For fundraisers who rely on direct mail, these are the best of times and the worst of times.
First, the bad news: The sheer volume of information bombarding donors — from traditional broadcast and print media to the Web, e-mail and instant messaging — is making it harder than ever to get attention for your appeals.
But there’s good news, too. Data and personalization technology offer powerful new ways to connect with donors via direct mail.
Today’s savvy direct marketers are using data and the latest digital printing technology to develop data-driven creative approaches and mailings that are almost fully customized to the individual recipient. The result is more relevant mail and stronger donor relationships.
Chances are, you’re already capturing transactional data and contact information on gifts and givers. You may even have demographic and lifestyle data for donors. When it’s time to create your next mail campaign, ask yourself this key question: What do I know about the people I’m mailing to and how can I use that knowledge to develop a more effective creative approach?
Here are five ideas:
1. Use data to allocate creative resources. Do pre-campaign data analysis to determine each donor’s value or potential. This measurement should drive format selection and allocation of creative resources. Higher-value donors (and prospects with similar characteristics) should get a more elaborate and personalized mailing; smaller donors should get a simpler appeal.
2. Use data for better targeting and personalization. Append demographic or lifestyle data to donor files, then use this data to segment donors into smaller, more targeted groups of like individuals. Develop creative that more accurately targets the specific interests of these smaller groups.
3. Use data to get attention and to engage. Get attention on the carrier and engage readers throughout the mailing with data-driven messages. Even simple geographic references can have a big impact: “Over 4,000 Chicagoans have helped us move closer to our goal — won’t you join them?”
4. Use data to strengthen relationships. Donors know their value to your organization and they expect YOU to know it. Use your donor information (such as the length of time they’ve supported you or the generosity of their last gift) to speak to donors more personally in your mailing about their relationship with you and the value of their support.
5. Use data to facilitate a response. Pre-populate response forms or, for Web responses, create customized URLs or personalized passwords that link to pre-populated Web forms to make it easier for donors to say yes. You also can suggest donation levels appropriate for each donor based on past giving.
A final note: The downside of data-driven creative is inaccuracy. Great creative that’s based on bad data is a relationship killer. Thus, the most important rule is to capture data accurately and keep your data current, complete and clean.
Jean M. Gianfagna is president of Gianfagna Marketing & Communications, Inc., a full-service agency offering direct-marketing strategic and creative services. She can be reached via www.gianfagnamarketing.com