Marketing Pros Provide Advice for Peers

When marketing pros provide advice, marketing practitioners listen. One of the high points of the New York marketing community calendar each year is the Silver Apple Gala hosted by the Direct Marketing Club of New York. The fete toasts the business and industry leadership success of honored individuals.

When marketing pros provide advice, marketing practitioners listen. One of the high points of the New York marketing community calendar each year is the Silver Apple Gala hosted by the Direct Marketing Club of New York. The fete, held this year on Nov. 7 near Times Square, toasts the business and industry leadership success of honored individuals, and at least one corporation or organization.

Each “Silver Apple” recipient has contributed for 25 or more years to our field, and since 1985, there have been 248 such honorees, including these four individuals in 2019:

Marketing, Career Wisdom They Share

So when more than 200 of your friends, family, and peers come together, what pearls of wisdom do you have to share?

Carl Horton, IBM

“The ability to execute against the dream in real time,” is what excites Carl Horton, Jr., in his current position in B2B marketing at IBM. Horton credits colleagues who have placed “personal investments in me” and dared to let him take crazy ideas (artificial intelligence applications don’t seem so crazy today) and make them reality, as well as the unconditional love of family.

One key takeaway from Horton:

“The importance of diversity in leadership and innovation: The NextGen of innovation may come from someone of experience, income, race, gender, gender identity, very different from our own.”

Here, here, we need to foster it.

Britt Vatne, ALC

Britt Vatne, who leads the data management practice at ALC, talked about a career pivot 15 years ago, when she worked with a nonprofit client for the first time, March of Dimes, and it showed to her how critical acquiring, retaining, and growing donors are. She also credited industry luminaries, such as the late Bob Castle and the energetic Donn Rappaport (in the room) – as well as her father, who came to America from Norway, never finished primary school, and taught her “there is no substitute for hard work.” She was the first of her family to go to college.

“Being human, being respectful, and having integrity are non-negotiable,” she said. “Be a positive role model, and you’ll have the love and loyalty of family.”

And probably, quite a few colleagues and clients, too.

Joe Pych, NextMark & Bionic Advertising

Joe Pych, who is the startup founder of two companies — NextMark and Bionic Advertising, says his “go-to metric is sales growth.” CRM [customer relationship management] is so much more of an opportunity than simply managing costs, he says. Set a goal, uncover an idea, execute, and measure results.

”I feel selfish standing alone with so much support I’ve received over the years,” he said, referring first to his mother, who put four children through college on an electrician’s salary – and then went and got a masters herself.

He also thanked many of his client data businesses that helped make his first company take off — companies, such as MeritDirect, ALC, Worlddata, and Specialists Marketing Services (SMS), among others – who took a chance on a Hanover, NH-based enterprise. To his wife, Robin.

“Those missed vacations, I’m sorry … again.”

Gretchen Littlefield, Moore DM Group

Gretchen Littlefield, CEO of Moore DM Group for the past two years, also served at Infogroup for 14 years, where she helped develop its nonprofit, political, and federal government marketing practice – which propelled her into her current role atop Moore.

In 2018, she co-founded the Nonprofit Alliance, where she serves as vice chair, to advance in Washington the interests of nonprofit and charitable organizations.

“I fell into this business like everyone else,” she said, starting from data entry and advancing to “getting data [insights] out of the industry.”

She thanked many industry leaders among her mentors and influencers, among them Jim Moore, Larry May, and Vin Gupta.

“It seems as if on every innovation, we are working together and competing all the time. Coopetition,” she said. “The flow of data – from list rentals, to coops, to marketing clouds. We share data for growth.”

Littlefield also emphasized investment in education, citing Marketing EDGE and Direct Marketing Club of New York, for their respective roles in attracting bright students to the marketing field.

“Time goes by faster than we expect — Joe [Pych] and I were Marketing EDGE Rising Stars back in the day. I’m just as excited today as my first day in direct marketing, but mostly grateful for the friendships.”

