7 Steps to Multichannel Success
When you woke up this morning, did you listen to the radio? Watch TV? Scan the newspaper? Hop online to check Facebook? Read the news feed on your phone? Check e-mail? Gasp! — talk to your spouse/partner/ roommate?
We live in a multichannel world. We're used to getting information from multiple sources. And so are donors. If we do it so easily in our daily lives, why is multichannel fundraising so hard?
There are a slew of reasons — some institutionalized by our organizations (housing online fundraising in the communications department) and others due to infrastructure challenges (smoothly functioning multichannel database, anyone?). Part of the challenge is that old habits die hard — those of us who "grew up" in a direct-mail world have a harder time thinking about online strategies than the 25-year-old whippersnapper who spent her college years using the Internet. And there's a good chance that 25-year-old doesn't know the first thing about direct-response fundraising! But aren't those really just excuses?
It's time for us to pull our heads out of the proverbial single-channel sand and overcome the obstacles to integration. Organizations that do are more likely to survive economic hard times with better retention, higher revenue per donor, higher levels of engagement, etc.
The data is irrefutable. A donor name with an e-mail address attached is worth 25 percent more than one without even if he never makes a donation online. This is old news to the telemarketing crowd, who figured out that a donor name with a phone number was worth 20 percent to 40 percent more than one without back in the olden days of the 20th century. (We assume that a donor name with a mobile number is worth more than that!)
Don't forget the Rule of Seven — the old marketing adage that says a consumer needs to see/hear your message seven times before taking action/buying your product. Watch any episode of "Mad Men" and you're reminded of the power of TV, print ads — and midday martinis?
Really, multichannel marketing isn't new, but the tools to get your message out there might be. So, how do you navigate this new world? You can start by following a new set of rules:
No. 1: Secure institutional leadership on channel integration
If the powers that be (whether that is your CFO, president or board) understand the power behind integration and are good at sharing credit for every dollar raised (regardless of how budgets are managed), you are that much closer to program integration and the benefits from multichannel marketing.
No. 2: Respect each channel
Direct mail may be king in terms of small-donor fundraising power — and probably will be for a while — but that doesn't mean it can't benefit from the influence of other channels (and doesn't mean it can't influence those other channels, too). Several studies have proven a telemarketing contact lifts direct-mail performance for the six months following the contact, and other studies demonstrate a well-timed text message can lift e-mail performance. Facebook is unlikely to be a major fundraising channel in 2012, but it might play an important role in cultivating donors and prospects, and keeping the charity top of mind after an e-mail or mail piece has gone out.
No. 3: Break down silos
Talk to your colleagues regardless of whether they sit in your department/floor or not. If your direct-mail program sits in one department, your newsletter or magazine in another, and your e-fundraising program in a third, you are going to have to be proactive about message development. Direct-mail fundraisers need to know what's coming down the pike many weeks in advance of their online colleagues — but they also benefit from knowing what works online before spending a lot more on print, production and postage.
No. 4: Walk a mile in your donors' shoes
What is the cadence and timing of your communication to them? How are you talking about breaking news? Communicating victories? Will your donor be confused if she gets a direct-mail piece focusing on one issue or program, an e-mail talking about another, and a phone call talking about a third? Direct mail, telemarketing, e-mail, website, Facebook, tweets, news- letter — which channel(s) make the most sense for each message?
No. 5: Test, test, test …
… and sometimes just give something a try. Lots of organizations do a good job testing their direct-mail programs. Some do a good job testing their online programs. But very few do a good job testing across channels. To be fair, setting up true multichannel tests is difficult — but well worth it (especially if you have issues with rule No. 1 or rule No. 3).
No. 6: Measure results
This goes hand in glove with testing — but don't just measure the results of your tests. Measure your donor value across channels. Create "control" or "business as usual" groups to measure the impact of multichannel efforts on the test vs. the control. Ensure you have statistically significant results (we like the rule of 300 — the statistics measure that dictates statistical validity when you have at least 300 responses — but multi- variate testing can help with smaller test panels and audience sizes). Look beyond pure campaign-level results. Are you upgrading more donors? Converting more to monthly donors? Renewing donors earlier?
No. 7: (Start to) integrate your systems
We all want a wholly integrated system that manages all contacts and responses by channel, across channels for every constituent record, records all their interests, is super-easy to query, etc. But one doesn't exist — yet. (Or, rather, it is too cost-prohibitive for most nonprofits to use.) But that doesn't mean you can't aspire to system integration. Passing e-mail addresses collected offline to your online database is just as critical as putting online transactions in your offline database. Without some level of system integration, you won't be able to measure donor value, integrated campaign results, donor retention and more.
So what are you waiting for? Break down the silos, share credit across budget lines and keep the focus on the bigger picture of raising more money for your cause. Let your donors interact with you when and where they want. FS
Karin Kirchoff is vice president at MINDset direct. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Jeff Regen is senior vice president of integrated services at M+R Strategic Services. Reach him at email@example.com