could sign up for more e-mail updates.  So they got extra permission to send even more e-mails to those who really wanted them.
  • Launched the campaign: this next e-mail went to normal subscribers and people who had signed up for the extra content.  It had a trailer announcing the campaign, and they encouraged people to share it:

They put this trailer everywhere: in the e-mail, social media, and through personal outreach.

  • Sent weekly updates to supporters.  They wanted people to learn the story through video, and their website which told even more stories.

And this quote from Sarah Salisbury, Digital Marketing Manager of charity: water is key (from the Marketing Sherpa story):

We chose to share videos and stories rather than make fundraising or donation asks because we believe in sending what is best for our subscribers, rather than what is best for us.

Compelling people to donate is way better than asking people to donate.  These e-mails reached out to everyone who signed up during the campaign, those who had signed up before, and anyone who had been a part of the previous campaign.  The simple call-to-action: watch the video.

Like this one, called “The Spirit of Rwanda:”

After watching the video, viewers were then given the option to click over to the September Campaign landing page, where that same video was featured, and a small graphic showing the overall amount of money raised and how close to the $1.7 million they were.  On the landing page, interested parties could learn more about the campaign, and that graphic stayed in the left-hand corner at all times.  The page was filled with stories.  “This is who your money helps,” it essentially said, without asking for money.

  • Kept fundraisers alert to the cause and motivated.  Those who had decided to make it this far were given weekly updates.  The goal: to make them realize how much a part of the cause they were.  Different individual campaigns from fundraisers just like them were featured, fundraising tips and tools, and overall progress were all featured in the updates.

In the end, charity: water was able to increase the e-mail campaigns to those who were motivated, and they saw a 21 percent increase in open rates (how many people saw the e-mail).  They saw an increase from 50 to 58 percent of fundraisers who took part in raising donations, and overall they raised $2 million, which was $300,000 over their goal.  Boom.

The fascinating study is over here at Marketing Sherpa, where you can get even more insight about it.