Tag Archives: mail

How Do You Make a Onetime Donor a Longtime Donor?

In my June 20th post, Should You Rely on Design to Boost Your Direct Mail Response Rates?, I wrote about the factors contributing to the success of a direct marketing piece and how getting the ratio right––or wrong––can dramatically affect the outcome of your mailing. Related to this, Christine Birkner’s article “Give—and Give Again” in Marketing News magazine outlines essential strategies for cultivating repeat donors. It’s great advice that I’m certain to add to my toolbox of marketing techniques for clients.

Birkner details five key components to getting that donor you love to keep sending you the money you need. Her first point is to stop thinking of donations as onetime transactions and, instead, to think of donating as something that occurs in cycles. Through my own experience, I suggest talking to donors as “partners” in whatever goal you’re trying to accomplish. If you’re a recipient of President Obama’s constant stream of fundraising emails, you’ll know that he and his team are very anxious to make you see that nothing’s over until it’s over. This is the same principle.

Next, Birkner writes that your organization should sell its story. In advertising, we often talk about keeping the message consistent in the various channels you use to communicate (as challenging as that may be). This idea is important to remember when you solicit potential donors. Be sure to talk about who you are, what you do, and why it’s beneficial. If your story departs from the original message, you dilute your objectives and confuse the reader.

Birkner’s next point is that you should break with the status quo. I agree and suggest that you don’t do what’s been done before just because it’s been done. If Steve Jobs and Apple hadn’t chosen to break with conformity and innovate, who knows where they’d be today? Take a chance. Push the envelope and track your risks. Test, and then test again. You’ll never know how effective a change was if you don’t record the results.

I believe strongly in the importance Birkner’s fourth point: Express your gratitude. Your donors need to feel appreciated. They should be recognized and praised, and it should happen quickly. Use other channels, too, if you can. Consider using social media or a telephone call just to thank them. Then, follow up with a second thank-you and encourage a second gift. According to a source in the article, “If you can get somebody to give a second gift within the first three months, their retention rate skyrockets.” It’s important to get the feeling of a conversation going as soon as possible.

Finally, tell donors what’s working. I know I’m often guilty of spending too much time thinking about what goals our clients have and making sure prospective donors know what they’re donating for. I sometimes fail to tell these same clients, however, that they should be giving progress updates to donors who may be wondering, So your theater is raising money to get better makeup and costume design tools, and I just donated $50––what have you done with my money?

A situation like this is the perfect opportunity to bring donors into the story. Tell them how you were able to buy some great stage makeup for Audrey in this year’s performance of Little Shop of Horrors. Or how the bellhop’s costume in Grand Hotel had the audience roaring in laughter. These little peeks at the specific improvements made possible by their donation dollars are the perfect way to demonstrate return on investment.

When 40% of your direct marketing campaign is supposed to be a great offer and you’re working with nonprofits, it can be a tricky sell when the benefit to the donor is simply a feel-good high. Applying these principles may be the thing you need to keep that onetime donor donating.

Author: Eric Swenson


Should You Rely on Design to Boost Your Direct Mail Response Rates?

I love a good challenge. A client of mine came to me the other day with a good one. He, an employee of a NY-based university, said that the school was about to begin soliciting alumni for donations. The school had done this twice before but had less-than-impressive results. Could I help him?

I really appreciate when clients think like this. So much of agency marketing work relies on coming up with smart ways of executing communication solutions. This, however, was a situation where we got to be a part of the process—where we were able to help find the solution, not just execute it.

In direct mail, there’s a concept known as the 40-40-20 rule. That is, 40 percent of direct mail success depends on a well-planned mailing list, 40 percent on a compelling offer, and 20 percent on creative work. Unfortunately, I’d say most direct mail actually operates more at 15-15-30. (And yes, I know that math isn’t right.)

Before I continue, let me say now that we really love this client. This has nothing to do with marketing naïveté (well, maybe some) or competence levels. These are smart people who have only just begun this process––they’re just not sure of the best way to approach this. And that’s where we come in.

We told them to look closely at their audience: Who are these people? When did they graduate? Where do they live now? Have you heard from them since? By segmenting their list into manageable demographics and psychographics, they can better target their potential customers. People are not interchangeable, and they shouldn’t be treated that way.

