If you were asked what you think will be the most significant challenges facing the direct marketing industry and/or direct mail fundraising now, and over the next five to ten years, what would you say? And what would you recommend as the best ways to meet those challenges?
Recently, we had a spirited discussion at an Avalon staff meeting when I posed these questions to my team. We agree that now and in the future, no matter the direct marketing challenge, integrated marketing strategy supported by robust analytics will be part of the solution. But more specifically, here’s what we came up with:
Challenge: As the pool of donors becomes more competitive and people give to fewer organizations, how can nonprofits expand their universe with fewer donors?
Solution: As an industry, we must focus more heavily on retention, recruiting more high-value donors, and reinstating high-value lapsed donors instead of bringing in marginal members.
Challenge: How can organizations realize the full potential of CRM and Big Data to develop stronger relationships with their donors and members?
Solution: We must fully leverage the myriad of data and technology available to us, to target stronger donors with whom we forge more meaningful and lasting relationships, and ultimately create higher donor value and donor satisfaction. Modeling, targeting donors on past behavior, and developing segmentable personas or behavioral clusters, would enable deeper understanding of our donors and their motivations, while still allowing for the benefits and efficiencies of mass segmentation. Such rich, multi-dimensional targeting will leverage transactional donor data, behavior, demographics, psychographics, commercial data, member research, and more, providing a step up on traditional RFM. Online and offline targeting, plus more customized tone, messaging, creative, and offers will result in increased conversion rates and donor satisfaction.
MailSmart Logistics is out with a terrific blog called How Can Mailers Prepare for Five Day USPS Mail Delivery? Since they posted this piece, some members of Congress have introduced a bill to keep six-day mail delivery, and as I write this, we don't know if this legislation will be successful. What we do know is that five-day deliver will affect all mailers (catalogs, magazines, nonprofits, etc.), so in the event that it becomes reality, we need to be prepared. The MailSmart blog describes how the volume of mail people receive each day will increase with five-day delivery, so we will all need to find a way to make our mail stand out even more. Here are MailSmart’s recommendations for getting ready for five-day delivery:
We’ve all heard of a merge/purge and in general, know what this particular chunk of direct mail jargon means. But do you know how sophisticated the merge/purge process has become?
As you’re budgeting, the inclination is always to try to decrease your per-piece direct mail costs. But how? At Avalon, we’ve created an internal committee tasked with shaving direct mail package costs through tried-and-true methods and strategies.
If your year-end planning isn’t on the front burner yet, move it there now! Remember, donors are paying attention and looking for last-minute giving opportunities at the end of the year.
Given the number of questions we field about compiled lists, here are answers to some of the FAQ on the subject:
What is a “compiled list” and how does it differ from a traditional acquisition list?
Compiled lists are lists that have been cooperatively assembled from a variety of sources and contain non-unique names. The most prominent companies offering compiled lists include Wiland, Epsilon (Abacus), and DonorBase. Usually, these lists are prospective donors with a profile consisting of several transactions from a variety of non-profit and for-profit organizations, like catalogs, publishers, and retail stores, often with 20 or more collected transactions for each name, for a fuller picture of donors giving/buying habits. A traditional donor acquisition list contains names from one organization, and some of the people on that list may have only made one contribution ever – not a clear picture of that donor’s giving capacity or preference.
This month, we bring you two more Avalon client case studies, describing year-end and eRenewal campaigns that were performing well – could we find room for improvement?
As with any nonprofit organization, the year-end appeal is typically the League of Women Voters’ strongest appeal. In the fall of 2011, on the cusp of the Presidential primaries, Avalon and the League sought to take advantage of the giving season and the League’s relevant issues in the news to maximize giving.
You never know what trends will pop up unexpectedly in acquisition programs. Recently, we noticed that multi-buyer list performance has been waning in one client’s direct mail prospecting program. A quick check revealed that this depression coincided with when we’d started using commercially compiled lists. So we did some analysis to see if, in fact, compiled list multi-buyers were pulling down overall multi-buyer performance. For this client, that turned out to be the case.
The League of Women Voters has a mature prospecting program. Like many well-established direct marketing programs, it was necessary to prepare for the future marketplace and go beyond traditional trades and exchanges. Avalon designed a modeling program to increase the League’s ROI, and give it a competitive edge in the mailbox by more tightly targeting our prospective donors.