Ep 248 | Simplifying Your Emails with Kendra Corman

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Email doesn't have to be overcomplicated. This episode takes you through some foundations you'll want to consider when looking at your email strategy. It's time to simplify and get back to basics so you can build and grow based of data and engagement with your audience.

What you'll learn:

→ how many calls-to-action (CTAs) should you include?
→ why email keeps you top of mind.
→ how to prioritize your content.
→ ways to encourage people to open your email.
→ the importance of mobile in your design.

Want to skip ahead? Here are key takeaways:

[5:04] Don't include more than three calls-to-action (CTA). When you increase the CTAs then you decrease the liklihood people will take action due to decision fatigue. If you're worried about sending more emails to break it up because you don't want to overwhelm your audience, ask them! They want to hear from you and likely won't care if they get another email during the month that has value attached to it.
[12:43] Sending regular emails keeps you top of mind in their inbox. Even if they aren't reading them all, they're seeing your name. When they have questions or want to engage it'll be easier for them to do that.
[13:45] Put your most important piece of information at the top of the email. Ideally you'll have an option for them to click through close to the top. Then the second most important piece should go near the bottom since people tend to scroll. Remember to stay in touch with your entire team to understand how things need to be organized based off of priorities over time.
[19:20] Here are some quick tips to encourage readers to open your email. Don't use all caps. Personalize the subject line with their name. Use the pre-header text area to explain more about what's inside. 
[24:07] Ensure your emails are mobile friendly. Most people are reading on their phones. Don't lose them because they can't read it or access the media you're including. Send yourself a test to you can see what it looks like on your device.


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Kendra Corman

Kendra Corman

Kendra Corman is the driving force behind KendraCorman.com and H2H Consulting. She is dedicated to enhancing small business and nonprofit marketing through innovative email strategies and leveraging AI technology. Transitioning from leading iconic brands like Jeep to authoring ‘Mastering AI In Communications,' she simplifies complex marketing concepts into actionable steps. Kendra's approach is about making marketing more effective and efficient.

Learn more at: https://kendracorman.com/ 

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Full Transcript

Sami Bedell-Mulhern Do you struggle with what to put in your emails? Or how often to send your emails or maybe even just basic thoughts on, you know, when you want to send them how you want to put them together, how much information is too much information, all the things that is what we are talking about in today's episode of the digital marketing therapy podcast.

Sami Bedell-Mulhern My guest is Kendra Corman and Kendra is the driving force behind kendracorman.com and H2H consulting. She is dedicated to enhancing small business and nonprofit marketing through innovative email strategies and leveraging AI technology. Transitioning from leading iconic brands like Jeep to authoring mastering AI and communications. She simplifies complex marketing concepts into actionable steps. Kendra's approach is about making marketing more effective and efficient. And I will tell you that she breaks it down for you in this episode, and I really love it because it really kind of builds that foundation for how you're determining what goes in the emails the order with what goes in how much is too much, which I heard me said before, right? How often do we want to be kind of connecting with people and how email can just be so important. So I hope that you give this episode a listen, she's gonna give you a ton of great resources, and information you can find in the show notes at https://thefirstclick.net/248.

Sami Bedell-Mulhern Before we get into this episode, it is brought to you by our March freebie, if you want that checklist to know what emails to send around your event, this is the guide for you. It's going to give you the checklist for events to send to get people to sign up for your event, what to do once they've registered and the all important follow up once the event has completed. You can grab this free guide at https://thefirstclick.net/resources as well as the January and February free freebie free freebie freebie guide, hello! That we have created for you as well around monthly giving and getting organized. So again, that's at https://thefirstclick.net/resources Let's get into the episode.

Intro You're listening to the digital marketing therapy podcast. I'm your host, Sami Bedell-Mulhern. Each month we dive deep into a digital marketing or fundraising strategy that you can implement in your organization. Each week, you'll hear from guest experts, nonprofits, and myself on best practices, tips and resources to help you raise more money online and reach your organizational goals.

