Email Marketing: Your Subscribers Are Your Customers

Nathanael Yellis By Nathanael Yellis • Last Updated May 18, 2021

I work in a political non-profit, running our online operations. We’ve invested a lot of time and money in our email list. People subscribe to our messages because they agree with our objectives and want to do their part.

Most organizations send email to customers, donors, and other interested people. Even with the rise of social networks, promoting online action still starts with email.

But too frequently, our organizational needs drive how we talk to subscribers and what we say. We start with our goals instead of their needs. This common practice violates the most important lesson I learned at Acton: everything starts with the customer.

The ultimate example of emailing someone with your goals in mind has to be the “we need money” email that many nonprofits send. Maybe it’s the end of a fundraising cycle or the bank coffers are low, but the email talks about how important the subscriber’s cash is to the organization’s needs. That’s the opposite of starting with the customer.

Our most successful email took the opposite approach: focusing on what our subscribers need resulted in a massive fundraising win.

After a small legislative victory, the email we sent thanked our subscribers for their work and explained how the whole team worked hard for the win. We asked them to support our continued efforts to promote the policy. The message was extraordinarily successful: it made more than some of our most effective (and expensive) fundraising gimmicks.

This makes sense: our subscribers signed up because they wanted to help us succeed. When we told the success story, we were telling them what they signed up to hear. By treating subscribers like customers, focusing on their needs first, our email succeeded.



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