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What the heck is a nested loop? And why you need them in your nonprofit email marketing

Nonprofit Email Marketing, Nonprofit Storytelling

“This is amazing stuff!”

“I can’t wait for your next email!”

How often has that happened to you?

Has anyone on your email list ever hit reply to your nonprofit email newsletter and said those words?

Have you ever thought that would happen?

What if I told you it was possible to make this happen on a regular basis?

What if I told you there was a way to do this and that it might not be as hard as you think?

In fact, you’ve seen it be done thousands of time, heck, maybe even millions of times.

Would that interest you?

I’ll tell you what it is in a minute, but first, I want to talk about Peter Gould, David Chase, D.B. Weiss, and Damon Lindelof…

The resurgence of television

I think television is going through a resurgence.

Ever since Lost and the Sopranos, things have changed. Television has gotten a lot better.

So much better, in fact, that I’d prefer to watch television over going to a movie.

Movies just seem too short now.

How much depth of character can you really build in just two hours?

Television, on the other hand, will give you 10 or more hours to tell a story.

That opens up so many more opportunities for the screenwriters.

And now that serialized fiction screenwriters have gotten so good at their job I get completely drawn into their shows.

I relate to their characters more. I feel a stronger connection to them. I’m more invested in them.

And it’s screenwriters like Peter Gould (Breaking Bad), David Chase (The Sopranos), D.B. Weiss (Game of Thrones), and Damon Lindelof (Lost) that are the true masters of serialized fiction screenwriting.

Is there something nonprofit email marketers can learn from how they write their television episodes?

Open and nested loops

As it turns out, there is a lot we can learn from screenwriters.

Today I want to introduce you to their “secret Sauce” for building tension, holding attention, and forcing their audience to watch the next episode.

Then I’ll show you how to apply this to your nonprofit email marketing.

You see, having 24 hours to tell a story comes with its own challenges, too.

How do you get people tuned in week after week?

How do you make sure they come back for the next episode?

Well, television series screenwriters have mastered a few tools that help them achieve this.

And nonprofit email marketers can use two of their tools to great effect: the open loop and the nested loop.

An open loop is an “element” of the story that is not immediately brought to resolution.

By leaving part of the story unresolved screenwriters build emotional tension.

The most obvious example is the cliffhanger.

At the end of an episode, screenwriters will build tension by creating a dramatic scene, often involving the main character and extreme danger, and just when something really bad is about to happen…


The end.

For now…

Tune in next time to find out what happens.

I love-hate cliffhangers.

My first emotion is anger mixed with disappointment,

“NO!!!! Don’t stop there! What happens?! How can you do this to me?!”

But this is eventually followed by admiration…

“Wow, I love this show! I can’t believe how well they have drawn me into this story.”

And that is followed by anticipation.

“I can’t wait to watch the next episode!!”

I will clear my schedule, set up the DVR, download it on iTunes, and make sure my Netflix subscription is paid on time.

But open and nested loops are not limited to cliff hangers.

Screenwriters also create open loops that are closed in the same episode.

The function of these open loops is to make sure you keep watching that episode.

It is a constant building and releasing of tension all controlled by open and nested loops.

Open loops and nonprofit email marketing

Do you see how you can apply this to your nonprofit email marketing?

Don’t worry about trying to write emails that are as over-the-top dramatic as Scandal.

The beauty of open and nested loops is that they build tension within the reader even if the story is not about saving humanity from the walking dead.

Open and nested loops do the work for you.

Here’s how I would start applying this to your nonprofit email marketing.

Go back through your nonprofit email welcome series.

What story (or stories) are you telling?

Can you re-write those stories to include open loops?

Can you identify a place in the story that would make for a great cliffhanger?

Consider ending an email with this cliffhanger and tell your audience that you’ll finish the story in your next email.

This will immediately build interest and curiosity around your next email.

Once you master the skills of great storytelling and understand how you can apply them to effective email marketing you will have your readers consistently hitting reply to say,

“This is amazing stuff!”

“I can’t wait for your next email!”

CLICK HERE to learn how to tell Emotional Nonprofit Stories!

Closing a loop…

“Wait, what about nested loops? You haven’t told us what those are yet!?!?”

I know. That was intentional.

I wanted you to see the power of an open loop even when there was no dramatic story being told.

Did it drive you a bit crazy how I kept mentioning nested loops but never defined them for you?

Did you scan back through the post looking to see if you missed it?

See? No drama needed. Just open and nested loops…

Oh yeah, nested loops are simply open loops within open loops.

Basically, it is when you create multiple open loops and then close them sequentially, often in the reverse order of how you opened them so the first open loop created is the last loop brought to a resolution.

I used open and nested loops throughout this post in order to give you examples. Can you find them all?

Keep doing good work,
Jeremy Signature


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