DMNews talks with Deb Swider, e-marketing director, ASPCA

Deb Swider, e-marketing director, member communications at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) explains how the organization turned around its e-mail open rates

Q You created a cost-per-lead campaign to drive consumers to your website and raise awareness of ASPCA through e-mail. What challenges did you face?

A Our open rates were dropping. Click-throughs were down, and we were struggling. Our content almost sells itself, so we wanted to figure out what we might not be doing right or how we might not be engaging people.

Q How did you try to solve this?

A There are 71 million households with pets in them. We are looking to acquire that hard-to-reach lead. We ran sign-up ads on, the North American Media Group and Baby using Pontiflex, [a performance advertising company]. Once registered, we put them in our introduction e-mail series. Four e-mails are sent in eight weeks to introduce them to the ASPCA and tell them how they can get involved. The idea is to raise their awareness of ASPCA and the issue of animal cruelty.

Q How did you rework the content of the e-mail newsletter?

A We updated the content. We customized it a little better. We also acknowledge which site it came from. For example, an e-mail would say, “Thank you for taking action on Care2 [a cause-related advocacy site].” Sometimes people forget what they’ve registered for, and we want to be transparent in the beginning.

Q Is social media part of the mix?

A Yes. Everyone is on Twitter and Facebook. We decided to offer that touchpoint to people coming in and registering as well. There they can discover things, like what they can do locally to change laws in their state and other issues regarding animal welfare.

Q What were some of the results?

A E-mail open rates for leads from the cost-per-lead campaign averaged 34.7% in a five-month period from November 2009 to March 2010. Organic leads averaged about half that (15.8%). Click-through rates from the CPL campaign were 5.7%, and 1.2% of leads resulted in some kind of action. I think when people see the ads are compelling and then when they see the content we have, they are engaged. We don’t want to kill them with e-mail after e-mail. It’s up to us to engage them in a way where they want to continue the conversation.

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