Sami Bedell-Mulhern Hey, friends, please join me in welcoming Kendra Corman to the podcast. Kendra, thank you so much for being here today.

Kendra Corman Thanks so much for having me. I'm super excited.

Sami Bedell-Mulhern Yeah, and you're here on my favorite month because I love email marketing. It's my favorite thing to talk about. So I know we'll have a great conversation. But before we kind of jump into some of the strategies that you're going to share with us today, why do you love email marketing so much?

Kendra Corman Because it works. So you own it, you, you know, social, everybody talks about social media, I actually just had a conversation a couple days ago with a client, that they're all obsessed with social media and responding to the DMs in seconds, and reaching out to people and making sure that they're thinking and people for their comments in there. And it's like it takes all day. I mean, it takes a huge chunk of their day. And on a really good day 30% of your audience is seeing your social media posts. However, on a good day, you know, or I should say, on a bad day, 30% of the people I email are opening my email. That means that they're not just seeing my name, they're not seeing what I'm writing about. They're actually opening and engaging. And that's the key. I control who I contact and when I contact them. Now they control when they read it. But unlike social media, I'm not playing a game with the algorithm. And that is why I love email marketing. And if you think about it, the inbox, your email inbox is very personal. So if you're inviting me in there, that's awesome. And I feel so special and so honored and I want to honor that. So I'm very respectful with it. But I expect junk in my feed in my social media feed right? So that's why I love email marketing. I love that and

Sami Bedell-Mulhern I agree with everything you said. So that's fantastic. Um, but let's kind of jump right in because I think one of the hang ups that we have with email is for what I get all the time as well I don't want to bombard my my clients by donors, my whoever whoever I'm sending these to I don't you know, I don't want to hit them up too many times they're gonna get mad so I'm just going to send them one really, really really long email every single month with everything and and we're going to call it good Uh, thoughts on that.

Kendra Corman So, statistics prove that there's, there's actually a TED talk called The Paradox of Choice. If you give people too much information and too many choices, they're not going to take any, like, action. So if you want people to take action on your emails, then you want to have no more than three calls to action. One is best to is Okay, three is still okay. For your click rate drops through, like, through the basement, right? It just, it doesn't work. And so you want to really limit your messaging as much as possible. People want your emails, they signed up for your emails. So maybe you told them you were only going to send one once a month, right? And maybe that's all they really want. But why don't you ask them, send them an email saying, hey, you know, as a nonprofit, we're going to start two emails a month one is going to be about our upcoming events and opportunities where you have to support us. And then the other one is just going to be program updates about our program, our clients, the people we serve. Nothing wrong with that, right. And then you can let them opt in to whichever ones they want. Or if they want both, I would say 90% of the time, people are opting in to both because they want to see what it's about. They want to be informed. And for a lot of people that are supporting and loving your organization, and what you have to say, they know they can hit delete, if they're too busy one week. Yeah, you have value, right. And you have to keep that in mind.

Sami Bedell-Mulhern Well, and I think the thing that I love about about that, too, is like the, it's going to just help you build a healthier list in general. So when we talk about the segments that we want to create for how we want to communicate, that's going to make it easier for you to write emails, because you know, the purpose of who you're sending these emails to, you know, what they care about. And I think it just makes, it almost removes that pressure, like it feels like more work to try to get more emails out or to try to sort people into different buckets. But I think once you do that and set up a system for that, like it almost makes it easier to create those communications.

Kendra Corman Well, and most systems will do that for you automatically. Or as I like to call it automagically. Because I don't actually know how they do some of that stuff. But yeah, I mean, people can opt in and click and go to a specific list. And then all you have to do is create the email that goes to that list. Your when you do that. And when you segment, your open rate goes up, your click rate goes up, your replies go up. I have one client couple years ago, we segmented their clients into for profit and nonprofit. And we started sending separate emails to the nonprofits, the nonprofit email outperforms the corporate email every day. Every day we you know, whenever we send an email, they engage with it, because it is very specific and relevant to them.