In addition, there were three special honors bestowed, among them a first-time “Corporate Golden Apple” to Marketing EDGE for its more than half-century of creating and connecting market-ready college students for careers in marketing. And two Excellence Apples:

  • 2019 Apple of Excellence, Advocacy:
    Tony Hadley, SVP, Regulation and Public Policy, Experian (Washington, DC)
  • 2019 Apple of Excellence Disruptor:
    Mayur Gupta, CMO, Freshly (New York, NY)

There’s more to share – but that likely will be another post! Stay tuned …

Political Marketing That’s Fooling Some of the People, Some (or All) of the Time

Increasingly unable to escape the deluge of hysterical ill-directed political marketing that is overflowing my inbox, I’ve jealously started wondering what Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are guiding these communications consultants to justify their million-dollar fees.

Increasingly unable to escape the deluge of hysterical ill-directed political marketing that is overflowing my inbox, I’ve jealously started wondering what Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are guiding these communications consultants to justify their million-dollar fees.

Are their efforts fooling all of the people all of the time? Or just some of the people some of the time?

In product marketing initiatives, there can be lots of bottom-line winners — all of the brands whose clickthrough numbers exceed the company’s KPI targets and show the kinds of bottom-line sales results that bring smiles to shareholders’ faces and money to their pockets. But political marketing is a zero-sum game.

The ultimate KPI is winning or losing, becoming Senator, Governor or even White House occupant. Along the way, political marketers, like all fundraisers, especially those seeking campaign funding contributions, are no doubt watching to see all the obvious KPI metrics. They’re looking for percentages contributing, range of contribution amounts and average contributions, first-time or multiple “givers.” One can’t help but wonder: In the last analysis, do they really want to see more than the KPI which says “WIN” or “LOSE”?

I don’t know about you (and given our growing desires for privacy, I’m not sure I have any right to know about you) but I’ll bet my inbox gets more political fundraising and petition-gathering mail than yours does. Every day, mine displays a stunning collection that sorely tempts me to invoke the Spam solution.

But I hesitate, because I guess I’m a political junkie. Otherwise, I’d figure out a way never to hear any word that rhymes with “rump” again. (All readers’ entries will be gratefully considered, published and/or deleted.) You can’t fool all of the people all of the time.

Way back in early 2017, I wrote a column here venting my frustration with the tsunami of inviting, pleading, and threatening emails I was receiving daily from the Democratic party’s octopus of units, the DCCC, the Democratic National Committee, Maggie for NH, National Democratic Training Committee (the worst and most outrageous), Progressive Turnout Project and the imperious commands from House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi: “Not Asking for Money“ (which always end up asking for money) and the order, “READ NOW” “(don’t delete)”.  Here are some others:

  • URGENT — 20K SIGNATURES NEEDED: Women’s reproductive rights on the line
  • Add your name to hold Big Pharma accountable
  • Fwd: ? NOT asking for money
  • Sign this petition re: Trump’s golf course
  • Need Peter’s signature to STOP TRUMP
  • You have been selected to represent voters in your area

It appears that fooling the prospect into believing he/she is one of a very select group and asking for the target to complete a survey or a petition is this year’s most effective political marketing and, dare I say it, fundraising tool. I guess we all want to feel special; even if deep-down, we know that everyone has been “selected.”

Can I be the only person offended when assaulted by a subject line: “Peter is committed to vote for Donald Trump!?” Only after having voiced a few favorite expletives do I notice that “?”. But by then, I’m hooked on the rest of the message.

If the KPIs must first, be the number of surveys or petitions completed and the number abandoned and second, the contribution generation from the pitch at the end of the survey, I must be screwing up the political marketers’ dashboards. Given the number of headline changes, you’d think that either nothing works or everything does.

Can the almost daily surveys do anything more than fool a certain number of people into believing their voices reach the ears of anyone? Especially anyone who really cares what they think, more than whether they will pony up some money?