Next, consider the offer. What would it take for you to open a #9 envelope? What would make you take action? If you hadn’t heard from your alma mater in 20 years and suddenly it began asking you for money, how would you feel? And thus, what incentive would it have to offer in order for you to contribute your hard-earned dollars?

If you’re looking to improve the effectiveness of your direct mail campaigns, take a look at this ratio. Eighty percent of it has nothing to do with your creative. One shouldn’t, however, shortchange the creative. This final 20 percent is crucial to conveying your message. It determines how that message is constructed and how effective it is at grabbing one’s attention. Don’t saturate, clutter, or distract the viewer in any way. Humans have the attention span of a fish, it seems. Keep their eyes on the prize.

Author: Eric Swenson

Postmaster General Outlines New Reality for USP

Last Wednesday the United States Postmaster General and Chief Executive Officer Patrick Donahoe addressed an audience of 8,000 regarding the new reality that the United States Post Office is facing. He touted cutting costs by over $12 billion and reducing staff by more than 110,000 positions over the past four years but still recognizes that he has lots of work ahead of him. It is estimated that the USPS will need to reduce its annual costs by $20 billion by 2015 to become profitable. Donahoe praised USPS employees for helping the USPS to save $12 billion and blamed the entire situation on an overly restrictive business model, not the devaluation of mail.

So what is this “overly restrictive business model”? The USPS is the only––and I mean only––organization in the world that pays out pension funds for employees who are not currently retired. Yes, you can read that again––it is correct. The union negotiated for prepayment of pensions, which guarantees that the money will be there when employees retire. The USPS agreed to these terms back when mailings were strong and profitable and has been unable to renegotiate, even with the large decline in mail over the past four to five years.

As part of its restructuring plan, the USPS has proposed that Congress pass legislation that:

  • Gives the Postal Service the authority to transition to a national five-day-per-week delivery schedule
  • Resolves the retiree health benefit prepayment requirement

The USPS also continues to make progress on the fronts listed below:

  • Studying 252 mail-processing facilities for potential consolidation
  • Reviewing 3,600 low-activity post offices for potential closure, consolidation, or contracting
  • Enhancing and expanding alternate access sites, including village post offices and usps.com
  • Modifying delivery routes and service standards
  • Making it easier to do business with the Postal Service with new, innovative products

I can sincerely say that I hope the USPS can figure out how to manage its budget and maintain some sort of acceptable service level, but given the current situation it seems unlikely. I wouldn’t mind 5-day service, or even 3-day service. But that would only work for residential delivery; commercial delivery would need to stay at 6-day service. Over the course of the next few years, we will see what the USPS will make of itself, and speaking on behalf of the industry, I wish them the best. Just don’t raise our postage prices, or we will go to UPS and FedEx!!

Author: John Mehl

Variable Print on Traditional Offset Equipment: OK for the Long Run!

I’ll bet the first word that comes to your mind when a client says “variable printing” is “digital.” And I guarantee the first word that comes to your client’s mind is “expensive”! The funny thing is that printers have been doing variable printing on traditional equipment for decades. It’s just when digital printing came around that we forgot all about it. The ease of digital printing has made processing complex variable print runs simple, but this comes at a price that is very prohibitive to long runs.

When HP came out with its inkjet web press, many people, including me, were in awe. This piece of equipment has so much potential that I won’t even begin that discussion now. After that initial “love at first sight,” I began to think of where the technology originated. That’s when it dawned on me: Kodak has been retrofitting traditional web presses and bindery equipment with inkjet heads for at least 20 years. Sure, it was primarily only black ink being sprayed, but this was variable print on analog equipment!

Just recently, Kodak and a few other companies have been installing color heads on web presses at trial locations. So, you might ask, what does this mean to me? It means that we can affordably manufacture variable print in very large quantities. Just think–on the same press, on the same pass, you could print your static four-color plus the variable content, including the mailing information. What this basically translates into is blank paper rolls going in one end of the press and a finished, mailable product coming out the other! Don’t think this is low quality either; most heads are laying down 1200 dpi images and text.

So, the next time you’re working on a piece that is headed for a web press, think about adding variable. It won’t cost you a boatload more, and according to industry metrics, it should boost your response rate by more than 500%!

When is the last time you received a piece of mail at home with variable content that wasn’t digitally produced?


Author: John Mehl