If you have a firm grasp on either direct mail or email marketing, chances are you can do both quite well. Yes, there are a few differences (email marketing is more immediate, and, conversely, direct mail can be passed along and return results longer), but ultimately these two channels are really not that different. If you disagree, hear me out:
Subject Line vs. Outer Envelope – Same idea here. What will make the person open the email or direct mail package? A well-worded subject line on an email can do the trick just as a well-worded “ask” or urgency note on an envelope can boost the effectiveness of a mailed package. It’s the same user experience on both fronts: a busy person at his or her computer versus a busy person at his or her mailbox who will choose to either open your mail or send it to the trash (figuratively or not) based on the same initial experience. You must grasp the person’s attention, and your first opportunity is the “outside” of your communication. Whether it’s a subject line or an outer envelope, it’s that first impression that prompts the next step.
Signer vs. “From” Line – The “from” line on an email carries just as much importance as a signer in a direct mail package. We find that many people are unaware that whom an email comes from makes all the difference. It’s so often overlooked that, when tested, just changing the “from” line alone creates higher open rates. People are naturally curious, and changing the signer or the “from” line can create a freshness that motivates people to open the mail.
Also, communications from respected people within an organization will be opened more readily. Once you have determined which signer or “from” line tests the best, use it. This strategy works across channels and can be extremely effective.
Messaging – Everyone knows that it’s what’s on the inside that counts. The above tools only get the person to open your communication; the inside creates the desired response. Compelling, timely copy is a must across both channels. Messaging must have a clear call to action and should be brief in nature. Call out the points you want your reader to focus on by using bolded copy, italics, and a P.S. section; most of us are busy and will scan these items first, so including your important information here is ideal.
Planning – Email marketing requires less logistics (no printing, mailing, etc.), but that doesn’t mean you should skimp on planning. Use the additional time to test your email across browsers and email providers. There is nothing worse than opening an email full of jumbled HTML. Just like you take the time to instruct printers and letter shops, take the time to test your code.
It’s comforting to know that you don’t have to re-write the script to achieve the best results from these two channels of communication. Lending strategies across mediums will only help you, as a marketer understand your file segments as well as garner better results.
With any direct mail package, the first and most obvious goal is to get the recipient to open and read what you’ve sent them. A 15” x 11” textured envelope with a Magic Eye design on the front will certainly get a donor’s attention, but depending on the cause, urgency, and goals of your mailing, you might not get the results you’re looking for.
When you have a critical message to share — or a short time to deliver it — you may be better served going with a grassroots campaign. Generally speaking, a grassroots package is one that is simple, lower budget, and message-driven. If these attributes match up with your goals, here are three easy steps to help you quickly achieve a grassroots feel:
Few things alter the overall look of your mailing more than fonts. If you’re looking to go grassroots, you can’t do much better than Courier. Courier, in addition to magically doubling the length of college essays, can also create an authentic, shoestring budget feel. You’ll know it as the font that looks a lot like typewriter text. In fact, it was created over 50 years ago to achieve just that look. In addition to looking somewhat old fashioned (and thus striking a chord with older donors), this font also has a bare-bones, no-nonsense look which can be essential to conveying urgency and thrift. Basically it says “I don’t have time to make this look pretty, all that matters is that I get you this message about dog sweaters.”
#2 Less Is More
Have you ever opened an envelope and thought, Hmm… So this mailing is urgent, and my donation is important, but you had the time and money to embroider my name onto a free potholder? And for that matter, are you just going to waste my donation on potholders for other people? Even if that thought didn’t jump out at you, there’s a good chance you thought it subconsciously. If your message is truly urgent, or at least meant to appear that way, it needs to also appear as though getting this package to the recipient was the top priority. Packing your mailing with pamphlets and fancy premiums doesn’t speak to the same motives.
#3 Signer Interaction
Another great technique for creating a grassroots look is to simulate handwritten messages and highlighting on the creative. Sure, there are sections of the letter that are already bolded or italicized, but making it look like the signer took the time to highlight an important line can be very effective. Oh, and underline your URL. That can add a significant personal touch. You may choose to stop short of doodling a mustache over a political opponent’s face, but in general, these effects produce results.
Of course these are just three tactics for creating your own grassroots mailing, and once you understand the principles of what makes these campaigns successful, many more ideas are right around the corner.
We’re all guilty of it: assuming our audience is motivated by the same things that we are.
But they aren’t.
