Bridging the Creative Gap: Direct Mail and Electronic Fundraising
Is direct mail really “old school”? Well, if “old school” means communicating your offer in a compelling manner, using conversational but appropriate language, and always including a clear call to action, then yes — direct mail is guilty as charged. But the new kids on the block — those electronic marketers — should study the old-school curriculum carefully!
Sure, there are important differences in creative approach for mail and electronic media. We probably all have heard that electronic media demands shorter, chunkier copy. And electronic messages can (and often should) leverage movement in ways that direct mail just can’t touch. On the other hand, direct mail has tactile attributes that e-mail can’t touch. The feel of fine linen paper, for example, can’t be replicated on your computer’s screen.
But many marketing and fundraising best practices transcend the medium involved. Here are a few examples.
We call it the envelope teaser in direct mail. In outbound e-mail, it’s the subject line. E-mail was at first a novelty, but for many of us who get literally hundreds of e-mails a day, it can be a burden. How do you stand out from the inbox competition? The subject line is the key. To me, leaving the subject line blank is a sure sign of spam, so that’s probably not your best option. Be compelling; be brief. Which do you think works better: “Learn about Treehuggers” or “Toxic waste in YOUR local rivers!” The better subject line — and envelope teaser — is the second option.
What are the benefits associated with your product or with membership in your association? People want to know — what’s in it for them? Don’t leave them hanging. Many organizations get especially caught up in focusing on themselves, and not the donor or consumer. It’s not about YOU. It’s about THEM. Good direct mail and good e-mail never hide the reasons to respond — they are front and center.
Pete Carter is principal/senior vice president of CCAH in Arlington, Va., an award-winning direct marketing firm specializing in nonprofit fundraising. He can be reached at email@example.com