Archive for August, 2013

Future of Direct Mail

DATE: August 30th, 2013

In the August issue of Direct Marketing Magazine Kristi Kanitz offered a resounding affirmation of the future of Direct Mail… of course, she is the general manager of Flagship Software LTD….

First of all, I want you to know that I totally believe in Direct Mail — but I want to be responsible. So let’s take her points, one by one.

1. Direct Mail Information Service reports that 63% of recipients read the direct mail they receive. What was the year of that report? Who did they survey?

2. DMA reports in their 2013 Factbook that 65% of recipients have made a purchase as a result of DM… again — what years does this cover and who are they surveying?

3. She cites Kent Dove’s “Conducting a Successful Fundraising Program” (2001) as reactivating as many as 50% of a recently lapsed donor file through direct mail. Seriously — I really want to see the history of that study and if anyone reading this blog has had those results recently, I’d love to chat. Granted, we have had significant results in reactivating lapsed donors. But unless the file is extremely small and the recency is within 12 months, 50% is a pipe dream.

4. Studies consistently show DM to perform higher than email — no question there…. just don’t expect a 50% response rate. Plus, we have had 50% open rate for many of our emails to very targeted groups and with a clear offer.

I can go on…. read the article for yourself.

But I want to caution direct mail managers to take care when a series of extreme percentages are tossed out…. ask questions. DM as a critical component of any fundraising strategy. Frankly, Barefoot uses direct mail in promoting our own product. But we do it with our eyes open, understanding our client, our audience and the industry standards.

State of Fundraising…

DATE: August 30th, 2013

We are at the cusp of the Labour Day Weekend. The last chance to soak in the sun, relax, unwind, play, eat. It is the final “hurrah” before we all plunge into the dull regularity of our lives. Kids are dreaming about their friends and dreading the classroom. Parents are dreaming about launching their children and dreading the chaos of Tuesday morning.

Fundraisers are pulling their data together, taking a quick look at the months previous and looking forward to the most intense season of fundraising.

So let’s start it off with a very basic look at the State of Fundraising.  Allow me to be reductive. Fundraising is a complex art that requires strategic approaches to building revenue streams to fund significant contributions to society. But if we don’t understand the root of fundraising, we can miss essential principles and wander down rabbit trails.

Here’s the basics:

Fundraising = acquiring donors and cultivating donors.

It’s straight up: fundraisers sole goal is to inspire organizations, governments, businesses and individuals to provide the resources they need to accomplish their mission.

The greatest barrier to successful fund development today lies in acquiring new donors. As I work with a variety of fundraising organizations, I hear the same thing over and over and over again. “Our donors are aging — where do we find new donors?”

Frankly the golden days of direct mail and TV are over. I don’t want you to misunderstand. I am not by any means suggesting that mail and TV aren’t a part of the mix for a strategic fundraising plan — I’m just saying that it is much more challenging than it used to be.

There are several significant barriers to raising funds:

1. Governments are facing deep economic challenges. Grant programs and gifts to nonprofits are decreased in downturns of economy. Local social programs are asked to tighten their belts and international programs are diverted into national. The first priority of the government is to maintain the economic and social status of their own nation.

2. There is significant doubt about the stewardship of dollars within non-profits. For decades the 80/20 rule was pounded into donors’ subconscious. Frankly, nonprofits took the easy way out. Instead of evaluating the impact of the programs they are involved in, they convinced donors that it was simply about administrative dollars versus program dollars. Then they twisted budgets like a Gumby doll, making sure they met the 80/20 rule. The first question donors ask is is the money used effectively. It’s our job to define “effective” which is never communicated in dollars alone — it has to illustrate accomplished mission.

3. The other guy will do it. Individual donors feel that their small donations make little impact in the face of a Gates Foundation or wealthy business contributions. Again, this is the fault of the fundraising community. Over-celebrating the major donor devalues the smaller donor. Both are critical for healthy fund development.

4. A changing competitive environment. Years and years ago — in the days of Mad Men — it was thought that to get people’s attention took 3 to 4 encounters. Today the plethora of messaging is overwhelming and getting through the clutter to your distinct audience is very difficult. Mail is easily discarded and seen as “junk”. Email is even easier to ignore. Drawing people to a specific web site is like finding a needle in a haystack. Print, paid ads, sponsored ads, content marketing, outdoor, alternative media, social media, interactive, digital, event, face-to-face, door-to-door….. it’s a complicated world.