You may think your non-profit organization’s supporters are concerned with a massive new initiative you’ve undertaken. But they’re more interested in how efficiently you’ve budgeted the funds they contributed last month.
Maybe you’d love to tell them about a nationwide effort to fight hunger, research a disease, or bring technology into the schools. But they want to hear about what’s happening in their backyard, in the next town over, or down the street.
So how do you connect with the differing motivations that drive people to give?
In a 2010 study, Hope Consulting found that donors tend to fall into one of six categories:
- Repayer – supports organizations that have impacted the donor or someone they care about
- Casual Giver – gives on a whim, when it’s easy, for specific premiums, etc.
- High Impact – donates to organizations they feel make the biggest difference
- Faith Based – contributes to charities that are in line with personal or religious beliefs
- See the Difference – likes to see the direct impact of their contribution
- Personal Ties – supports groups in response to requests from friends or when they personally know someone working at the organization
At the end of the day, you can’t settle with aligning your fundraising message with the organization’s beliefs. It also must be in line with the beliefs and motivations of your donors, or else you’re wasting your efforts.
Take a look at your file — perhaps with the help of a partner with data analysis expertise — and see if you can categorize your donors. Pay special attention to the types of messaging they’ve responded to, the frequency of their gifts, and any special ties they may have.
Then think about your current efforts and make sure they’re positioned to make the most impact with these segments. You may need to make changes:
- Tie your ask amounts to tangible items, such as giving $50 to pay for a child to have access to medical care for the “See the Difference” donors.
- Incorporate more personalization and use of the donor’s name for the “Personal Ties” donors.
- For the “Repayer,” reference how your organization has helped the donor in the past and why you need them to return the favor now.
You get the picture.
And when in doubt, test, test, test. If you have access to your donors, reach out to them and get firsthand information on what they care about. Try opening your letters with different messages. Conduct focus groups over the phone.
Whatever you can do, it’ll be worth the effort, and you’ll emerge on the other side with a more engaged donor base and better results for your organization.
You’ve probably seen the FSC logo and not given it much thought, but the meaning behind it has a huge impact on the environment, your bottom-line and your reputation. To put it simply, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) promotes the responsible management of the world’s forests. When you see the FSC logo, it means the company producing your product is invested in the world’s future. I say “world” because it not only covers our forests but also ensures sustained animal habitats, fresh air and clean streams and lakes.
The FSC is currently focused on several projects that include:
- Protecting endangered tigers in the boreal forest
- Helping forest landowners to provide for their families
- Creating musical instruments in Africa to sell and trade
- Improving the livelihood of small communities all over the world
So why wouldn’t everybody want to use FSC-certified materials?
In the past, the higher cost of FSC paper has been a deterrent to consumers. As is the case with supply and demand economics, the cost is coming down as more people use it. In fact, straight-up FSC (or virgin) paper will provide a cost savings over standard recycled paper AND demonstrate a greater environmental consciousness. What many people don’t yet understand is that recycled paper has no real standard regulation. FSC paper follows a rigorous chain of custody and subscribes to a strict set of environmental standards, which practice responsible forestry.
The FSC maintains accountability of its members through the Chain of Custody program, which covers a series of FSC policies and standards for companies that manufacture, process or trade forest-related products. The Chain of Custody program tracks products from forest to shelf and is verified through third-party certifiers to meet the FSC’s demanding requirements.
In addition to offering virgin paper, FSC also has a line of mixed and recycled goods that also adhere to these same standards, offering consumers and our environment a multitude of benefits.
So as a consumer, buy FSC products whenever you can. Encourage businesses in the forest products industry to become FSC certified, and promote FSC by using the logo.
So you have a PPC campaign, a TV/radio spot, some shared mail, and maybe a billboard along the highway — all intended to drive traffic to your site. Are your investments in these marketing channels actually performing? A smarter question is whether these channels are getting you conversions (sales/leads/donations) — while not losing money. Do you have some hard numbers on those stats or are you going on what your gut tells you?
Proper tracking of your marketing channels via your website is critical to understand those investments. Yes, having Google Analytics and Adwords tracking on your site is a good start, but analytics alone won’t give you the full picture. You’re going to need unique gateways for each of those marketing channels. Think of it as if you had a physical building, and you added specialized doors for your customers depending on how they heard about you. Users to your site may never know they are entering through a specialized door, but it will help you figure out what motivated them to come to you in the first place.
