|Direct marketing focus
targeted multi-channel direct marketing may be more involved
than a run-of-the-mill bulk mailshot, the potential of a significantly
increased response rate makes it all worthwhile, finds Emily
years ago, direct marketing in the charity sector simply involved
testing a mailpack or insert and subsequently rolling it out
over the next couple of years. But as the market has become
increasingly competitive and techniques ever more sophisticated,
this is no longer enough.
In order to reach prospects and donors more effectively charities
are having to make their direct marketing work even harder,
thus combining various techniques and looking for more innovative
routes to market.
Derek Humphries, director at charity sector consultancy THINK
Consulting Solutions, says: “In the past, innovation
usually meant a new piece of creative rather than a truly
innovative combination of media or practices.” However,
if charities are to succeed in ramping up their share of wallet
in an increasingly competitive and fragmented market, they
need to wise up to more innovative uses of various direct
Shelter, for example, is using SMS as a response mechanism
for recruiting donors through a campaign across London Underground
stations as part of its ‘More homes now’ activity.
The initiative uses moving digital panels installed down the
escalators of some tube stations. Matt Goody, head of direct
marketing at Shelter, explains: “The campaign shows
children living in bad housing and encourages consumers to
text to make a donation.
“However, using new channels is all about integration.
It needs to be combined with other activity. So when commuters
reach the top of the escalators they are greeted by face-to-face
fundraisers handing out leaflets. The campaign is a real mix
of old and new media,” he says. Shelter then texts back
anyone who responds to the campaign to sign them up.
Meanwhile ActionAid recently launched a DRTV drive which offered
SMS as a response mechanism for the first time, as well as
a traditional telephone number. Spencer Stratford, head of
media at Mike Colling & Co, the agency responsible for
the campaign, says the challenge lay in discovering whether
this would “jeopardise existing response”.
“If the ad simply encouraged existing donors to text
rather than phone to make a pledge this could have resulted
in a decrease in donations as people are likely to give more
when you speak to them over the phone,” he says. “However
it did, in fact, deliver incremental response, perhaps engaging
with people who would be unwilling to respond by phone.”
In general, consumers do not operate in silos so it is crucial
that they are not targeted using just one channel. However,
it is imperative to leverage data to better understand donors
as there are some who are happy with a single channel relationship,
be it with direct mail or email, for example.
“The industry has to understand the range of touch-points
available,” says Roger Lawson, strategy and planning
director at charity specialist marketing agency Cascaid. The
agency is currently working with the National Autistic Society
to examine the impact of what it provides.
“While some people prefer email communication as a general
rule,” he says, “we have discovered through feedback
that in terms of building relationships through newsletters,
for example, hard copy tends to work best. If prospects or
donors receive a newsletter through the post it is more likely
to sit on the coffee table and get read than it is if it’s
sent via email.”
Lawson is also keen to highlight the difference between defining
the financial value of supporters and the impact of getting
people involved in the campaigning side of an organisation.
“We are developing ways of measuring non-financial support
by examining the supporter journey and analysing the mix of
messages and asks, as well as the combination of media,”
He also believes that campaigning charities such as Friends
of the Earth are keen to get supporters on board through campaigning
as well as fundraising, and that research
shows that if someone campaigns for a charity their giving
is likely to increase.
“As the basic donating environment gets more competitive
and donors become increasingly savvy,” Lawson adds,
“it is vital to understand the relationships individuals
have with charities on other levels.” And this could
mean looking at whether they are campaigning for your organisation,
as well as studying which communication channels they prefer.
Shelter’s Goody agrees: “We are able to gauge
donor preferences from how they respond. For example, most
donors who are recruited face-to-face are not direct mail
He says Shelter also carries out recruitment activity to lure
campaigners. “Some then go on to become donors but some
don’t,” he acknowledges. This is often done through
face-to-face activity, a channel that was traditionally used
primarily for getting people to sign up for direct debit donations.
“Adapting the channel for a different focus is all about
innovation,” Goody ads.
Cancer Research UK uses a raft of traditional direct marketing
techniques including cold mailings, door-drops, inserts and
telemarketing, but it is also making use of more innovative
strategies, including mixing and matching various activity
to boost donations.
Cancer Research UK’s head of direct marketing Emma Gilbert
comments: “If, for example, we have fundraising brand
ads running on TV then we ramp up our acquisition activity.”
Although the charity’s direct marketing campaigns are
judged on their return on investment, Gilbert ensures all
activity is flexible by offering recipients the opportunity
to give something other than a regular gift. “With telemarketing
activity, for example, if people can’t make a regular
gift we ask them whether they want to help out with an event
or campaign,” she says. “The more they do for
the charity the more loyal they become.”
And, as Lawson points out, there are “clear links between
volunteering and legacy pledges”. Engaging donors with
a charity to boost their lifetime value is essential and with
the advance of modern technology there are now even more ways
to do this.
Cancer Research UK has a site on MySpace which includes a
call to donate. The charity also uses banners, cold emails
and affiliate marketing as part of its online marketing strategy.
“If donors are recruited via digital mediums we keep
talking to them through those channels,” adds Gilbert.
There is currently lots of experimental activity taking place
in the new media arena. ActionAid has set up www.myactionaid.org.uk,
allowing visitors to set up their own pages to collect donations
for an event they are taking part in. It also allows users
to share their experiences by writing blogs, uploading photos
and chatting in the forums. This is effectively tapping into
the growing trend for social networking and using its success
to lure potential donors. And people now want to give more
than just money; they want to feel involved and engaged with
the charities they support.
While it is clearly important to use a variety of channels
to reach donors and prospects in a more compelling way, it
is also important not to be restrictive. Stratford says donor
profiling is important to see who responds to what, as you
can then use a TV ad with a variety of different response
mechanisms. “By doing this you will maximise your potential
pool of donors, as one ad can appeal to those who want to
give via text, phone or online, for example.”
However, Humphries warns that while it is possible to follow
some simple common sense guidelines – it would be foolish
to base a campaign to pensioners exclusively on email and
text – you can not be too prescriptive. “You could
never devise a set of rules about when to use a Web/email/SMS
combination or when to use Web/SMS/email/phone instead,”
he argues. “The most important thing is to ensure that
each combination is rigorously tested. Many charities have
lost the culture of direct marketing testing they had ten
or more years ago.”
Ironically then, says Humphries, in order for charities to
innovate in direct marketing they need to go back to basics
and embrace the culture of testing that has served them so
well in the past.
Most experts agree that direct mail is still an extremely
effective way of triggering cash donations. However, charities
cannot afford to ignore other channels and the opportunities
those channels can offer in terms of mixing and matching techniques
if they want to ensure they secure donations from consumers
across all ages and spectrums.
And with data becoming ever-increasingly sophisticated, direct
marketers can now examine an individual’s lifestage,
demographic and motivations, rather than simply name, address
and transactional information. This means the added value
and insight that can be attributed to a direct marketing campaign
is enormous. Charities that fail to take advantage of this
and adapt their direct techniques do so at their peril. After
all, one size no longer fits all.