Sami Bedell-Mulhern Yep. Okay, so let's talk about then what go let's dive a little bit deeper into what goes into the email, because you mentioned three calls to action, at most. So let's start with like, what would be considered a call to action in an email.

Kendra Corman So depending on your organization, so if you want someone to listen to your podcast episode, that's a call to action. If you want someone to sign up for your spring cleanup day, that's a call to action. If you want someone to buy a specific product, that's a call to action. Anytime they're clicking and taking an action that's going to take them outside of the email, that is a call to action. You could have like three links in one email, right, that are all about the podcast. However, it's only one call to action because you're only asking them to do one thing.

Sami Bedell-Mulhern Right. So like, if you had a long piece of copy, you might link to the podcast in a couple different places. So people can take action when they're ready. versus just having a button at the bottom.

Kendra Corman Correct. You always want to have something above the scroll. So when you think about the layout of an email, depending on your organization and your brand, a lot of organizations will do like a header graphic so that they know it's the email right and where it's coming from. And then you'll have the deer with the name. Then you have the body copy. So I try to make sure that if I ever do a header graphic, it's very thin. Because think about always on mobile devices right? 98% of people check their email on a mobile device. So you really, really, really want to be careful and thinking about how it shows up on mobile. And then you want to have that what you're one call to action link a button, before they have to scroll before they have to take that finger and push it off the screen. That's extremely important. And then some people skim emails, right? I would say that the place that my call to action gets the most number of clicks in the PS underneath my skip signature, so people read like the beginning and the bottom, and they skip a lot of stuff in between. Yeah,

Sami Bedell-Mulhern well, okay. But then So speaking of because I know a lot of nonprofits will have like, a footer, also kind of in their email where they have, you know, maybe their social links, or they're highlighting sponsor logos, if it's like an event based email, or they have their donate button just kind of passively there. Is that okay? Or do you consider that a separate call to action, as well?

Kendra Corman Yeah, no, I don't consider that a separate call to action, I just consider that the footer, the footer of a website, usually, I recommend that you have a different background color, so that they understand that they've reached the bottom of the email. And then that way they people on, it's a visual cue to people to let them know if there's anything else down there, they can do it. I have one organization that has an alumni association that I work with, and the Alumni Association, which is pretty cool. And we have basically this thing right above the footer every single time and it just says renew your dues. Every email, at least one person renews their dues, I don't consider it a call to action in the email, because it's sort of part of the background. Yep. But it works, it catches at least one person's attention every single time.

Sami Bedell-Mulhern Well. And I think the critical part of that is, is really understanding that when we talk about frequency and how often we're sending emails, it's that staying top of mind, and that even, I feel like there's a lot of different things with email that impact our business that we don't even really pay attention to. So even if somebody's not opening your email, they're seeing it in their inbox. And they're remembering that they care about your organization, they might come back to it later, but you're still staying top of mind. People might open it, and not do anything with it, but they've read it and you know, like there's like all these kind of passive engagements that people have. So having some of that information consistently, people will see it when they need to see it when it's the right time.

Kendra Corman Exactly, I get more replies on my emails that have nothing to do with the topic in that email. Oh, Kendra was thinking about you. And I had this question or, oh, you know what, this just came up, and you might be the right person for it. And it has nothing to do with the email I sent them, right. And so I would say more often than not just that top of mind nature of what I'm sending them gets them to get in contact with me. They might have gone someplace else, if I wasn't in their inbox that day. Yep.

Sami Bedell-Mulhern Yep. Okay, so then how do we self edit ourselves? Because I think also in nonprofits, we tend to feel like we are in this big hurry to get all of the information out all right away. Right. So we've already talked about no more than three calls to action. But how do we kind of determine what needs to go in those emails like prioritize, and does the order with which we put that information in the email matter as well.