You’ll also want to have your web development team add some tracking code on your site. With a little bit of code and some cookies, you can hold that piece of information (where your traffic is coming from) all across the site, even to when your users make that valued conversion. Lastly, make sure to keep that information backed up in your database when your conversion gets saved.
Now that you have all the pieces in place, getting a full picture of your marketing channels suddenly becomes clear. Using a little technological magic, you can tie all of this together to create a real-time dashboard to measure your success. For one of our clients, we were even able to fold in daily (and hourly) statistics for their call center operations and measure the effectiveness of the marketing and staffing investments. Maybe the billboard drives a lot of visitors, but doesn’t result in conversions; maybe you find that PPC and SEO are performing better for conversions vs. your TV and radio spots. Are enough people making a conversion through the website via the radio ad to make the same investment next month? Getting a good gauge on the cost per click/visit and the cost per conversion can make you better informed, leading to better decision making for your business or organization.
Ah, the creative process. It’s an expressive and essential part of being a designer, and it’s part of our everyday…dare I say it…routine. And if you’re not paying attention, that day-to-day familiarity can suck the life out of your creativity and suck you into a vacuum. This designer can personally tell you how easily that can happen, and the problem most of us have is getting out of that hole and back to seeing the big picture.
For example: the concept of “design on a dime” is something many of us pride ourselves on doing very well, but what’s the benefit of this? As a direct-response, creative-channeling, results-driven marketing guru, I can tell you that after five years of managing my clients’ bottom line, no great control package has come out of a one-day turnaround.
Break free from the self-imposed barriers that consume your every day, and take time to understand the roles of those who surround you. How else will you understand the complete picture? Having “creative block” can be an easy excuse for not taking the time to understand the moving parts around you, but it stifles your success as a designer.
So how do you avoid that? Ask some realistic questions: Who is your audience, where do they come from, what do they believe in, what do they need? I bet your list broker can tell you a lot about your prospects — better yet, take a long, creative look at his or her recommendations. Spending time to get to know the pools your fellow experts are picking from will give you tons of ammo going into any strategy. For example, are the prospects affiliated with women’s rights organizations? Are they all high-dollar donors with weekly subscriptions to a politically savvy magazine? These two details alone tell me that I need to: 1. Focus on the issues, 2. Play to the current political landscape, and 3. Give them something to walk away with.
But, even after digging through your lists, you still need to know your clients like the back of your hand. The relationships I have with my account leads help me get to know each one of my clients intimately, and that’s the kind of knowledge you need when deciding how to solve your clients’ challenges. What’s keeping them up at night? Is it cash flow, donor retention, or increasing their donor pool? Each one of these needs tells me something different: 1. Focus the messaging on top hot-button issues, 2. Tell the donors exactly how their donation will benefit the organization or overall issue they care about, and 3. Segment based on the different audiences you’re trying to pull in, and educate them on why they should donate to your organization and why now.
And finally, those data miners sitting behind the curtain are not there to just keep all of those crucial gold-mine secrets to themselves. They are experts of EVERYTHING donor/member/prospect related. These should be your go-to people for any questions about your demographics. Are they older men, younger women, or someone in between? Where do they live, what’s their income, and how have they been educated? I don’t know about you, but each answer to these questions would provide me with different options for reaching my ideal audience. Not only that, but when combined with all of your other intellectual capital, it paints a picture of the perfect creative strategy.
There’s a reason they call it a vacuum. Get sucked into the vortex of “throwing this together” and “meeting that deadline,” and all of the sudden the big picture passes you by. It’s not about compiling an InDesign file of the greatest typographical tactics — it’s about understanding who needs what tactics in order to respond. Take time to get to know your team members, and you will find that inspiration can come from a dozen different avenues you haven’t explored before. Next time you get sucked into the process, throw a jackknife into it and break free. It will help your design process and boost results. (Trust me, your client and CEO will thank you!)
Laura Thompson here, one of the Nexies working to improve our clients’ results through finance fundamentals. I’ve heard people from a lot of organizations refer to accountants as the “historians,” but keeping on top of the historical information is only part of what we do. Although your controller might not be comfortable with including “fortune teller” in his or her job description, it’s not too far off. We apply historical financial data to forecast bottom-line results every day, and at Nexus Direct, it helps us bring added value for our clients.
How do we keep our crystal ball in working order? The way to continue improving forecasting accuracy is by knowing what information is critical in spotting trends, which requires 1) a deep analytic dive into our clients’ marketing data before we partner with them, and 2) regularly scheduled follow-up analyses which allow us to identify any shifting trends in membership, the competition or industry regulations.