The hardly impartial rhetorical questions: “Donald Trump recently lied by claiming millions of voters cast their ballots illegally this year. Do you think he will use this lie to try to further suppress minority voters in future elections?” are always quite reasonably followed by, “Will you make a $3 contribution right now to help us advance our data-driven strategies to help Democrats win?”

What Data-Driven Marketing 101 teaches must be true, or they wouldn’t keep using the technique. And as pointed out recently in Forbes:

The amount of money invested will be in the billions of dollars — all spent within roughly a calendar year. The degree of sophistication, customization, micro-targeting, and proliferation across media channels is unprecedented. The goal is to create a lot of content that is both pushed to people — who then share it with others — and made available so that people find it on their own. What this means is that the authority of TV ads has diminished. At POOLHOUSE [an agency serving the Republican Party] we have to approach getting a candidate’s message out to voters in a much more complex manner, and that makes political marketing more challenging. But more interesting, as well.

The old way of marketing political candidates no longer works, as the exponential increase in information leads to higher consumer/voter intelligence.

How to develop KPIs to follow the complexity and drive strategic changes depends to a great extent on political judgement calls as much as traditional brand marketing experience, and may actually justify those sky-high consultant fees.

Perhaps I’m being overly cynical and should signal that at least some surveys have a grander purpose. Sky Croeser, writing in The Conversation opined:

Online petitions are often seen as a form of “slacktivism” — small acts that don’t require much commitment and are more about helping us feel good than effective activism. But the impacts of online petitions can stretch beyond immediate results.

Whether they work to create legislative change, or just raise awareness of an issue, there’s some merit to signing them. Even if nothing happens immediately, petitions are one of many ways we can help build long-term change.

The possibility of building “long-term” change is not without its merits; although, building the KPIs to measure the change is a daunting task.

Now imagine if that change means that political and general marketers could no longer fool all or even some of the people, all or even some of the time. But hold on a sec. Then we need to consider how many of us might have to change our ways or be out of the game.

It’s Not My Opinion, It’s My Money That Marketers Want

Why do so many marketers choose the path of least resistance, which often means communicating more, rather than better. Even “pushing the envelope” to get what marketers want — perhaps an inappropriate metaphor, in the digital world — and bending credibility almost to the breaking point?

Why do so many marketers choose the path of least resistance, which often means communicating more, rather than better. Even “pushing the envelope” to get what marketers want — perhaps an inappropriate metaphor, in the digital world — and bending credibility almost to the breaking point?

“Enough is enough!” my mother used to howl at me when some annoying thing I was doing had gone too, too far.

We all get there sometimes, and nothing turns our listener off more permanently than being subject to mindless repetition. Why do we frequently ignore this when “creating” (or not really creating) communications, which we may find boring as marketers, but which someone believes are necessary to fuel the customer journey toward us — rather than inciting an exodos to the hills or the spam button.

As a life-long Democrat, it pains me to use the party’s very questionable fundraising tactics as an example. But for the past couple of weeks, I have been assaulted (I can’t think of a more appropriate word) by what must be considered mindless email communications from the National Democratic Training Committee  and Boldpac, seemingly one of its tentacles. It seems as if someone switched on the automatic pilot, went out for coffee and forgot to come back.

There must be a lesson here for all of us on both sides of the aisle.

I received eight emails from them in just two days this week.

Isn’t enough enough? And this too much?

DESTROYING New York, Robert Mueller DOOMED, BIG announcement, Cohen GUILTY, Trump FURIOUS, Mueller THREATENED

(After Mueller was DOOMED in another message minutes before.) You get the idea.

Here are compelling BIG words capitalized as if they were copied and pasted from a Trumpian tweet. Of course they become wallpaper by repetition and lose any sense of the urgency we all want to see in promotion. The law of diminishing returns comes into play, and perhaps they deserve to be included in Melissa’s WWTT?