Kendra Corman So, of course, it matters, right? So whatever's on the top is going to get the most number of clicks, whatever's on the bottom is going to get the least number of clicks, usually, although couple of my nonprofits actually, it's the first and the third items that get the most amount of clicks, and people skip over the middle. So you're gonna have to watch the behaviors of your audience. But that'll just give you some insights. When you're prioritizing your content, you know, especially when you have so many things, right? You need to think about what's the priority that I need people to take on action on, what's the most important thing that we have going on? And I would say like nine times out of 10, you know what that is? Right? You do know what you need people to do. Whether again, it's the spring cleanup, or signing up for the gala or sponsoring the gala. Those all those items are extremely important. But they have different priority, the closer you get to that event, and so first understand that. Second of all, you don't have to have everything in the email, right? And if you segment which is what you were talking about earlier, that really helps because if you've got a list of people people that volunteer and sign up for that spring cleanup every single month, send them an extra email just about that cleanup. And, you know, three days later, you're full, right? You don't need any more helpers for the spring cleanup. And now that you're full with that, you can go ahead and move on to other things in your regular communications. So you really want to prioritize what's the most important? And what's the most urgent, or you know what needs right now and needs attention? Yeah, that's, you know, again, you're, if you're 12 weeks out from your Gala, it's not the most important thing, you probably have something else. That's really important. And again, that's where that frequency, emailing people more often knowing that they want to hear from you. They want these opportunities to volunteer to donate to buy tickets, they're actually upset with you. If they're like, What do you mean, you had that? And I didn't know about it. That will get people more upset than too many emails all day.

Sami Bedell-Mulhern Yeah. Why are you saying no for them? before they've even had the opportunity to do that? I think also a big issue that nonprofits face in their fundraising strategies, we say no, for people. And I think when it comes to prioritizing, it's, I think this is where it becomes really important, depending on the size of your team. But I think sometimes, we as the marketing side, kind of get left alone on this island, and we're kind of assuming this is what the priority is. Um, so I think, you know, having your team come together and talking about priorities, even just in those meetings, like a lot of times for me, when I'm in those staff meetings, I'm like, Oh, I didn't realize this was happening. This is something that would be great for an email newsletter, right like that, that communication back and forth is really important. So I would encourage people, even if you're not in the marketing space, and you think that it's a minut celebration, or it's not that big of a deal, like share it anyway. Because, you know, it's helpful for us to kind of have that information to know like, this is something really worth highlighting, or we kind of kind of have a gap. And we don't know what to put in an email, like working together in tandem can be really impactful. And like you're saying, Okay, well, we're 12 weeks out from the gala, maybe we don't need to talk about it. But then as we get closer, hey, we're not hitting this target, or we're not hitting this target. Could we switch things up? Like all of that communication is critical?

Kendra Corman Oh, it's essential. And so for a lot of my nonprofits that have a ton of different department heads, I either have a bi weekly meeting where we talk about what's important right now, and make adjustments or we have a combination of that and quarterly meetings where I'm like, Okay, what's going on this next quarter? Yep. So, you know, again, end of March, beginning of April, I'll be talking about the third quarter with everybody. We already did the second quarter, right? We know what that is. So you want to take a look and be planning ahead and talking ahead and understanding what that is? Because when it's on my list, I know I have to reach back out and say, Okay, do you guys have any pictures from summer camp? Yeah. And then oh, yeah, we'll take those today.

Sami Bedell-Mulhern Yep. Yeah. It's so true. Because I think, you know, everybody works in their own space, like understands things in their own space. But that doesn't mean that we don't need the support from, from the people that are out in the field, doing the work. So I love that you have that combination of quarterly. Here's what's coming up. And did you say bi monthly?

Kendra Corman by month, so every every other week? Basically, I know people say

Sami Bedell-Mulhern and it means different things to everybody.

Kendra Corman I love it. No. Right. So I don't know, I think both mean the same thing. And yet different. Right?

Sami Bedell-Mulhern I love that.

Kendra Corman I meet with them every other week.

Sami Bedell-Mulhern I love that. Okay, so, um, as we're thinking then about, you know, we've minimized the content that's in our emails, we're a little bit more direct, a little bit more specific. When it comes to then like our subject lines and encouraging encouraging people to open it, how do you kind of create what that's going to look like when you have maybe multiple items inside of that email.

