Follow the money: Learning from political emails

April 27, 2016

Political campaigns do a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to testing the success of email. They have massive lists, send huge numbers of messages, constantly test variables large and small, and are agile enough to implement winning tactics in as little as a few hours. For them, there’s simply no such thing as too much email or too many tests.

So there’s much to learn, and here’s how: Sign up for a variety of campaign email lists and you’ll experience lots of tests. Through it may not always be clear whether you’ve been sent the control or the test, if you pay attention to trends and repetition, it’s not difficult to discern what’s working best.

Gauging recent evidence, we find that image panels (messages composed of oversize block letters stacked in groups upon one another) are rising to the top, as are urgent and timely subject lines like, “37 donations from [city] needed by midnight.”

And sometimes, success comes from breaking all the rules. For example, one recent campaign’s single most successful email was very long, dense, and all text, the exact opposite of what is traditionally considered best practices. Which makes the point that true success comes from both following and implementing the best ideas, and also knowing your own program and how a certain appeal is likely to generate the greatest response.

And always remember, no matter the size of your file, e-testing is free, so be sure to find as many opportunities as possible to learn something valuable about what inspires your donors to give.