What doesn’t change is our focus on our clients’ goals, which are communicated clearly at the outset of the business relationship. These goals often revolve around increased revenue or membership, which is reconciled with our own internal research and projections based on a broad spectrum of factors, including results.
One of the most important aspects of ensuring excellent results for Nexus Direct’s clients is by implementing and following processes, which I believe to be necessary in every department if you are to succeed. By following Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), your processes allow for a custom business model, which in turn allows your results to be quantified.
Financial models are used throughout all the touch points at Nexus Direct, from Account Planning to Creative. These models give us a cohesive structure that eliminates surprises from an expense standpoint and provides our clients with the freedom to enjoy their campaign results.
During industry conferences, people have asked, “How can your Creative Department use financial models?” To some, it may seem like an odd pairing, but it actually gives our team members the flexibility to design a campaign that can be successful at all price points because they have a clear understanding of each client’s budget.
With these client expenses identified for each program, campaign and project throughout the year, Nexus Direct is able to focus entirely on results and help clients meet — and exceed — their established goals. Looking into the crystal ball, we can tell our clients that “sticker shock” will be a non-issue, with the potential to launch additional test programs with the savings in their budget.
When clients receive the final invoice, they’ll find it to be very close to what they approved on the project estimate. This consistency builds confidence in their Nexus Direct partnership, as the invoice history reflects the output of our initial forecasting.
I’m proud to work within a Finance Department that audits the jobs as they flow through our internal teams to ensure we run a tight ship. I’m proud of the processes implemented by Nexus Direct that allow our outside CPA firm to audit our financials and confirm that we’re in compliance — something that’s not usually found in privately held companies but shows our commitment to achieving the best results for our clients and providing a solid working environment for our fellow Nexies.
As an Account Director, I’ve had the opportunity to create and manage many new client relationships. A few of them involved starting direct marketing programs from scratch, but most of the organizations contacted our team because of a struggling program and the need for a fresh perspective.
Part of Nexus Direct’s strategic process with any new relationship is identifying pain points — where are the biggest challenges? 9 times out of 10, this includes reactivating lapsed donors/supporters/members/you name it. (I’m going to use donors for the sake of this post.) I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a client say, “We have a large donor pool, but a large portion is lapsed. How can we re-engage the people who haven’t given in several years?”
If you research industry publications or direct marketing resources, you’ll find an abundance of suggestions for doing this: sending “Final Notice” packages, personalizing the direct mail package or email with giving history, sending questionnaires to find out how frequently they’d like to receive communications or what messages are most engaging to them, and so forth. But surprisingly, none of these suggestions include segregating the single-gift lapsed donors and the multi-gift lapsed donors — those who have given once vs. those who have given more than once. And to me, this may be the easiest way to pinpoint those most likely to respond to your efforts.
Take a minute and think like a donor. It doesn’t matter what the cause is, as long as it’s something you care about. If you’ve given one gift, and only one gift, it could’ve been because you were intrigued by an email subject line, or there was a heart-wrenching message within a letter, or maybe just because it was the end of December and you were maximizing your tax-deductible contributions. (I’m married to an accountant who always makes a few well-timed donations at the end of the year.)
But let’s say you’ve given more than once. This shows a different level of commitment. You’re past the flashy creative, the tactics on an envelope designed to get you inside — all of that. At this stage, you’ve shown a dedication to the organization, a connection to their mission, and a much higher propensity to give than someone who has given just one gift. As a marketer, I know which donor I’d rather try to re-engage…how about you?
So the next time you’re looking to reactivate donors from a large lapsed donor pool, focus on the multi-givers first. You may want to test them against the one-timers (just to make yourself feel good), but if you’re looking for low-hanging fruit, there’s where you’ll find it.
Marketers are infamous for picking up new phrases and buzzwords, but they are normally meant to beef up their story. If you have been around a while, you may remember: robust, vertically integrated, solution driven, synergistic, best-of-breed. But it’s one buzzword describing their marketing “ideas” that I think crosses the line.
As marketers we are supposed to understand your audience, how they make decisions and how they transact. We always create the best results when we respect our audience segment, understand their desires and speak to them in their preferred manner. After all, they do pay the bills, right?
Well there is one term that when I hear it, I think, “yuk!” Have you heard some agency rep refer to their “free gift” offers as “chum?” What do you think customers or donors would think if they knew anyone referred to the “free gift” you were offering them as “chum?” I think they’d decline to do business with you!
