Lessons from The Andre Agassi Charitable Foundation

For the third year, the Email Experience Council (eec) has undertaken a pro-bono effort called the Nonprofit Initiative. This year, Andre Agassi Charitable Foundation was the selected client. To support this effort, volunteers from the eec membership base dedicate 12 months worth of strategy, creative services, and technology to help build or optimize e-mail efforts.

Along the way, challenges and successes are captured and shared as an industry learning initiative, case studies are built, and results for the client are driven. What’s more, just by talking about the initiative’s work, we have already inspired other similar efforts done for the good of the world, in the U.K. (working with the DMA’s Email Marketing Council).

Two weeks ago, the eec kicked off its initiative with the Andre Agassi Charitable Foundation (AACF), a fantastic organization dedicated to transforming U.S. public education for underserved youth.

The foundation team did a phenomenal job in clearly defining where it believed the eec team could provide the biggest impact. This column will cover some of the learnings we found most valuable to share with the industry at large — and that includes three concepts you should consider when undertaking any new e-mail marketing initiative.

In coming months, I’ll provide updates on this initiative, explaining the insights e-mail marketers have obtained from tried-and-tested strategies — and how well these ideas work when put to the test.

The Client, or Stakeholder, Must Set the Stage

Let’s say you’re an agency, consultant, or inside a client business and are asked to focus on an e-mail project. Assessing the business from the outside makes it very easy to build a huge list of opportunities for improvement or expansion. Unfortunately, the outside analysis always has a skewed view of reality. Because companies manage staff, resources, and priorities differently, efforts that seem simple to an outsider can often become very difficult to manage. When the eec team analyzed opportunity areas for the AACF from the “outside,” we came up with a list of five items. When the team at AACF shared its three priorities, these were different from the eec team’s. After listening to the AACF team, it was clear these would be three areas where we could truly work collaboratively to create the biggest impact. The bottom line: Only your client knows the ins and outs of its business, other relationships already in place, and board level areas of interest. Follow your client’s lead to set priorities and increase your chances of success.

Remove the E-mail Blinders

Of the three efforts the eec and AACF team agreed to focus on, the eec’s first reaction was to tackle them as three separate projects, treated in a silo. An eec member suggested to take a step back and build an overarching strategy for all three that identifies how and when each project would be implemented, and the impact it has on the others. Taking off the blinders and starting at a 30,000-foot view really gave us a new perspective on how to approach the project. We would not have had the same successes, and probably wasted resources if we would have pursued them independently.

Today, E-mail Also Means Content Distribution

Crazy as it sounds, creating an e-mail program today is no longer good enough. The last learning I will share this week is the realization that your e-mail content never dies — something I frequently say at speaking events. In this case, while brainstorming about how to optimize current e-mail efforts of the AACF, the eec team talked about starting a blog. Normally, people would think a blog strategy would be outside the realm of e-mail. More and more though, e-mail content is being distributed through other channels like blogs. This is an avenue we saw tremendous opportunity to pursue and are going to test out the theory. Pretty interesting thought.

With the project being so new, we can’t provide learnings related to response increase, but we think the first two weeks worth of insights are pretty critical and easy to relate to.

Stay tuned at the end of August to see how this program is continuing to grow. More importantly, keep reading to learn how you can benefit from the collective efforts of the team of 25 e-mail marketing experts.

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