It seems that the UK's political parties have a lot to learn about email marketing, with all making some basic errors in their campaigns.
As demonstrated by Barack Obama, email can be a powerful tool in political campaigning; allowing parties to build up a profile of their subscribers, and to bypass the media and open a direct channel of communication with potential voters.
However, according to my own research so far, the email marketing strategies of the three main UK parties could be improved...
Email sign ups
I signed up for emails from the Labour Party, Conservatives and Lib Dems. All three have sign up options on their homepages, but some are clearer than others.
Labour places the email sign up link in a prominent position, on the right of the homepage, just under the main navigation bar, with a clear call to action:
The Liberal Democrats come second for me; the sign up option is in a less prominent position on the page, but is still clearly visible:
The Conservative Party needs to make its sign up option clearer, and place it more prominently on the page. Depending on the screen resolution, size of browser window etc, the sign up link may well be below the fold.
Whether below the fold or not though, it doesn't catch the eye as much as the others:
Email opt-in forms
As for the sign-up forms, these were good enough, if a little basic, asking for name and address, though the Tories and Lib Dems wanted people's mobile numbers, though this was not mandatory.
It could be argued that all three have missed an opportunity here to gather more data that could be used to target emails more effectively, such as age, income bracket, or who they voted for at the last election.
There is a risk of deterring people by making email forms too lengthy, but such fields could be optional.
Of the three parties, only the Conservatives have sent me any emails so far. In fact, I've received six of them in two weeks, which may be too frequent for some people. I signed up for all three on February 3, and have not heard from Labour or the Liberal Democrats since, which is poor form.
When a customer, or in this case a potential voter, has taken the time to sign up, it is good practice to send a welcome message soon after.
This confirms the subscription, and provides more of an opportunity to connect with the subscriber and encourage them to read some of the content while they are interested, or find out about what the party is doing in their area.
Also, by failing to send these messages and leaving a delay before the first contact, recipients are likely to forget they signed up at all, and may ignore the email or even unsubscribe.
If customers have taken the time to sign up for emails, failing to send welcome emails while they have expressed an interest is a wasted opportunity.
In the next post on the subject, which I will write whenever Labour and the Liberal Democrats actually send me an email or two, I'll compare the three parties for their email content.
At the moment though, I'm not impressed, and there seems to be plenty of room for improvement.