You've Got (E)mail

You've Got (E)mail

July 20, 2021 by Julie Elliott, President

I remember in 1995 when my colleague Dave Baldwin and I both signed up for AOL and started emailing each other for work. Hearing “You’ve got mail,” was always exciting, but hearing someone in the office say, “Can you get off the internet so I can get on?” was not such a welcome sound.

Email has become such a cornerstone channel for communication. One of our electric cooperative clients saw a 27% increase since 2018 in members wanting to receive email communication from the utility in a recent study. In their survey, email is now the most preferred method with 55% of members interested in email communication.

So, here’s a question: How many of your members connected before 1995? It’s quite likely there are many folks who weren’t asked for an email at sign up but who are now open to using email to connect with the co-op.

We strongly urge our clients to make email collection a priority. Here are four top suggestions:

  1. Create an ongoing plan for collecting emails and make sure it is communicated and followed by all. Remember to include commercial customers – especially local contacts at larger companies since for many accounts, the email is an accounts payable address out of state.
  2. As part of the plan, consider an all-member survey. While there will be postage and printing costs, the value of new data can pay for itself in no time and can be used for analysis as well as promotion. One client calculated the savings to the cooperative from one email promoting ebilling was $18,000 annually.
  3. If email isn’t a strategic tool in your communication plan, make it one. Consider how you can expand digital engagement by sending targeted emails. Design email series to divide chunks of information into fun size messages.
  4. Make sure you have a system to generate email lists effectively. Sometimes the addresses are found in different places, so being able to access the data when needed is critical.

In addition to launching into the worldwide web in 1995, I launched Inside Information with a dream about accessing data and using it for targeted member communication. “Will this be a fad?” I asked myself. Dropping off the keys to my Platte-Clay Electric Cooperative car and saying goodbye to an excellent benefits package, there was a lot riding on that question. Thankfully, the answer was no. While I didn’t know what the future would look like, I could not envision a day when electric utilities would have LESS of a need to have and use customer data for whatever the current initiative might be.

Thinking back to those early days of using email, I would never want to go back to a dial up connection, but I do long for that time when my daily email count was fewer than 10.

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