SMC Sunset: Email Features

Jun 29, 2017

For stations evaluating email marketing solutions, we’ve outline features to look for and ask about. Ultimately, the cost of the solution you select will depend on factors such as your list size, the volume of email you send, the number of users who will need to access your account, and the level of advanced features needed.

Below, we’ve broken out the features being used by stations using our Salesforce Marketing Cloud service between those most commonly used, and those more advanced features used by few stations.

Most commonly used features:

Personalization. Ability to customize emails for each recipient based on information stored in the list, like first name.

Ability to add custom fields to your list. Many stations have custom fields related to giving that they use to generate segments for renewals, and to pull customized language into email appeals. Many stations need the ability to import lists from their membership database that include fields related to the last donation date, or last donation amount to use for customizing membership appeals.

List Segmentation. Ability to filter your list into sub-lists based on any field(s). Ask prospective providers whether you can segment your list off of custom fields. This can be useful when filtering lists for membership appeals based on fields from your membership database.

Bounce Management. Ability to automatically stop sending to email addresses that no longer exist.

Domain Handling. Ability to send out on your own domain for increased deliverability. Services that provided a set domain that is shared between clients can be cheaper, but you increase your risk of being blacklisted by spam filters because of the actions of another company.

Profile Management. Ability to have your subscribers sign up for emails, and opt out of emails via a web form, and links that are automatically included in each of your email sends.

Responsive Email Templates. Mobile friendliness is essential for any email templates. Most providers have basic templates you can use as a starting point. Ask about responsive templates to make sure the emails will easily re-size to be friendly to read in a mobile environment.

Welcome Message: Ability to have the system trigger an automatic welcome message confirming new subscriptions to your list, along with the ability for you to customize the branding & messaging in the email.

Reporting: Ability to pull reports on how many emails were delivered, opened, or bounced, and who has subscribed or unsubscribed from your list.

Advanced Options

Advanced options may not be necessary in all circumstances. However, we recommend thinking about how you want to use email as part of your communication and fundraising strategies to help you evaluate the importance of these features to you:

Automation. Most providers offer the ability to schedule emails ahead of time. More advanced providers offer options for having an email or pre-programmed series of emails trigger automatically based on rules that you create.

A/B Testing. Automatic A/B testing is most useful for stations with larger lists (25,000+) so that it is possible for your test results to be statistically valid. A/B testing allows you to send out slightly different versions of a single email to help you determine which version is most effective in getting an subscriber to open the email or click on a link, and will frequently automatically determine the winner to send to the majority of you list.

CRM integration. Talk to your database provider about whether they have recommendations for Email Service Providers (ESPs) that can directly integrate with their system. If you’re thinking about moving to a CRM like Salesforce, look for ESP that have hooks that would allow you to make direct integrations with the solutions you’re evaluating.

Advanced Scripting Options. SMC has its own scripting language (AmpScript) that allows developers to build advanced functionality into email templates. If you’re using this feature, you’ll want to document what you’re currently using it for to confirm similar options exist in your new platform.

Email Service Providers

Below are several major Email Service Providers, many of which have clients in public media. NPR DS does not recommend one above the other as many factors go into which solutions best meet your particular needs.

Campaign Monitor: Free trial available. Nonprofit pricing available. Campaign Monitor also has great, free resources on email marketing best practices & trends.

Constant Contact: Free trial available. Nonprofit pricing available.

Emma: Free trial available. Nonprofit pricing available.

MailChimp:Free trial available. Nonprofit pricing available.

Salesforce Marketing Cloud: Salesforce is eager to make the transition as smooth as possible for stations wishing to set up their own SMC account. NPR DS can refer you to a sales contact to discuss setting up your own account directly with Salesforce. Contact us for details.