Maybe you've heard that Apple announced an update to Apple Mail in the form of their Mail Privacy Protection, potentially altering email marketing as we know it.
It sounds really official. But...
What is Apple's Mail Privacy Protection Policy?
And even more importantly, what can nonprofits do about it?
Here's the skinny:
Email marketing is a major channel of engagement and relationship building for nonprofits. 63% of consumers check their email more than once a day, which means that if you're inboxing, your chance of spreading awareness and encouraging engagement is high through this channel.
But what is success without a way to prove it? Email marketers have relied heavily on statistics like open rates (how many people who got your email opened it), click rates (how many people who got your email clicked in it), and click-through rates (CTR) (how many people who opened the email clicked in it).
Apple’s new mail privacy protection policy takes away the open rate data, as well as identifying data like location, IP address, and timing of the open. Now, it'll be much harder to know if your email was opened.
Here's the policy verbiage that everyone is buzzing over:
“Mail Privacy Protection stops senders from using invisible pixels to collect information about the user. The new feature helps users prevent senders from knowing when they open an email and masks their IP address so it can’t be linked to other online activity or used to determine their location.”
So... now what? Let's talk about the ways that the change to Apple's Mail Privacy Protection Policy will affect your nonprofit and how nonprofit email marketers can adapt. And if your nonprofit's email program is still in the figuring-it-out stages, have no fear! Start here for steps to set up and maintain a healthy nonprofit email marketing list.
Really, this affects your visibility into your email open rates. But aside from driving your open rate into the dumpster, this will also affect how you determine whether a recipient is engaged, how your email drips operate, and the way you segment your email list.
It's gonna be tougher to evaluate the level of success your nonprofit's email campaign is having, but you can still do it! Try these tips to make sure your email campaigns stay golden.
Automated Email Drips
First things first: If you have email drips running that rely on emails being opened, you need to find another way to progress people through the drip. Stuff like: specify send times, tag contacts in your CRM or email service provider (ESP) and send based on the tag, or un-automate it—send a personal message instead.
Alternative Email Metrics to Open Rate
Open rates are just one piece of the email data puzzle, and when they're no longer reliable, we'll all be looking at other indicators that a contact received, opened, clicked, or otherwise engaged with our comms. Here are a few alternatives to start with.
Shows how many people are not into your content. ...or, at least the specific content that motivated them to hit that unsub link. With this, you want to look for spikes; if you see a dramatic increase in unsubs, you need to investigate what caused the exodus. Even a gradual increase can be a good thing—if you're seeing a slow trend upward, it may mean that more people are actually seeing your email. Eventually, your unsubscribe rate should plateau and stay consistent.
A favorite! How many people clicked? And if you send a newsletter or email with multiple links, check your ESP for the top-clicked link—it may not be the link you expect!
Engagement Over Time
Your ESP will likely tell you what time your email was clicked. This is a good start to optimizing your send time to achieve maximum engagement.
It sure is fun when you see hundreds of clicks on an email. Then you look at the unique clicks, and your excitement is dampened somewhat. Despite the fact that it can be a downer, tracking your unique clicks vs your total clicks is very useful in discovering which content was all flash and which has serious staying power.
Most ESPs don't allow you to see who forwarded your email, or where they forwarded them, so we don't suggest you try to find out. What we do suggest is that you make your email content so irresistible that people can't help but share it.
Pro Tip: Put this into practice by including a unique link or code in your email, advertise a matched donation to everything donated through the email, offer a sweet piece of swag, or just ask people to share.
The idea is that the action a person takes is exclusive to the email, so not only will you be able to tell where new website visitors, donors, and volunteers came from, you'll also be establishing the value of the email itself. This is a multi-layered strategy, not just a one-off tactic, so lean into the idea.
A word on this one, folks. It sounds like great info! You can see who opened and then closed your email in a matter of seconds vs. who scrolled all the way to the bottom. But Gmail, a huge portion of any recipient base, doesn't report this data, so it will definitely be skewed. Track this with caution.
As you find different metrics to track, you may discover a wealth of information that open rates just don't offer, so dig in!
Timing Is Everything With Emails
You know how you get a bunch of donations when you send an email on Thursday night, but practically nothing when you send on a Sunday morning? Yep. Use the Engagement Over Time metric noted above to dial in the timing until you've got an optimum send time.
Don't forget to factor frequency in! You'll get much different engagement by sending one newsletter twice a month or several simple, shorter emails multiple times a week.
Consistency is Key
Once you have your data points down and your optimal send time locked in, keep it as consistent as possible. Whether it's weekly, monthly, or quarterly, stay the course and use emergency or urgent appeals infrequently so they stand out from your regularly scheduled programming.
Pro Tip: Not only does consistency help with audience expectations, it also gives you a solid baseline for your data, allowing you to pinpoint great content, altered engagement due to seasonality, and anomalies caused by alien landings or whatever.
If you haven't already, get rid of spam traps, honeypots, and dead email addresses; it's time! There are tons of email validation tools, and it feels soooooooo good to run your list through 'em.
Once your list is clean, look at all the contacts that haven't opened or clicked in the last 3 months, and segment those out for a re-engagement campaign. Pull them back into the fold with an offer they can't refuse and then keep the targeted content coming! Here's more information on strategies to get your nonprofit's email marketing list in shape.
If they don't bite, mark them as unengaged and don't contact them via email again.
Pro Tip: Try another method of communication with your unengaged contacts: text messaging, social media, a third-party survey, or targeted ads.
Fair warning about email lists: while we think marketing emails are very excellent (just look at our newsletter!), there are both written laws and unwritten rules in place regarding use and security of personal data. These laws and rules affect what you can do with email addresses, including whether you can send marketing emails. GDPR covers digital privacy regulations in Europe, CCPA covers the same in California, and CASL covers spam and electronic threats in Canada. Read up on them if you're in the mood to be confused. We can't offer advice on compliance, but we can tell you that reputable ESPs like Mailchimp and Constant Contact know what they're doing, so tap into their expertise. And most importantly, don't buy or sell email lists!
Quality Email Content
If you want engaged contacts, you gotta give 'em engaging content. Use your subject line to get them interested, then get creative with the email body. You may be a nonprofit, but you can still use special offers, time-bound incentives, limited-edition swag or membership benefits, and exclusive events to convince them to click through.
Pro Tip: Tried-and-true ways to get someone to click are story teasers with a hyperlink to read more, donation buttons in different amounts in your emails, and video content they've gotta click to watch.
Targeted Email Content
The best way to create engaging content, though, is to tailor your content to your supporters. Separate them by location, the last content they engaged with, their birthday, family status, pet ownership... anything. Get their attention with content that centers them, then look together at the impact your organization is creating as a result of their support.