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1 Eight Steps to Creating Direct Mail that Gets Incredible Results

2 Eight Steps to Creating Direct Mail that Gets Incredible Results Step 1: Identify the campaign goal Step 2: Start with a good list Step 3: Determine the offer before you start Step 4: What you write does matter Step 5: Personalize, personalize, personalize Step 6: Standing out in the crowd Step 7: Follow up Step 8: Track and Test Your Results

3 Bridget Brandt Eight Steps to Creating Direct Mail that Gets Incredible Results Developing a direct mail piece that effectively communicates your mission while yielding a strong return on investment is becoming increasingly more challenging for non-profits as the economy tightens and the battle for donors escalates. Last year investments by marketers totaled $58.4 billion, and that figure is expected to increase to more than $70 billion by 2011*. With so many messages crowding in the space, how can you create direct mail campaigns that truly stand out in the crowd to get the results you crave? These valuable tips can help. Before you Get Started Step 1: Identify the campaign goal Ask yourself: Why am I doing this direct mail campaign? Too often we start a campaign without clearly identifying the expected results/objectives. This step is important, because once you identify the campaign goal, the remaining steps will be much easier. Further, if you are using an outside agency, this step will help you get maximum value from the services they can offer. Step 2: Start with a good list A quality, targeted list is a critical component in your mailing. Start with a current list from a trusted resource that is mapped to individuals that fit your donor profile. Make sure it has been updated recently and have your agency run it against National Change of Address (NCOA) and other data hygiene offered by the post office. Look for similar interests, characteristics, and purchasing patterns. If you plan to use personalization, verify that names are correct and spot check the data to ensure accuracy. Without a good, targeted list, your direct mail campaign has little to no chance of true success. 2

4 Step 3: Determine the offer before you start Ask yourself: Why should a donor give to my organization? What s in it for them? Determine the incentive to donate and the call to action. But plan carefully. Including a free offer with your mailing can be valuable, but it can also have the opposite effect. I recently read an article about a donor who received 2,600 free return address labels and he had donated a mere five dollars to one of the organizations years ago. So I, too, started saving them. To date, I have received 468 free return address labels. While at one time address labels were an effective way to deliver upfront value in return for your prospects donation, their extensive use by non-profit organizations nationwide has significantly counteracted their benefit. Give careful consideration whether or not sending address labels will represent a compelling offer that shares your organization s mission. Also, make sure your offer or call to action makes sense for your organization and your donor. And just because it has always been done, doesn t necessarily mean it works in today s marketing-driven environment. Think Outside the #10 Letter Step 4: What you write does matter Write a compelling, emotional appeal that draws your readers in. It s worth spending a lot of time on this step. The text is as important, if not more so, as the graphics, though both should obviously work together. You want the text to engage the reader. It should tell them your story in a concise, informative, and actionable manner. The National Foundation for Cancer Research s eight-year-old, annual fund drive mailing capitalizes on the perennial fear of cancer. Although it has no letter, other components like buckslips, an information sheet, courtesy reply envelope, and reply form all provide cancer prevention steps which speaks to the prospect s greatest personal fears. A lift note from a former cancer patient, who had benefited from these tips, also supports the case for cancer research and humanizes the disease. (Bobnak) 3

5 Step 5: Personalize, personalize, personalize A recent survey conducted by the CMO (Chief Marketing Officers) Council found that over 56 percent of marketers believe personalized communications out-perform traditional mass-market delivery. Yet many organizations today are not utilizing this strategy in their direct mail. When possible, organizations should include personal information and an offer that is relevant to that individual. People love to see their names, but more importantly they love to see content that applies to them. If we know that Susan Smith adopted a dog, then our animal shelter should use a picture and content related to dogs when mailing to Susan. Using variable-data marketing campaigns, which allows you to customize copy to the individual level, will create a much stronger direct mail campaign. Just adding someone s name is a step in the right direction, but true personalization happens when the marketing piece offers something more relevant to the recipient. Step 6: Standing out in the crowd Use a medium that is non-traditional. The #10 letter may work well for your organization, but would a die-cut postcard work better? It is important to test different campaigns so you can truly discover what works best. Here are some tips for creating interesting mailers: Envelopes Choose envelopes that are unique in size, color, or shape so they have a higher chance of standing out in your recipients mail boxes. Invitations Think about sending your mailings more like an invitation and less like a credit card offer. People are typically excited to receive invitations; the same does not hold true for credit card come-ons. Capture the senses of the audience How does it look, feel, and smell? Does it fold multiple times to capture intrigue? Is it shiny or glossed to capture sight and touch? How does the paper feel? Is it smooth or textured, these things can make a difference as people are culling through mail. How does it smell? Did you know you can gloss mailers to have a smell? This might be just the thing you need to get your direct mail noticed. 4

6 Don t forget the stamp Consider using colorful stamps versus metering the mail. The stamps you choose could add to the overall appearance of your mailing. Also, if the stamp you choose is cause related it just furthers the value of that mailing to your potential donors. Take time to consider how your solicitation will look to donors when they open their mail box. Does it stand out? Step 7: Follow up You might be surprised by how much money non-profits invest in direct mail campaigns with no follow-up. Consider an or phone call. Either way, once you capture their attention you need to close the deal. Following up with your prospective donors is just as important as the direct mail itself. Test, Track, and Report Your Results Step 8: Track and Test Your Results We all know how important it is to test and track the results of our campaigns, but we don t all do it. Testing to verify the response can be as simple as mixing the list with a letter or a postcard, but trying different methods of communication will help you determine how to most effectively communicate. Tracking the results is arguably the most important step in a successful direct mail campaign. You need to be able to communicate how much revenue you brought in or how many people registered for an event. Tracking will allow you to measure the success of the overall campaign and help ensure you have funds available for the next one. The most important thing to remember there is no silver bullet. Direct mail campaigns are complicated and those that get your mission across and yield results are even more complicated. Take the time to think through every campaign detail from beginning to end before you start and you are sure to see great results. 5

7 *Winterberry Group March 2008, The Power of Personalization. CMO Council report was produced by GlobalFluency in partnership with Xerox, MindFireInc, GMC Software Technology, Pitney Bowes, Valtira and InfoTrends. Feb. 6, Bobnak, Paul, Four Tips for Creating Emotional Direct Mail Appeals. 6

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