And dare I say it? These particular official-sounding messages are an inherently dishonest switch-sell.

“We’ve re-launched the poll,” says the message.

Come on, guys! Let’s get real here.

Can we even, for a moment, suspend disbelief long enough to accept that they (who?) “need to know” where I stand as of Dec. 9, or even give a damn whether I approve of Robert Muller or not?

Enormously complimented as I am supposed to be, perhaps I’ve become too cynical. But somehow, I find it difficult to accept that I have been fortunate enough to have been chosen to be part of a “Special Task Force!” to protect Mueller. (If I’m that fortunate, why don’t I ever win the lottery?)  I can’t help feeling that it is not my opinion they want; it’s my money. That’s why they also ask me to contribute, “in the next hour” $3 or $10 or even more or “chip in $10 (or even $3) today?” Doesn’t this have the sound of either desperation or the copywriter plodding mindlessly on and failing to stop and think?

I tried reaching out to the Training Committee, but it didn’t respond. Its members were obviously too busy “training” to bother to provide answers to some simple questions that might inform marketers. Among other things, I wanted to ask the real reason for the surveys, petitions and questionnaires the committee seems obsessed with, and some case histories of how this data was used to affect policy, to change opinion or to do anything? It says: “Every signature makes a difference. Add your name right now.” But don’t we want to know to whom it makes a difference?

Wasn’t the inclusion of a request for donations from “Task Force” members, I wanted to ask, the real reason for the surveys? And weren’t the obviously loaded questions asked only as a path to the switch-sell? Did the target market for these efforts have such a deplorably low intelligence level that it could be so easily conned?

Also, I was curious what the fundraising consultants who were paid $1.3 million in 2018 actually did for their money and who they were? (Blackops? Perhaps.) What percentage of the unspecified money raised did their cut represent? It certainly seems that the consultants were onto a good thing. Was it they who encouraged this aggressive headline; “Peter will vote for Trump in 2020?” knowing that the statement would be sufficiently irritating to catch my attention, even with a question mark hidden at the end?

As marketing professionals, we are often challenged with honestly answering the question: How far can I go in building my promotional messages and actions to generate the highest response at the lowest cost vs. where is the red line not to be crossed over using the powerful tools in our armory?

Sadly, as we see all too frequently in today’s world, mendacity trumps truth.

Hopefully, it won’t be too long before the pendulum swings back and our customers and prospects, even our potential voters, tell us that enough is definitely enough.

For Transportation, Data-Driven Marketing Isn’t an Option, It’s a Requirement

There is a clear marketing advantage derived from improved efforts related to data and analytics in transportation. On-time shipments and quick, effective resolutions to issues like breakdowns and delays have a major impact on how your customers view your business and serve as a differentiator when they compare you to your competitors.

It’s now a given that companies that want to maintain and grow their position within their industry need to understand, apply and develop a deep understanding of data-driven marketing. This is especially true in the transportation industry — our focus in this article — where a variety of factors have delayed the implementation of data analysis and its application to marketing.

Currently the transportation industry is in its most favorable position ever, and is benefiting many businesses within or associated with it. Robust economic conditions, coupled with a massive driver shortage, have led to a severe capacity crunch that has enabled price increases, more selectivity with loads and destinations, and a significant amount of control in the hands of providers — a far cry from the state of the industry 18 months ago.

However, while it’s important to reap the benefits of the current state of the market, change is inevitable. Businesses face a critical need to adjust to the realities that will, sooner rather than later, transform the transportation industry — and addressing a backward state in data acquisition and analysis should be at the top of the agenda.

Addressing the Industry-Specific Barriers That Hinder Data-Driven Marketing

In the transportation world, the largest industry leaders haven’t made data analytics a priority, whether in marketing or many other areas of operation. When compared to other industries, transportation is in fact considered somewhat of a laggard. How can the industry address this?

