Make Your Association Emails Appealing to Your Readership

Emails can be sent out so easily that they can sometimes be neglected for the opportunity they present. How you package your content will decide whether the enclosed message is impactful. And, of course, you want it to be impactful. To make sure you maximize uptake, you’ll need to put some thought into how your association readership (and most everyone) behaves when opening an email.

First thing to know is that there are no hard and fast rules that need to be applied to your emails to make them appealing and more readable. Frankly, if you always apply the same standards, your emails will eventually bore your readership. However, there are some high level guidelines that you can mix and match to make it so there is a greater chance your association members will actually take the time to read your content. Below, we have outlined some of the guidelines you can apply to your email templates. Just remember to keep your content fresh and change it up from time to time.

Make it Visual
Your email should be visually appealing. To accomplish this and accommodate for visual elements, you’re going to need to be stingy with what you include and what you don’t within your content. No one wants to read a novel – that’s not what they’re looking for in an email. Pops of colour, photos and design elements should break up the content and help carry the reader through the email. You need every advantage in gaining your members’ attention, so ensure you implement a coordinated array of visual cues that will capture their interest.
Consider the Design
While it’s important to be visual, it’s counterproductive to overload the senses. The body of your email should flow smoothly from one visual element or piece of content to the next. If the reader’s eye interprets the email as broken up or cluttered (from a visual standpoint), you may lose them. Instead of leaving the reader to figure out where their eye should wander next, there should be a built-in logic to the design that guides them through the body. If you have an in-house designer, great, make use of them. If you don’t, no need to panic – just keep it clean and simple and you’ll be fine.
Header First
The header is such an important part of your email design. You can quickly identify your association to your member reader through branding or colour blocking, and you can even pre-empt the content by giving the reader a hint about what the email is regarding. For example, if some of your association representatives are attending an event as presenters, and you want to send out an email to attendees that you look forward to meeting them there, just by placing your association’s logo and the event logo in the header will immediately give readers enough information to know what this email is about. Once recipients open the email, the first thing they will see is the header – it’s worth your time to think about what subtle things can be done to trigger interest in the rest of the email.
Stay on Brand
It’s fine to experiment and try out new things in your email content, but it still needs to be familiar and identifiable to your member readers. If the content is indistinguishable from the language you tend to use, the design is out of left field and the colour ways do not complement your branding – readers will get terribly confused. They may even think it’s spam and not correspondence from the association they claim membership to. Stay true to who you are as an association through your content so readers will instantaneously know what they are looking at and who is speaking.
Beware the Scan
This may seem like a cynical thing to say but it is our nature to try and apply a strategy to get through an email or piece of content as quickly as possible. There’s actually a lot of proof out there that shows we scan content in an “F-Shaped” pattern. We scan across the entire top of the content, then a little further down we go about half-way into the content, and then we just scan vertically – grazing the start of the left-most side all the way to the bottom of the piece. We all use this “F-Shaped” pattern to decide whether we should bother investing our time in actually reading something and ingesting its message. As petty as we all are for trying to find shortcuts through content, it’s a reality. So, don’t ignore this prevalent scanning technique. Factor it in to your content and design. Make sure the body of your email is “F-Shaped” pattern compatible and that when the reader implements this shortcut strategy, they pick up enough interest within their scanning path that they ditch the scan and dive into the content.
Be Concise
When people see a large block of text, they immediately shutdown. There’s probably a very poor chance of strong uptake and for those poor souls that do take the time, they won’t really consume the information – their mind will be elsewhere. Reason being, there’s nothing more boring, unimaginative or uninspiring than digitized black font against a white-coloured window. No one can get excited about that – even if the message within is the best thing they’ve ever read. Be concise with what you want to get across. There’s no need to be overly wordy. Just deliver what you want the reader to know in plain and simple language. They don’t need to know all the information regarding the topic you are communicating. All you need to do is hook their interest. If they have further questions, they will be motivated to follow-up and inquire.
Put Thought into Your Subject Line
Before member readers even open an email, the first thing they see is the subject line. This serves as a bit of short-form marketing on behalf of your association – since it will convince (or dissuade) recipients to go ahead with opening the email. There isn’t a right or wrong way to craft this short-form content. There’s no silver bullet that will allow you to ensure unanimous uptake. However, you should make sure the subject line is very brief, to the point and speaks to your audience. No one can tell you how best to write a subject line for your membership. Your association is the best informed to create appealing content for its audience, since no one knows the members like you. Ensure this brief intro into what the recipient will be reading speaks to their sensibilities in such a way that they will be motivated to find out more.
Speak to Your Audience
Following from the above, just like the subject line, the content of your email should speak in a way that is attractive to your membership. Using the lingo your audience is familiar and comfortable with is most likely the single-most important guideline referenced here. You can do everything else right, but if your audience can’t relate to what’s being said, they’ll move on. Make sure the content of your email is endearing to the reader, so they want to stick around to consume the message.
Call to Action
Clearly define what you want the reader to do within the content. Once your members finish reading the email, they should know exactly what is being asked of them. Don’t make it difficult to locate the call to action. It should get evident play that is immediately visible. Also, do not pile on a bunch of calls to action – stick with one. You don’t want the reader getting confused or overwhelmed when asking something of them.
Don’t be Overbearing
Clearly define what you want the reader to do within the content. Once your members finish reading the email, they should know exactly what is being asked of them. Don’t make it difficult to locate the call to action. It should get evident play that is immediately visible. Also, do not pile on a bunch of calls to action – stick with one. You don’t want the reader getting confused or overwhelmed when asking something of them.
Go Off-Script… Sometimes
Every once and awhile, you should throw a curveball to keep people guessing. Don’t go off-brand, but mix up your content and design style just enough to keep things interesting for the reader. Be very strategic when you do this. You don’t want to throw readers off all of the time – just occasionally.
Have Fun
Content and design are creative endeavours and should be fun – so have fun with them. Don’t be uptight with your emails. Readers won’t be motivated to read your content if you set a precedent of a stiff upper lip. Keep things amusing and entertaining so members will look forward to reading your emails.

Emails can be a bore, if you let them. However, if you put the effort in and speak to your audience, people will enjoy your content and you’ll get the reader uptake you’re looking to achieve.

Another thing to keep in mind is that you should maintain a frequent schedule of email send outs. Accomplishing this can be made easier by automating emails through your association management system. Guild makes many processes easier for your administrators and more enjoyable for your members – including email automation. To learn more about Guild, or schedule a live demo, click here.