Published: 24 April 2018

Growing old together – using email to keep your users coming back

To create truly meaningful and memorable digital experiences for your users, you need a long term plan of engagement that goes beyond the ‘one night stand’. It’s important to consider what happens when they’ve achieved that short-term goal. Perhaps they donated a few quid, or signed a digital petition. But what next? This article focuses on how you can nurture relationships with your users through one of the most commonly used digital touchpoints – email.

Users want a relationship with a great experience

More than anything else, users want relationships that are useful and relevant for them. We don’t want to be pushed around or be talked at with information that doesn’t interest us. Timing is important, as is an understanding of how our needs change over time. Approach a digital relationship like a real relationship and you’ll create a longer lasting connection that is mutually beneficial. Here’s how to keep your users coming back again and again.

Identify the stages of your users’ evolution

The first step is to map out the various stages of engagement a user moves through over time. Let’s call them engagement ladders and you may have different ladders for different users. This will help you to think about how to progress a user from one step of the ladder to the next in a more personal and contextually meaningful way.

Here’s an example of a simple ladder:

    • Step 1 – user discovers a piece of content on your site
    • Step 2 – user likes the content and signs up for more information
    • Step 3 – user makes a one-off donation
    • Step 4 – user has been back and made a number of one-off donations
    • Step 5 – user begins making regular donations via direct debit
    • Step 6 – user leaves your charity a gift in her will

As you can see, you end up with several steps to progress your user through. But just like real relationships, users might not always go from one to six in order; they could jump from one to three or one to six, for instance. When a user hits step three, through the ladder or otherwise, it’ll probably feel great because you’ve received a one-off donation. But then what? A short-term goal has been met and you could just stop there. You don’t want to appear pushy and ask them for even more support straight after they’ve given. Wait a while. Let them enjoy the moment of altruism and re-engage them later on through automated marketing to keep them moving through the ladder.

Why automation should be your new best friend

Email marketing platforms like Mailchimp and Campaign Monitor allow you to define multiple campaigns and workflows to help deliver customised content to progress your users through the steps. It makes sense to send an email after someone has donated thanking them for giving their support, but would you consider scheduling another one to go out a few days later which reinforces the impact their donation made? What about adjusting the messaging based on the value of the donation and providing calls to action that lead them back into the site – perhaps to view some exclusive content aimed at donors? This is how you build better relationships through digital communication and engagement. Don’t just take the money and run.

Tips to ensure your users keep coming back

Be relevant – use the right messages at the right time to the right people. It’s worth spending time segmenting your users to help build more meaningful relationships.

Don’t bombard your users – don’t come across as desperate and cheap by filling their inbox with pleas for help.

Personalise your comms – something as simple as using a first name will help users feel more valued.

Use an appropriate tone of voice – speak to users like human beings

Use incentives – can you offer something that will give them a tangible reason to come back? Some exclusive content, a discount to an event?

Create urgency – are there limited places left for an event? Is time running out to take action? Urgency can help to get users back into the sales funnel and over the finishing line.

Be helpful – did the user only get part way through the donation process or an event registration? Did they abandon the items in their basket? Send them a reminder just in case it was unintentional.

Test your content and messaging – learn what works and what doesn’t to get more effective results.

You should now have a better understanding of how to map out the evolution of your users. In turn, you can use this as the foundation to help drive better engagement and build more meaningful and longer-lasting relationships with your users.

If you’re thinking about email comms, GDPR is surely on your mind. For more info on GDPR compliance, check out Wired’s comprehensive guide to GDPR.


Not all charities can afford to work with a digital agency to help them design and deliver their next website or digital product. Yoyo has created a free eBook called Think Experience to help debunk some of the fears around digital projects. You can read more about building long term engagement with your users in Chapter Four of the series, download it here.

In the coming months, Yoyo will release more chapters, giving charities the digital skills they need to understand how to define and create digital products that deliver on their promises.

 

Image: Yoyo design


Jenny Kitchen, managing director, Yoyo Design

Over the last seven years, Jen has led the growth of Yoyo Design to become one of the most exciting digital agencies working within the charity sector. With a background in experiential, retail and digital marketing, Jen views every online interaction in the context of the whole customer experience. She leads the team with passion, energy and purpose. At Yoyo, we design end-to-end digital solutions so your charity can tell its story and create genuine user engagement. We are results-driven with a strong focus on the customer experience. Over the years, we’ve worked with the RNLI, RSPCA, PVRI, England Athletics, Diabetes UK, Prostate Cancer UK and YoungMinds along with many other local charities.