Op-Ed: Blending the Art and the Science
Direct-response fundraising is the perfect playground. It's a blending of both art (something I highly value but readily admit to having no proclivity for) and science (Data! Testing! Measurability!). Direct response feeds both sides of the brain and provides continual opportunities for thinking outside of the box while allowing us to control the amount of risk.
As a direct-mail strategist, I regularly develop strategies based on the science of fundraising. Careful analysis of data teaches us what has been successful in the past and what we can expect to be successful in the future, and it allows us to take calculated risks in testing new ideas and theories. Strategies are developed, and only then do we work with talented copywriters and designers to implement those strategies. I don't have a creative bone in my body — so thank goodness for the creative geniuses!
But as we all face the downward trends in direct response, coupled with ever-increasing costs, is it maybe time to change things up? Admittedly, this is outside of my comfort zone. I'm used to driving all strategy based on the data … based on case studies … based on benchmarking … based on something … anything rooted in the science. I like the two-step process … first the science, then the art. But that's not really a "blending" of art and science, is it?
Maybe it's time to bring the creative talent to the table earlier in the development of our direct-response strategies.
If we engage designers and copywriters earlier on in the process of strategic development, wouldn't their creative brains help us to develop workable strategies that can be successful? Extra minds at the table could help us find solutions to the ever-increasing costs associated with mailing. Creative minds might just help us develop alternative ways to tap our current and prospective markets. Fresher designs might wind up beating the control within some segments.
Working collaboratively with our designers from the start allows us to utilize our creative resources (our colleagues, our team members) to their fullest extent, moving the creative minds away from mere implementation of the plan and toward fuller involvement in the entire direct response process, and in turn really blending the art and the science.
I've heard rumblings around the industry of success when strategists and creatives truly work collaboratively. Maybe it's something we should all look into.
Cathy Finney is associate vice president at MINDset direct. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org