Email-Myths

Don’t Fall For These Local Government Email Myths

This is part 2 of a series on effective email marketing to local governments. Part 1 is here (“New Research – Govtech Companies are Neglecting Email Marketing”)

Build it and they will come?  Customers only care about price?  Some marketing myths are just plain dangerous to believe.

With proven lead generation options (such as conferences and most sales calls) off the table, email marketing to local governments is more important than ever to growing your business.

Moreover, as discussed in part 1 of our series, email delivers the highest ROI of any marketing channel – on or offline. It outperforms other online channels on reach, delivery, engagement, conversion and average order value.

Yet email is neglected by many firms marketing to local governments.  Why is that?

Misplaced belief in 3 discredited myths:

  1. Myth #1: Too many local government officials can’t be reached by email
  2. Myth #2: Local government email addresses pose unique challenges too hard to overcome
  3. Myth #3: Local government officials don’t read their emails

We’ll debunk each of these myths below, clearing the path for you to move forward with your email marketing campaigns.

Myth #1:  Too many local government officials can’t be reached by email

Here’s what is true . . .  15% of senior local government officials do not have email addresses for their work activities.  We know this precisely because we call 21,000 governments twice a year to gather email addresses for 13 key roles (such as the top appointed executive, head of finance, head of IT, etc.).

So a marketer can reach, at best, 85% of local government officials through email.  Yet that hardly seems a valid excuse not to use email.  No marketing channel reaches everyone.  Facebook seems ubiquitous, but only about 69% of Americans use it.  We know from our own research, only 52% of local government officials have profiles on LinkedIn.

We couldn’t find data on offline channel use by local government officials, but in a 2013 survey by Market Connections Inc., only 55% of federal government employees attend conferences annually (obviously much lower post Covid-19), and only 52% read professional journals.

Therefore, email marketing is certain to be far more effective than conference and many other traditional marketing efforts you can’t do right now.  Long story short – the 15% of officials without email is NOT a reason to neglect the other 85%.

It’s worth nothing some key metrics that affect email reach.  Officials in cities and towns with smaller populations (especially under 5,000 people) are somewhat less likely to have email addresses (see the first Chart below for details).   And certain roles (e.g., top appointed executive) are more likely to have email addresses than others (e.g., fire chief).  See the second Chart below for the breakdown by role.   (Data in both Charts is based on analysis of Power Almanac’s contact database of 250,000+ local government officials.)

Myth #2: Local government email addresses pose unique challenges too hard to overcome

The first part of this myth is true – there are some unique challenges in collecting and using local government email addresses, even for the 85% that have an email address. But the second part is not the case. There are tactical workarounds to each challenge.

We analyzed 214,000+ emails in our database to find out. Here are the key challenges, and the tactical workarounds that address them:

  • Generic email addresses. Many local government officials use “generic” sounding email addresses instead of “named” ones. For example, clerk@CityofApple.gov instead of sally.jones@CityofApple.gov. Some such generic addresses are spam traps to be avoided, but skipping all such addresses will lead to missed opportunities. The only certain workaround is to call to verify the addresses are valid.
  • Shared email addresses. Many local government officials within a government share the same email address, typically a generic email address of some kind. This is especially the case for officials in smaller local governments. For example, the Heads of Finance and IT might share the address admin@CityofApple.gov. If you’re creating a campaign to reach multiple officials at governments in which emails are shared, the workaround is to “de-dupe” your email list to remove these redundancies. But to ensure that the right officials remain on your list post de-duping, make sure you prioritize the roles you want to keep.
  • NON-Matching Domain. Many local government officials have email addresses that do NOT have the government’s website domain, and could cause you to believe your email address is wrong. For example, sally.jones@CityofApple.gov could be the email, but the government’s website address might be www.AppleCityinCA.gov. One workaround is to look for email bounces, but a better one is to confirm the email address by phone.
  • Email addresses that look private. Some officials, especially those from local governments that don’t have a website (true for about 20% of local governments), use what appear to be private emails such as Gmail and Yahoo, or even email addresses from private sector employers or other sources. These private emails are generally not listed on government websites, but are in fact being used by these officials to conduct government business, and therefore perfectly good emails for you to use in your email campaigns. Again, the only certain workaround is to call to verify the addresses are valid.
  • Wrong email on website. The email address listed on a government website is often not the right nor the best email address for certain officials. Many local governments are slow to update their websites, and therefore have outdated contact information online. In other cases, some email addresses provided online are “public facing” emails that don’t necessarily go right to the official, but rather through a screener of some kind. The workaround: call to find the best email address .

Given the effectiveness of email marketing to local governments, these workarounds are worth it. But if you don’t have time or patience to implement these (often time-consuming) techniques, consider giving Power Almanac’s contact database a try, where we’ve already done the work for you.

Myth #3: Local government officials don’t read their emails

There’s no question that cutting through the clutter in officials’ email boxes is challenging. But no more so than marketing to private sector professionals and executives. The average office worker receives 121 emails per day and while no local government specific data is available, it’s likely similar for these officials.  Email ROI wouldn’t be so high if they didn’t get read (and acted upon).

Here are 3 strategies for breaking through the noise with senior local government decision makers:

  • Local government personalization. Personalize your emails to increase engagement and revenue. There are many unique ways to do this with local government officials that will grab the reader’s attention. Customize your content and messaging based on the recipients’ role, geography, election month or fiscal year. Send any offer timed to a city’s fiscal year end, or offer help with an upcoming election (based on election month for your target list) to a list of city or county clerks.
  • Officials NEW in their roles. A powerful approach is to reach out to (and congratulate) officials new in their role. They are more likely to be open to new ideas and vendors (we track new officials and offer a special filter for this to our PowerMax subscribers).
  • NON business hours. Try sending emails after hours or on weekends. 2019 research from Market Connections shows that 86% of state and local government officials consume work-related content on weeknights, and nearly as many do on weekends.

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