Association Email is Dying

By Amanda Kaiser posted 12-13-2018 14:39

Email is ridiculously important to the health of our association because at most associations email is by far the most used channel to communicate with our members. But email is in trouble!

I am not going to address deliverability (although that is a problem). We are not going to talk about all the new filters that purposely block and sort association mass emails into spam folders (that’s a problem too). We are not going to belly-ache about how aggressive marketers and spammers are messing up the channel for the rest of us (another huge problem).

What we are going to discuss today is what we can do to ensure our members do not sort our emails into their mental spam box. Members ignore our emails, and this is a gigantic problem, but unlike the other inherent problems with email, we have some control over this one.

Can you imagine if your members waited eagerly every Friday for your weekly email to arrive? Imagine if upon reading the first few emails new members think, “wow! It is like this association is reading my mind”. What if after a few weeks of emails a member says, “I feel like I could be friends with the person who writes these messages.” This actually happens! Members have told me so.

Our members, unfortunately, are pre-disposed to ignoring our email messages. They receive 100 – 200 emails a day so the quicker they can process all that information the happier they are. An email message has to be critical or super valuable to be read.

Fortunately, a recent research study highlights tactics that will help more members engage with your emails.

  • Show first-time readers (prospective and new members) that they do not want to ignore the association’s emails. You do this by solving the problem they are having now.
  • Keep providing new members value in the first week, first month, and each month after that with emails specially written for them. (Top performers tend to send new members three emails in the first week after joining, emails weekly for the first month, then monthly for at least seven months.)
  • Prove that the association is here to help new members. Focus only on messages that add value and solve a problem they are having. This may mean holding back any other emails from the association especially the ones that ask for more money (register for the conference, buy this book, purchase the research).
  • Make reading fun. Set a positive, happy, friendly, friendly tone.
  • Keep them short. Think 3-5 sentences and focus on having members take just one action.
  • Refrain from allowing email to become a dumping ground. Not every product deserves an email. Not every event deserves five emails.

Think critically about each email you send. Is this email contributing to the health of your email communication channel or is it degrading it?

Amanda Kaiser is a qualitative researcher for the association community and a member engagement expert. Channeling member insights, Amanda writes a weekly blog at