Five Components of DRTV Fundraising Success
There seems to be a general misconception in our industry that the elements of successful DRTV are a well-kept secret shared among a few nonprofits. But the truth is that good DRTV follows the same principles of any good direct response, and it requires the same dogged discipline of testing and measuring.
But it must be worth it. Through July this year, nonprofits have a reported spending of $27 million in short-form (generally two minutes or less) TV advertising, according to Nielsen Media Research.
Nonprofits that use DRTV successfully are able to manage each of the medium's five critical components: offer, creative, media partner, fulfillment, and evaluation and control.
1. Offer. Make your offer compelling and easy to understand. When your TV commercial is over, it's gone, just like a mail package in the shredder. So make the urgent case to call -- NOW.”
Set realistic gift amounts. We can take a lesson here from the for-profit world, where so much direct response is for products priced under $30. For bigger-ticket items, the cost is spread over time so the advertised amount is low -- for instance, four easy payments of $29.99 each.
Consider premiums. Many nonprofits use premiums successfully. If you decide to use a premium, make sure that it makes intuitive sense to the viewer by being closely aligned with your mission, brand and offer.
2. Creative. You have only a few seconds to grab donors' attention before they move on to another station. Present a simple, emotional message that focuses on the urgent need. The motivation to respond will be more emotional than rational.
Take advantage of the sensory experience that TV provides. A child's eyes slowly opening -- or closing -- can be powerful. Slow the motion, speed it up, dissolve slowly, do fast cuts, be loud, be quiet, set the mood with music, use color, sepia, or black and white. Television offers exciting and robust creative elements to work with. But don't confuse or complicate your message by overproducing. While you do want to take advantage of the broad creative palette that TV offers, you don't want your message and brand lost in slick production.
Credibility and accountability are every bit as important in DRTV as in direct mail. Challenge yourself and your agency to have one sentence or element that conveys your accountability quickly and succinctly. Tell a story that is uniquely you. What does your nonprofit have that makes you different from other nonprofits? But don't make your message so dire and hopeless that the audience tunes out. Donors like solving problems, so showing hope is an important element.
In terms of format, nonprofits generally stay with a problem/solution format, although for emergencies the news/documentary format is common. Testimonials -- often from celebrities -- have been used by many health-related nonprofits.
Finally, make it easy to respond. Tell the viewer what you want her to do, make sure she has time to capture the phone number or URL, and then offer the phone number or URL again at the end.
3. Media partner. Once you've created your perfect commercial, it's time to find a specialist media partner. Television time is costly, and the buys need to be as efficient as possible. Find an agency partner with a proven DRTV track record and one who understands that nonprofits are not into offering CDs or widgets. These specialist agencies have more leverage in the television market and can get you the best rates and bonus advertising. Your agency will be able to monitor TV ad time supply and demand, and place your advertising in periods when there is less demand and, therefore, lower prices.
Create a true partnership with your agency. Give the agency the information they need to make you successful. This includes daily reports on lead generation and back-end cost per donor so the team can adjust its buys accordingly. Drill down into your back-end information so that you and your agency are looking at ROI on each TV station, by each creative execution and by time of day. Actively manage the relationship -- which can mean phone calls several times a day during a campaign.
4. Fulfillment. If you place a phone number in your DRTV commercial, your call center will be another critical partner. You've paid for a small window of TV time in front of your potential donors, and it is essential to capture their immediate responses to your ad. Your call-center partner should be at the phones, ready to answer, 24/7, and should be staffed to handle peak advertising times. It must demonstrate the technical competence to route calls appropriately; report on calls presented, wait times, abandonment and call disposition; and close the sale. A good call-center partner also will help you craft the best wording for your scripts and then make recommendations for testing changes.
If you're driving viewers to the Web, make sure your site has the technical capacity to track response. You can create customized landing pages or micro sites that continue the logical progression from the TV ad and the offer. Optimize the shopping cart so that the donor has a fast and easy buying experience.
Your fulfillment kit in the mail should tie back to the TV creative to reinforce the emotional response that the responder felt at the time. Make sure the kit meets the expectation you created in the commercial.
5. Evaluation and control. Capture the metrics that will lead you to invest in the best stations and times. Early indicators are cost per response by station. Later analysis will include cost per donor. And once you have a station history of conversion rate from lead to paying donor, you can set an "allowable" cost per lead for each station you advertise on. This "allowable" can become a negotiating tool for your agency to use to buy marginally performing stations.
Measure your cost per lead, conversion and cost per donor by creative execution and time of day. This analysis will give you and your media agency the best information for placing ad time and also will make your next tests apparent.
For DRTV, as with all good direct response, learning is ongoing. Assume nothing, test often and test everything, including different formats, techniques, spokespersons, concepts, scripts and offers.
Mary Arnold is director of marketing at Christian Children's Fund. She can be reached via www.christianchildrensfund.org