Non-Linear Brilliance: IRTA's Unique Email Strategy and What You Can Learn from It

(Springfield, Ill. – 6/23/20) In an era where digital marketing strategies can often feel as though they are blending into a homogenous mass, the Illinois Retired Teachers Association (IRTA) and its marketing partner Vilocity Interactive, has found a way to stand out from the crowd. The association, devoted to the welfare of retired educators, has pioneered an innovative non-linear email marketing campaign that offers a fresh perspective on email-based member recruitment.

Over a span of five weeks, IRTA and Vilocity dispatched five different recruitment emails, each to a unique set of potential members. This diverges from the conventional linear model, where a single message is simultaneously sent to all prospects. The non-linear approach allows for each email to be evaluated independently, removing the inherent bias associated with the sequence of distribution.

“Traditional marketing wisdom might suggest that the first message sent will naturally have the highest impact. Our non-linear campaign has challenged that notion,” IRTA Director of Membership & Marketing Nathan Mihelich explained. “By sending separate emails to different groups at the same time, we could assess each message’s effectiveness based on its own merit, not its order in the sequence.”

The experiment has paid off, shedding light on the potential benefits of non-linear email marketing. This success could provide a blueprint for other membership and subscription organizations seeking to refine their recruitment strategies.

Here’s how other organizations can replicate the IRTA’s successful non-linear campaign:

  1. Segment Prospects: Divide the total pool of potential members into distinct groups. The divisions could be based on demographics, location, interests, or any other distinguishing characteristics.
  2. Craft Unique Emails: Develop separate recruitment emails for each group. This allows organizations to tailor their message to the specific characteristics of each group, potentially enhancing the email’s impact.
  3. Simultaneous Distribution: Send the emails to all groups at the same time. This non-linear distribution eliminates the variable of time, allowing each email’s effectiveness to be evaluated independently.
  4. Assess Results: Measure the response to each email separately. This provides valuable data about which messages resonate most with potential members, enabling organizations to fine-tune their strategies moving forward.

Following their groundbreaking non-linear email marketing campaign, IRTA is now positioned to leverage the wealth of data they have gathered to further enhance their member recruitment strategies. This increased understanding of their prospective members’ preferences and engagement can be used to drive more conversions in future campaigns.

“The non-linear approach adopted by the IRTA allowed the association to measure the effectiveness of each individual email separately,” Vilocity Interactive Jen Smith commented. “This, in turn, has provided us with detailed insights into what messaging resonates most effectively with different segments of their audience.”

With this data in hand, the IRTA can now refine their email marketing strategy to optimize conversions. Here’s how they can do it:

  1. Personalized Messaging: Using the data on which emails performed best with each group, the IRTA can further tailor their messaging to better appeal to the interests and preferences of each group. Personalized emails are known to significantly improve open rates and click-through rates, leading to higher conversion rates.
  2. Optimized Send Times: The non-linear campaign may also yield insights into the best times to send emails to each group, maximizing the chances of the emails being opened and read.
  3. Improving Call-To-Actions (CTAs): By understanding which emails led to the most conversions, the IRTA can identify the most effective CTAs and incorporate them into future emails.
  4. Testing New Ideas: The wealth of data from the non-linear campaign provides a baseline for future A/B testing. The IRTA can experiment with new messages, designs, and formats, and compare their performance to the baseline data.
  5. Building Long-Term Relationships: By continuously refining their approach based on feedback from the non-linear campaign, the IRTA can improve their relationship with their audience, leading to increased loyalty and higher long-term conversion rates.

The IRTA’s non-linear approach to email marketing has shown that when it comes to recruitment, thinking outside of the box – or in this case, the inbox – can yield significant results. As digital strategies evolve, it is worth considering whether a non-linear approach could become the new standard for membership and subscription organizations.

To learn more about the Illinois Retired Teachers Association and their innovative approach to email marketing, visit and