by Jayson Schmidt, Preseason
What can sometimes be a painstaking process to keep your stakeholders in the loop is a vital process that helps you share information and influence your community. Here’s a guide to getting started or optimizing what you do currently:
Pick a platform.
If you’re sending emails to your community via Outlook, Gmail, or another mail client, you can do better.
The one you’re probably most familiar with due to sheer popularity is MailChimp. Their free-forever plan allows you up to 2,000 contacts, which should be more than enough volume to get going. You’ll also receive 10,000 email sends per month with this plan.
Other options include:
– HubSpot – free, up to 2,000 sends per month, but a more robust solution overall
– Drip – $29/mo for 500-2000 contacts and unlimited email sends; you can also pay for SMS texting with contacts
– EmailOctopus – free, up to 2,500 contacts and 10,000 sends per month
Import your contacts.
Remember in September when I wrote about brand building and finding your stakeholders? Let’s reengage that thought once more.
You’ll need to think about including groups like parents, alumni, university faculty/staff, donors, fans, and future parents. My advice is to import everyone; you can sort or purge your contacts later.
#ProTip: Make sure you have permission to send them content. Permission can go stale if you don’t actively engage with your community. Consider reconfirming your contacts to make sure they still want your emails if you haven’t reached out in a while, or provide an opt-in.
To segment or not to segment?
At this point, you need to decide if you want to send specific emails to specific groups or one large email to everyone in your community. Only you can decide what’s best for your program.
These days, email marketing services make it easy to save and reuse content for multiple campaigns, so you can send targeted content to specific groups. This is important when you have a relatively young alumni base versus a highly charitable donor club, for example.
Begin sending content.
The frequency of emails is your choice, but find a rhythm and stick to it so that your community knows when they’re hearing from you.
In my program, we sent 3-5 offseason emails––
– 1-2 over the summer
– 1-2 in the fall
– 1 during the holidays
In season, we aimed for 1-2 emails per month; sometimes it became more depending on needs and the volume of information.
Utilize the strength of your competition season.
In-season emails are also where you can deviate from the plan, so to speak. Think about big moments to come (games, recruiting weekends, etc.) and craft content that can support those dates above and beyond your normal email content.
In 2012, our program knocked off our first top-ten opponent and the subsequent email to our community was already prepared ahead of time. Instead of scrambling to draft an email in the chaos afterward, we launched the email campaign from the bus in the parking lot.
The team was confident in our gameplan and so were we. Our ability to capitalize on a good moment with a pre-drafted email led to engagement from excited fans and alumni, plus a surprise $10,000 donor check.
Always be prepared to strike when the iron is hot.
This article is the fourteenth in a series on athletics branding. Jayson Schmidt is a former NCAA Division II head coach and managing partner of Preseason, a creative agency that helps colleges win.
Struggling with your brand or just simply want an edge on the competition? Preseason can elevate your story and deliver it to recruits, fans, and donors.