Proof that Email Marketing Works: A Case Study

September 17, 2021 by
Proof that Email Marketing Works: A Case Study
Tetra Prime Consulting, Mark Wilhelm

Here's a fun fact about me: I love Wikipedia.

Sure, any responsible scholar will tell you that Wikipedia is not a definitive source of reliable information. Because the site can be edited by anyone, there's always the possibility that the particular article you're reading is inaccurate or biased. But when it comes to free repositories of interesting facts and factoids, in my opinion, it can't be beat.

The Wikimedia Foundation, which owns Wikipedia, is a non-profit organization that relies in part on donations to continue operating. So, a few times a year, it runs fundraising campaigns. If you visit the Wikipedia website during one of these fundraisers, you'll see advertisement banners that look something like this (although this one is a few years old):

A few weeks ago, I encountered these familiar ads while browsing the website one day. In the past, these ads have actually persuaded me to donate to the Foundation, usually in the sum of about $5–10. But this time, I wasn't feeling exceptionally charitable, and knowing that I had already done my part to keep Wikipedia up and running on several occasions, I ignored the appeals and continued about my business.

Fast forward to earlier this week, when I noticed the following item in my email inbox:

Now, I already knew that the Wikimedia Foundation had my email address, because I had provided it to them when I donated in the past. I wasn't particularly surprised to find an email from their donations department in my inbox, but I was surprised by the subject line and preview text.

Take a look at what they did there. Not only did they take the easy step of calling me out by name, but they pointed out that I'm one of the "special ones" who have donated in the past. One of the 2% who actually do donate to the organization. And they reframed the message of "We're soliciting another donation" into "We owe you an update." This makes it seem as though I'm the most important party in this communication.

In short, they flattered me. And because of that, I opened the email. Here's what they sent:

What they did with the copy here is brilliant. First, they framed the email as a personal message from the founder, and even included a photo for that extra human touch. Next, they pointed out that I donated $5 to Wikipedia last year, leveraging the consistency principle (If I did it last year, wouldn't it be internally consistent for me to do it again this year?). And again, they flattered me by reiterating that I am special and thanking me for it.

I don't think I read even half of this email before clicking the blue button to renew my donation, and then the truly amazing thing happened: I donated not $5, but $10 (plus the transaction fee), double the amount they asked for.

Almost immediately after I finished processing my payment, I was struck with the realization of what just happened. I was marketed to. The marketing worked. And I felt good about giving the Wikimedia Foundation my money.

If that isn't a testimonial to the power of intelligent email marketing, then I don't know what is.

Proof that Email Marketing Works: A Case Study
Tetra Prime Consulting, Mark Wilhelm September 17, 2021
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