In our experience working with transportation companies, it’s common to see access to data restricted to information technology staff and other levels of senior management, such as safety and compliance. This means no one else in the organization can utilize the gathered information and apply it to routine but vital marketing tasks such as recruitment and retention of drivers or improving route planning to increase efficiency and customer satisfaction. The legacy, siloed platforms most companies have in place for collecting and analyzing data fail to make it available for strategic decision making. Indeed, very few organizations are modernizing their systems sufficiently to maximize the value of data. Broader and more transparent access to data across the entire organization would lead to better, more measurable outcomes.

This lack of transparency, as well as companies’ outdated systems, make it harder for the industry as a whole to recruit top talent — especially for cutting edge tech positions such as blockchain specialists, data scientists, analysts, etc. A culture change that emphasizes, organization-wide, the value of data and its impact on marketing efforts and many other operational considerations is vital for future improvements, from implementing more effective solutions to hiring top-level talent.

Organization leaders will have to communicate this shift in attitude by explaining the operational improvements to be gained by changing systems that have long functioned adequately.

The end results will be worth the pain of change: improved marketing through more thorough access to data, more actionable insight into operations and an increased ability to recruit talent with the skills needed to help companies reach these objectives. Effective analysis reduces cost and complexity of a variety of core business functions by finding more efficient workflows and identifying opportunities and risk that may have gone unnoticed in the past.

How Data and Marketing Come Together in the Transportation Industry

Amazon’s entry into the transportation world is one of the clearest industry-specific examples of how an organization committed to using data and analytics can quickly disrupt the entire market. One of the clearest changes that stemmed from Amazon’s entry was a marked increase in customer expectations. By offering unparalleled access to delivery data, the e-commerce giant created a strong marketing improvement — a clear differentiator, since it can provide detailed delivery tracking  to customers in real-time.

There are many applications of data-driven marketing as it relates to transportation, from developing intelligence around customer sentiment and engagement information through advanced algorithms to tracking vehicles on the road to optimize routes and provide updates about load delivery timing. Here we’d like to discuss two key areas in need of improvement: shipment management and recruitment.

Marketing and operations can both benefit from effective management of shipments. Meeting  customer expectations by making sure an order is accurate and delivered to the right place and on time helps to build positive sentiment that leads to strong brand loyalty over time and repeat business, and ultimately a competitive advantage. That consistency is easily leveraged in marketing, where data can help marketers implement targeted campaigns to industry decision makers as well as potential customers who have visited their site. Beyond data, creating happy customers can further help socialize brand value  to other potential consumers through word of mouth.

As has been widely discussed, the transportation industry is facing a crisis in driver shortages. Recruitment efforts are another important example of how data-driven developments can impact performance and marketing outcomes. Companies can use marketing data in their efforts to find new drivers who display key attributes often associated with past and potentially future success. Businesses that can leverage data from past recruitment tactics and a variety of other sources have a better chance of attracting the types of drivers they need to retain, build and support the ongoing needs of the business.. Marketing to driver communities in an effective manner is especially important because it has a direct impact on recruitment, retention, utilization and revenue.

The Long-Term Benefits of a More Advanced Data and Analytics Strategy

Giving more credence to data and analytics, making changes to company culture and investing in the people and systems that boost analytical efforts can improve performance and long-term outlook. Improvement in data analytics abilities can enhance efforts to measure ROI and strategy, helping companies determine which specific actions are beneficial to overall performance and which aren’t. It aids recruiting efforts as well as contributing to improvements related to sales and revenue: As companies consider transformative changes and emphasize a commitment to improved analytics efforts, customers will recognize the value of these changes and seek to develop larger and longer term partnerships with those companies.

A reduction in customer churn is another critical consideration. Better use of data and related analytics efforts means more positive experiences, which can be marketed to new and existing clients. Market share is largely established in the transportation world, which means reducing churn and attracting customers from a competitor are top priorities.