There are two definitions of “chum” when used as a noun. The first is “a close friend” or a “pal.” (Let’s assume this isn’t what they mean.) The second is “chopped up fish” (usually discarded, unwanted, inedible, bloody chunks of fish) thrown overboard to attract fish or shark. It’s cheap bait. It’s used to trick animals. How on earth did we go from thinking of our “free gifts” as “chum?”
First, it’s terribly disrespectful. Second, it demonstrates a lack of understanding about what we do.
Our job is to help cultivate beliefs and grow valuable relationships. Premiums or free gift offers are usually selected because we think our audiences would enjoy receiving them. Branded key chains, coffee mugs, t-shirts, calendars, bumper stickers; they are all meant to convey mission and message and build a fan base. Not to trick anyone into taking action.
Your customers and donors are not frenzied fish swarming your boat slathered in bait. They are people, with feelings (and power, by the way), and unless marketers remember that, and respect them, they will turn their backs on you and scream, “yuk!”
If you are developing offers that include annual premiums and rewards related to your business, you are expressing gratitude for action taken. That’s what builds loyalty and dedication. It’s not necessary, but it’s appreciated by your responders and they will buy again.
Is your business embedded in the online marketing mix?
It has been forecasted that U.S. investment in Search marketing, display advertising, email marketing, mobile marketing and social media will be close to $77 billion, and represent 26% of all advertising by 2016. * So how do you know which channel to invest in? Or do you invest in them all? Let’s take a look at each of these channels and see what their futures hold.
This channel will still hold the largest share of the interactive marketing world by growing to more than $33 billion over the next five years. But as marketers investigate, test, and perfect different strategies that allow their clients to be noticed on the web though channels other than search engines, search is forecasted to lose its share of 55% in today’s climate to 44% through the next five years. * Some of that share will be drawn to mobile and social networks. Even with this trend, search investments will increase due to improving search platforms and small to medium-sized businesses elevating their search marketing budgets.
With display advertising forecasted to reach $27.6 billion by 2016, * it is safe to say that this channel of advertising is here to stay. Better ad management tools, an increase in traditional search keyword costs, and brand advertisers moving offline budgets into display are just a few reasons why this channel will continue to grow. Whether they are static image ads and rich media ads, or online video, marketers’ investments into display advertising will increase its share 36% in five years.
I’ll bet you have heard this line for the past few years: “This is the year of the mobile.” Well, while that never really rang true in years past, I think we’re finally here. In 2011, spending on mobile search advertising blew right past email and social, and forecasted to reach $8.2 billion by 2016. * Some of the more obvious reasons for the increase are the creation of more relevant mobile ads through better targeting and more dynamic content, the increase of tablets and smartphone usage, and the growth of mobile commerce, which, in turn, will get marketers to invest in more ads.
Oh, email … the anchor of the interactive marketing world. While the forecast has email marketing nearing just $2.5 billion by 2016*, incorporating this strategy with other interactive channels will increase relevant delivery and response rates. The use of tablets and/or smartphones to encourage interested prospects to sign up for your e-newsletter or compiling email addresses through a blogger that someone wishes to subscribe to are just a few ways that you can use these other channels to create a better email marketing mix. With the technological advancements of email analytics, marketers are looking to use the strategy of quality over quantity. Targeting people who you know have already taken an interest in your company’s mission or product can increase your relevancy response rate by a huge margin.
And now for the newcomer to the mix (well, not that new). At first, one must think this is where most of the growth will be coming from over the next five years, and while marketers are pressing forward and investing in social media, the actual spend is relatively low. This marketing channel has a forecast of about $4.4 billion, and accounts for just 7% of interactive spend by 2016. * How can this be? Well, as mentioned, social media costs are low compared to other interactive marketing channels. With social media sites not really diving into the paid platforms (and if they are, they are very limited), it means that more focus will be on the people who manage social media accounts, making sure they are listening, engaged and possess a high degree of social acumen. After all, this is a personal communication platform.
Now that we have overloaded your brain with a bunch of facts and figures of where the interactive world is headed, you have a little more insight to the research and progression that the interactive team here at Nexus Direct keeps up-to-date on. We pride ourselves on knowing where the latest trends, technologies and strategies are coming from so that we can use these tactics to benefit all of our clients.
* US Interactive Marketing Forecast 2011 To 2016. By Shar VanBoskirk, Forrester Research, INC