Kendra Corman So couple things. First off, do not write in an all caps. Second of all, feel free to personalize it, add their first name, it's totally fine. And it did depending on the client, I usually try to test a few different things. So first off, you've got the subject line, but then you also have the pre header, the pre header is the second chance of a subject line. Do not leave that blank. That is a great opportunity to clarify more about what's in your email. And then depending on the priorities, sometimes I will focus the the subject line on the first article because sometimes that's the Most important, and if it's got a lot of urgency, but if I was like struggling a little bit for content and updates, there's this really cool up and down line. And for me, it's above the enter key, and it's in front of the forward slash, or the backslash, I can't remember which one. But it will hit shift in the string up and down line, you can actually give people the three things that you're covering in that so that that way they know what they should be looking at. And then you can even use the pre header for again, whatever is the most important. Yeah, give them a little bit more input, to thank them for being a part of your family and your community. So there's a ton of different ways to do it. Constant Contact is used by a lot of nonprofits as an email provider, it has some of the best deliverability in the industry, which means it makes it to the inbox, which is good. But with Constant Contact, they even have like an AI suggestion tool where they'll give you suggestions for your subject line and your preheader. So if you're like looking at it going, What on earth am I going to write, don't be afraid to let some of these AI generation tools give you some ideas that you can edit and take to the next level? Well,

Sami Bedell-Mulhern and if you're not in a tool that has it natively built in you, could you also take that email, copy and put it into a different platform and ask it to generate a bunch of subject lines for you.

Kendra Corman Yes, yes. And in the nonprofit world, we're always worried about budget. So I recommend claude.ai. It's by anthropic, and it is a free tool, I shouldn't say it's a freemium tool. So you get the paid version for free. But you get a limited number of searches. So if you're just playing around with it a little bit and doing subject line and pre headers, just use the free version, it's again, the same version as the paid version, you just get fewer searches. And then, you know, I would use the paid version of chat GPT, or perplexity.ai. Those are probably my three most commonly used tools. And they are fantastic. They are amazing what they can do to help you with the consistency in your organization and your voice.

Sami Bedell-Mulhern Yeah, well, and it just takes a little bit of practice, right, which is, we could do a whole nother podcast episode about AI prompts and how to get those really, like streamlined. But um, yeah, I agree with you. I think AI tools can really help, at least for me, what I have found with a lot of the clients that we work with is it kind of helps you move past that blank, like the blinking cursor, brain fog, where you're like, I don't even know where to start. So I think even using AI to help you outline what's going in your emails will spark Oh, yeah. Okay, I could write that. And now I can flush this out. And it kind of makes things move a little bit faster.

Kendra Corman Yeah, I think the key is it makes things move faster. It's a tool, and you have to edit it. I was just working on an email newsletter to, to my database. And I was I have a whole rant about don't blame AI because people are lazy. You know. So again, it doesn't replace you. It doesn't replace a person. It is an intern with unlimited hours. You need to edit their work. Yeah,

Sami Bedell-Mulhern that's I've never heard it explained that way. And that is spot on. Yeah, you would never hire an intern.

Kendra Corman I stole it. Yeah. I stole that from a webinar, I heard back in 2023. And I used to give, I used to give acknowledgement to that webinar. And now I'm just I think I've used it more than they have. So I use

Sami Bedell-Mulhern I love it. That's so great. Okay, so any other kind of things that, you know, maybe you want to share that we would want to consider when it comes to kind of crafting what we put in or the content that we put into our emails that I haven't asked.

Kendra Corman So think about mobile photo videos, all of that is fantastic. People, as long as it can be easily consumed on a mobile device. If you're not emailing it to yourself and looking at it on your phone, you're doing yourself and your audience a huge disservice. So please send the email to yourself, maybe to two people, if one of you guys has dark mode, and one of you guys has light mode, send it to both people. Because it looks different. You want to make sure that there's a quality and delivery on mobile before everything else. So don't I mean, if you've got one article, or if you got three articles, don't put three photos for each one. You know, because again, it makes for a bulky, poor experience on mobile. So think about the emails that you're that you're using the ones that you're in good ageing with anytime an email makes me smile makes me want to click, I have an inspiration folder, click and I drag it over and I move it into my inspiration folder. And so that way I can look and see what made me engage with this, and how can I utilize what they're doing for myself or my clients so that we can get more engagement to?

