Automation and authenticity can go hand in hand
All too often, automation comes at the cost of authenticity. I believe this doesn't have to be the case. Learnt through working with our charity partners in implementing well over 30 different stewardship journeys for community fundraisers, we have gathered our best tips for merging authenticity and automation.
1. You can’t trick the receiver
Trying to completely conceal that emails are automated is a fool's errand. The receiver will most likely guess that they are receiving an automated email, and they most likely expect that it is automated.
So don’t. This is a basic premise we have come to believe in. Even if you go to great lengths to hide it, they will still sniff out the automation. It might be that the first name isn’t capitalised, or just something about the formatting and layout.
This, however, doesn’t mean that you can’t build in some authenticity.
2. Test, test and test (e.g. don’t make merge field errors)
So, not really rocket science here. It is simple, but any attempt at creating authenticity fails if an email goes out addressed to “Dear [first name]”.
The best way to avoid this is to make sure emails with failing merge tags aren’t sent. The second way is to test, test and test some more.
3. Have emails sent from a real person, with a real email address that they can reply to
We have seen clients who try to avoid, by any means possible, replies sent to their automated emails. They have the signature as the organisation name, and the email might be from “info@”, “hello@” or at worst, “no-reply@”. We understand where these concerns come from, as you want to lower overhead costs and keep your organisation lean.
We do though believe this is the wrong place to do so. We strongly try to move all our partners to the second group – those who value authenticity above the small cost associated with having a person behind the email.
This second group will implement their stewardship journey with a personal email. It will be sent by a real person, signed by that same person. This makes a huge difference. Open rates increase, engagement increases, and when a supporter replies to that email, and gets an actual answer shortly after – you might even have a wow effect that could be the first step to a new lifetime ambassador.
One small trick: Create a separate personal email for the assigned person, as this way the person signing the emails can easily leave a colleague in charge while on vacation, and also separate mailboxes mean it is not too a big disturbance to the daily work.
4. Mix in personal non-automated emails and calls
If possible, try to reach out to the supporter without automation. Nothing beats this level of authenticity. It is, of course, more costly than automation.
We try to help our partners setup routines for this. This can be done by, for example, having an automated email go out to the supporter engagement team at times they should engage with a specific person. The key is to identify the perfect moments to reach out in person and then let the automation due the monitoring.
This way the team doesn’t have to spend time tracing who they should contact and when, as they receive a notification with the contact info and maybe even a little note on what they could say to the person.
Jesper Juul Jensen, www.betternow.org
Read the Better Now ebook on how to design, build and implement stewardship journeys for community fundraising