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What do Mac & Cheese and Power of Attorneys Have in Common?

They ranked among our top three most popular e-mails in 2015.

At USAGov, we know that e-mail is often our #1 driver of traffic to our content, and nine out of 10 times it’s our go-to outreach tool for disseminating timely information. But doing e-mail sends consistently and effectively isn’t always clear cut, especially when you have a combined 1.3 million subscribers.

We send e-mail blasts to our subscriber lists about all sorts of content based on what they signed up to get. Topics range from immigration to travel, health, and jobs.

Example: Kraft Recall of Macaroni and Cheese Boxed Dinners

We primarily use e-mail to:

  • Support a marketing campaign
  • Drive traffic to timely content on our websites
  • Promote social media chats or events
  • Amplify information or alerts on behalf of other government agencies
Email concept with mailbox

adempercem/iStock/Thinkstock

With every e-mail, a lot of consideration goes into the draft, quality and purpose of why we’re sending a particular communication.

Before we draft the email and hit send, we ensure that the message is:

  • Timely and useful
  • Mobile, tablet, and desktop friendly.
  • In plain language, clear, and action-oriented.
  • Reaching the right audience—In the future, we would like to explore segmentation and targeting (geo-specific when appropriate, for example when we do disaster communications).

The e-mail team also monitors and stays up to date on consumer trends and promotes content on our sites that might be of interest to the public.

Example: Power of Attorney and Your Responsibilities

What e-mail has done for us:

  • Contributed to major traffic spikes on our web pages.
  • Spiked calls to our call center. For example, an email we sent about tax identity theft triggered a high number of calls.
  • Informed the public about a campaign and increased public participation in social media chats.

Experimentation and Measurement

We evaluate every message we send by reviewing our data about a week after an e-mail’s sent. Unique open rates and click rates—both numbers and percentages—help us evaluate what content performed well. We know, for example, that we have a lot of visitors to USA.gov and GobiernoUSA.gov seeking information on immigration. We align that information with our e-mail sends, and the open rates and click-through rates prove the value of knowing what people are interested in.

At the end of every month, our internal performance measurement team provides us with a detailed report of how our messages performed. This is valuable information that informs and influences our e-mail content strategy. We combine the data from e-mail behavior with data from website visits and calls to our contact center, 1-844-USA-GOV1. All of these factors determine what we invest time writing about.

Many factors go into a successful e-mail, from subject line, to preheader text, to bypassing spam filtering systems. After you checked all these off, you also need to consider images.

We’ve noted that eight out of 10 times e-mails with images outperform e-mails that don’t include images. An image should always support your content and should include alternative text for screen readers.

Things to Consider

There are numerous things to take into consideration as you explore e-mail sends and campaigns. Here are some key questions to explore for your strategy:

  • Are your e-mail marketing writers familiar with your content strategy? Do they understand your organization’s voice?
  • Will you have dedicated resources to employ a consistent communications output?
  • Will you be able to ensure quality control so messages are well-written, timely, culturally relevant, and targeted?

Stay tuned for a series of posts on e-mail content and strategy.

This post was originally published on the USAGov blog by Victoria Wales, a member of the USAGov Marketing and Outreach Team.

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