On-time shipments and quick, effective resolutions to issues like breakdowns and delays have a major impact on customers and serve as a differentiator when they compare your business to your competitors. This is a clear marketing advantage that is derived from improved efforts related to data and analytics. Making this sort of transformational change represents a major step forward for transportation companies and will require significant effort and planning to successfully achieve. But the results of such a shift would be incredibly valuable, and would allow transportation companies to remain competitive in a rapidly changing ecosystem.

 

My New Favorite Calendar … Or Is That a Catalog?

When I started planning my writing for 2017, I knew I could count on a print calendar I got in the mail to help me visualize.

When I started planning my writing for 2017, I knew I could count on a print calendar I got in the mail to help me visualize my work. The only question I had to answer was: which one?

Let me explain.

I like the app on my phone, but there’s something about physically filling out a calendar with to-do items that really works for me.

Between what I get from various charities, and the extras that spill onto my desk from Who’s Mailing What!, I had a lot of calendars to choose from. As in dozens of them.

I stacked them on the few surfaces I didn’t already have covered with baskets of mail, or catalogs. And most of them eventually wound up in our company’s lunch room, in the hopes they’d find a good home.

Many of them do exactly what they should do. Whether it’s promoting an insurance agency, or a non-profit, they keep your brand top of mind as they become part of your customer’s daily routine.

They use great images and present content that may be relevant to your customers’ lives.

cornellornithologyThe calendar from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology shows a wide variety of birds and includes tips each month on how to get closer to them and be a part of conservation efforts. June, for example, is about observing specific birds in city environments.

A lot of the nonprofit ones are like that, talking about their mission, and the role played by their donors in achieving great things.

But my favorite calendar is also a catalog. And I’ve never seen anything like it.

upg-calendar_01It’s from the Unemployed Philosophers Guild, a New York-based retailer of humorous “smart” t-shirts, mugs, soaps, and candles.

And, oh yeah, magnetic finger puppets of famous figures like Charles Darwin, Schrodinger’s Cat, and Davy Crockett!

upg-calendar_02A lot of these things are showcased on the opening spread.

Then the months of the calendar start flying by. Each month has a big special theme for the top leaf. For example, the famous and some not-so-famous muses from Greek mythology. Or  “Recently Discovered” constellations. It’s quirky and fun!

The merchandise shows up on various days, like famous birthdays, mixed in with offbeat historical dates.

Another monthly tactic that reminds you to order: a “BIG DEAL” response code exclusively for catalog/calendar shoppers.

I’ve already thought of people I know who will get a kick out of some of these items.

The lessons here?

With 12 months to keep your brand in front of your customers or donors, be sure to provide regular calls to action.

Make special offers.

And give them content, even in very small does, that they can’t easily get anywhere else.

How Events Hurt Major Gifts — And What to Do About It

I was in a meeting with the fundraising staff of a very prominent and successful nonprofit, and the leader of the major gifts program told the familiar story of how he and his staff had been pulled away from their major gift work to organize an event that “meant a lot to the board.”

eventIt happened again.

I was in a meeting with the fundraising staff of a very prominent and successful nonprofit, and the leader of the major gifts program told the familiar story of how he and his staff had been pulled away from their major gift work to organize an event that “meant a lot to the board.”

I was stunned by what I was hearing, because the major gift staff already had its hands full with substantial increases in goals for the fiscal year, and now it was being recruited to spend a good deal of time and money organizing a feel-good event that, quite frankly, had nothing to do with fundraising.

It was true that the event would net $50,000. But when I heard that number, I asked if staff time had been calculated into the cost. No, it hadn’t. And when we did the math, that $50,000 net disappeared in a nanosecond.

What is it about nonprofit boards, leaders and staff who so easily catch events fever and lose their way on thinking objectively about this topic?

Yes, a well-organized event, with the right content, can raise the profile of a nonprofit. But then, why not have the public relations or communications department handle it? Why pull the major gift folks away from relating to their good donors to do this work? I know. Because it’s the donors on the caseload that will be the core group who will make the event financially successful.