5. Increased self-absorption. Just 30 years ago, business gave 3.9% of their profits to nonprofit organizations as their investment into social systems. Today they contribute 1.9% of their profits. While the actual dollars that individuals give have gone up, the value of the dollar has increased and the giving has not increased at the same pace as the dollar has been devalued. On the whole, people are giving less of their personal income to charity.

6. Generational shifts. The unquestioned loyalty of the “Builders” has disappeared. Donors are more informed, more cynical and looking for more benefit. The way we approach donors is changing.

Over the next few days, I want to take a look at fundraising from a new perspective.  Too often we start with the tactics. Nonprofits agree that the key to successful fundraising lies in inspirational and motivation story telling. But some stories just don’t hit the mark.

Let’s start by talking about:



User experience

Brand Direct

Grab a Tim Tam….. I’ll be back.

Know Your Audience

DATE: August 30th, 2013
Report from SimpleRelevance this week:
  • Although customers open email several times throughout the day, 62% only click through to the website during one single hour per day.
  • Men click more frequently in the early morning, while women click more frequently in the afternoon to evening.
  • People earning $150K or more are more likely to click from 5-8 a.m., while people earning $75K or less are more active from 9 a.m. until 8 p.m.

Coke…. have they failed the authenticity test?

DATE: August 16th, 2013

Jonathan Macdonald, co-founder, this fluid world said:

“In the past, good marketing required some market research that generated insights, and that guided a story to be communicated. Now, being a good brand requires being authentic, consistent, and credible.”

It’s a little naive to think that past marketing was so simplistic and that our “new”world requires increased authenticity for a great brand. Great brands have always been built on authenticity, consistency and credibility.  Let’s take Ford — according to YouGov, a research firm, Ford tops the list of American brands. Polls show that today Americans trust Ford more than Amazon. Lowe’s and the History Channel (which was high on the list of trusted brands). Perhaps we can learn even more from the historical waves of trust in generational brands like Ford, Tide, Coke… they have stood the test of time.

It’s not  that I disagree with the statement. I completely agree. To be a strong and trusted brand, our messaging must be authentic, consistent and credible. I also agree that people have the resources at hand to make more informed decisions. They are also more likely to do deeper research — because they can.

Soft drinks are at a very interesting intersection. Still selling billions of dollars of fizzy, sweetened liquid, their sales are starting to sag. Pepsi sales volumes have dropped 3.4% this year and diet Pepsi fell 6.2% — significant and worrisome to the beverage producer. Coke, less impacted, but still seeing sagging sales; Coke fell 1%, while Diet Coke fell 3%. They are fighting back.

But Coke has, perhaps, missed the mark. ‘

Rebecca Harris, Marketing, suggests that the public is not buying the current messaging that Coke is actually contributing to good health. Coke sponsored a conference in Chicago this summer, handing out pedometers to 5,000 female bloggers. Their ultimate message was “health.”

One participant saw through the messaging: “While we are at it maybe a cigarette company can come and be the wellness sponsor next year. After all smoking is a choice so why would it bother us to see a huge company marketing themselves as something they are not?” (from Marketing)

Social media actively mocked the corporation’s marekting with messages like: “Really, ‪@blogher? Coke as wellness sponsor? Was Virginia Slims unavailable?”from Center for Science in the Public Interest (@CSPI).

Here’s the problem. Coke is not a health product. No matter how it twists the message and positions their stand, they are not a product designed for health. They have made a mistake in understanding the ultimate message. They have correctly read this generation — we are obsessed with talking about obesity. And soft drinks are an obvious and often targeted product. But they have not positioned their product authentically within this culture.

Why not market it for what it is? A moment of bubbly joy, laughter, icy cold refreshment. By positioning their product as something it’s not, they miss the mark and the brand loses credibility. People lash back.

Now Coke is a strong and healthy corporation. I have great faith that their marketing teams will see the light and return to authentic, consistent and credible messaging.

Ford did….