Many programs and initiatives struggle to gain participation or awareness, and poor awareness can limit return on investment, as well as limit the use of online and offline resources and services. Having a large and active group of people to communicate with is a critical step towards driving program success. Whether it’s getting more people to get flu shots, register for a deer hunting license, apply for more grants, or join your neighborhood watch program, the size of your digital audience directly correlates with your level of success.
One of the fastest and most impactful ways to grow your audience is through an opt-in campaign. Whether you are a Federal, State, or Local organization, you likely have departments who have engaged with and collected contact information from the people who you are trying to reach. If someone has provided an email address to your organization through another department, event, or online contact form, you can send a permission-based invitation asking them to sign up for your communications. These invitations historically drive incredible audience growth results:
- Using opt-in campaigns, USA.gov gained over 250,000 new subscribers
- FEMA gained over 20,000 new members to their online National Preparedness Community, drastically increasing participation
If you have a program or initiative that could benefit from more public awareness and action, an opt-in campaign that drives new sign-ups will be the fastest, easiest, and most impactful way to get the results you need.
Before You Send Your Campaign
To find an audience for your campaign, make connections with other offices, programs, or individuals in your agency who also interact with the public online. You may uncover a wealth of untapped email addresses. Here are some places where you might find lists to harvest:
- Parks and Recreation departments collecting email addresses online for classes, activities, and events.
- Property Records or Taxpayer Services receiving e-payments.
- Departments of Natural Resources typically get email addresses for hunting, fishing, or other license renewals.
- Libraries may have email addresses from library card registrations or book availability notifications.
- Any programs or agencies receiving grant applications.
- Public Utilities Departments collecting utility bills or sending notifications.
- Departments of Motor Vehicles who oversee driver’s license or tab renewal.
- Departments receiving passport applications.
- Any other area of your website with an online form submission or that collects online payment.
Then, determine which programs or initiatives could benefit from an increase in outreach. Your opt-in campaign will direct subscribers to sign up for a corresponding topic within your Communications Cloud account, so it’s best to determine where you want to drive sign-ups prior to sending a campaign.
The basic steps and resources needed to carry out an opt-in campaign.
- A destination topic. This should be the program or initiative that could benefit from increased outreach.
- A list of email addresses from other departments, events, etc.
- A new unlisted topic to hold the new email addresses for the opt-in campaign.
- The opt-in campaign email design. This can be a simple message with a large sign-up button.
- The ability to download all the email addresses of the people who clicked the sign-up button and then upload them to the destination topic.
- Create a new unlisted topic in your Communications Cloud account. Many organizations find it helpful to name their new topic “One Time Invite List” to distinguish it from other topics. Click here for instructions on how to create an unlisted topic.
- Once your unlisted topic has been created and assigned to a category, you can begin uploading one or more of the groups who will be invited to sign up to your existing program topic. Click here for instructions on how to upload subscribers.
- Create a new bulletin. This will be your opt-in campaign targeted to the new unlisted topic.
- Use a clear and compelling subject line. You can test a few different subject lines to small portions of your list and send the winning subject line to the remainder of your list. Click here for instructions on how to test your subject lines.
- Include your value proposition. What will this audience gain by subscribing to your other communications? What are the benefits? What can they expect to receive?
- The sign-up link. It needs to be clear and easy to sign up, so make this link a clear call-to-action. Whether you use a button (most effective), arrow, or hyperlinked text, you must embed the sign-up link from the destination list into your campaign.
- You can find the sign-up link for a topic by going to the Snippets page for that topic.
- You can send subscribers to your Quick Subscribe page so that they can easily select from available topics in your account.
- To automatically include the subscriber’s information in the sign-up form when they click the link, append the parameter &login= to the end of the link, like this:
- For information on setting up your subscription page, check out the article, Subscription Process Pages and Messages.
- Include a note to subscribers that by clicking the sign-up link, they will be sent to your subscription page where they can opt in, such as:
“Sign up to receive health and nutrition updates as well as other featured updates from USA.gov. These updates from USA.gov may include information related to public health and resources around personal investment.”
When subscribers click on your sign-up link, they will be directed to the Quick Subscribe page for your destination topic.
Analyzing Results and Importing New Subscribers
Seven days after the opt-in campaign, you can begin downloading all subscribers who clicked on the topic subscription link (regardless of whether they finished the subscription process) to upload to your destination topic.
- Click on Reports and then select the Bulletin Analytics Report.
- On the Details tab, find your campaign and click through to see the Bulletin Detail Report.
- The Bulletin Links Overview area at the bottom of the report will contain a report on all of the links in the campaign, along with the number of clickers and clicks.
- Find your subscribe link and click through the “Unique Clicks” number to see the email addresses of everyone who clicked.
- Copy the list of email addresses on this page.
- Paste them into an excel file. Using a “Paste Special “as “Unicode Text” is typically the best method.
- Upload the clickers from the excel file to your destination topic. Click here for instructions on how to upload subscribers.
It’s also recommended that you send one or two additional reminder campaigns to the subscribers who did not open or did not click your initial invite to drive more conversions. Click here for instructions on how to target anyone who didn’t open or click on a previous campaign.
The Minnesota Office of the Governor leverages a strong call to action with a large, red sign-up button. Not only does this grab an audience’s attention, but it also makes it easier to sign up if the email is read on a mobile device
USA.gov went with an all-text campaign and hyperlinked the text instructing the audience to sign-up. Whether an organization uses a button or hyperlinked text to get users to sign-up, it’s important to embed the text as a hyperlink. The USA.gov campaign was done through a partnership with Department of Labor and other federal agencies. *Most Audience Acceleration packages through Program Services include one or more cross-promotional partnership campaigns with other Federal, State or Local organizations.