Sami Bedell-Mulhern Yeah, well, and I think paying attention to your, your data with regards to how your audience is engaging with your emails. Also, I my kids school sends the most awful mobile friendly emails, they drive me bonkers because I have to flip my phone and like squeezed like, Screw zoom in just to be able to read it. And I mean, I read it, because it's because it's school information. But if it was anything else, it would just I would never open them again. So,

Kendra Corman yes, just so you guys know, schools run on an entirely different thought process and everything because parents do read this stuff. But ya know, I have more nonprofits that upload fliers to their email, Oh, Dr. Walker can't read a PDF on emails, you can't, don't take a PDF, make it into a jpg and put a big, fuge flyer in there. That is probably one of the worst things that you can do. I guess if you don't want anybody to do it, go ahead. Nobody will click, nobody will engage, you know, you'll have probably some of the worst response rates and open rates that you have on anything else. That's

Sami Bedell-Mulhern also extremely Ada, non compliant. Because anybody who's using an E like a voice tool, they won't be able to get the content that's on there, as well. Yeah, um, the other thing that drives me bonkers, and then we can move on is when people put QR codes and emails but then don't also put the URL because it's hard on a mobile device to access that QR code, unless there's a tool that I don't know about.

Kendra Corman No, so so you can use it and it would be Google lense. But you sort of have to like extra picture. And then you have to, there's like three extra steps. I'm not doing that kind of work. Yes, everything should be clickable in an email, right? And if you have a QR code, it should be in an attached flyer that they could print off. Yeah, if they're going to use it outside of it. But people are opening their email on a device that they're going to use it for. So that they can click through that they can take whatever action it is, and you want to capitalize on the fact that they have that action right there. And then Yep,

Sami Bedell-Mulhern okay. Well, Kendra, this has been fantastic. And you've given just such good basic information. And I think when we tend to go into a digital space, like I'm 100% with you on the social media side of things, you know, and it's changing and evolving all the time, to the detriment I think of our reach. So that's what I love about email as well. And I just think that you've broken it down in a way that's going to make it easy for us to just process and just get started and not worry about being at 100 right now. Like just get started, clean it up, start testing, get to the foundation of what's going to work in email. So this has been fantastic. So thank you so much. But if people want to connect with you learn more about you the work you do how you serve people, how can they do that?

Kendra Corman Yeah, so you can learn more about me and what I do at Kendracorman.com. I actually have a free gift for your listeners if they want to, you can go to Kendracorman.com/ai book be Oh, okay. I have a whole way because again, with nonprofits for profits, small businesses, we're all looking for more effective and efficient ways to do things. So if you want to go there, Kendra Corman corpsman with a C Kendra with a k.com/ai book, you can get a free electronic copy of my book that tells you exactly how you can leverage prompting inside with tools like chat, GPT and cloud.ai. So that your organization can go to the next level. So

Sami Bedell-Mulhern great, I love that. And we'll link up all of the different tools that Kendra mentioned and her website and all that stuff at the show notes as well at https://thefirstclick.net/248 So grab everything there. Kendra, this has been a blast. Thank you so much. Thank you.

Okay, so are you ready to tackle your email marketing now? Do you feel confident and comfortable and kind of moving through the plan for what goes into those emails and how you communicate as a team about priorities and engaging with your audience. I'm so excited for you to jump more into email marketing. We've got some great episodes still left this month for you to check out and I I hope that you'll subscribe wherever you listen to you don't miss out on a single one. 2024 is the email for you I can feel it. So let's get started and take advantage of these episodes to get things going. You can watch these videos on YouTube as well if you prefer the video versions, which I think is super fun. So thank you so much for listening. I will see you in the next one.

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