Hold on. Did you just hear what I said? The donors on the caseload will make the event financially successful. Hmm. So we are moving money from the major gift officer’s caseload to the event and increasing the expense to secure that money? Yep. Crazy. And, likely, the gift the major donor gives at the event will be far less than what she could have given if the major gift officer had managed the giving outside of the event.

But these major donors will bring their friends, and we can make them our friends, and everything will be grand. It’s true. I have seen this happen. But not very frequently. Here’s why. The friend has come at the invitation of the major donor, and two things are working against them getting further involved:

• The friend is simply servicing an obligation. They have no intent to get involved. It is a nice social time out with a good friend and that’s that. Or they are trading favors. “You came to my gig last month. I go to yours now.” And while you could turn this around with a compelling program, the fact is …

• There is no compelling program presented. This has always amazed me. We get all of these wonderful people together. And they have a ton of capacity to give. But all we offer, besides a nice meal, is some quick facts about who we are, a testimonial, an award to a board member or key volunteer and other nicey-nicey things. And everyone goes home feeling good.

If the leaders in your organization have events fever — in other words, hardly any argument or reasoning will dissuade them organizing an event — then make the best of it by doing the following:

1. See if you can get some other department to do the heavy lifting. Get PR, communications, the volunteer coordinator, the assistant to the executive director — someone other than you — to organize it. In other words, protect your major gift time as best you can. Time is all you have. And there is very little of it to put toward relating to your caseload donors. So have a mindset of delegating as much as you can.

2. Sell tickets to cover costs. This isn’t a new idea, and it’s regularly done. I only mention this to set up the next point. Your objective is to break even or have a positive net to cover the labor involved.

3. Create a compelling program that presents an “I can’t avoid supporting it” project. Yes, you heard correctly. I am suggesting selling tickets and asking for gifts at the event. And the ticket-selling process should clearly outline what you are doing. “I am selling tickets to cover costs because I want you to come with your friends and hear about this exciting must-do project.” Obviously, you have to create something that the donor and their friends and other prospects want to attend.

Think about this like you do when you go out with friends to dinner and split the check. That’s all that is going on. The donors are covering the cost to attend a presentation. The whole event must then be carefully choreographed, from start to finish, so that the donors and their friends are completely engulfed in the drama and journeys of the people who will be helped when they get involved. When I say start to finish, I mean things like:

  • The look of the ticket and program.
  • Signage at the venue.
  • Material on the tables or, if outside, those materials as well.
  • What the greeters say to people coming in.
  • The sequencing, cadence and messaging of the program — every single element is discussed and programmed. Nothing is left to chance.
  • The testimonials and comments of people invited to speak.
  • The pictures, videos, music and any other program elements.
  • Every single element is strategic — even when and how a meal is served. Everything.
  • The price tag for the project needs to be large enough to accommodate the giving goals you have set for every donor on your caseload and their friends and other non-donors who may be present. You do not want to have a $100,000 project when the sum of all the goals of the donors present is $750,000. Doesn’t make sense.

Here’s the thing. Nothing is left to chance. Everything is intentional. And all of it draws you to this amazing thing “we must all do!” That is what I mean by compelling. You are drawn in and compelled to act. That is how engaging the program/project is.

4. Seed the event and the giving at the event with up-front giving by selected donors. Go to selected caseload donors and ask them to come to the event and make a commitment to the project. You might ask for a matching gift that can be unveiled at the event. It could really be quite dramatic. Picture this. The project is $850,000 and one donor, in advance, has pledged a $300,000 matching gift.

At a strategic moment at the event, the executive director calls on the donor to speak. She says something like, “When I heard about this project, I just had to get involved. Think of the difference we all could make if, tonight, we funded the whole thing! It would be so exciting. Look at all the lives that would be forever changed. That is why I am putting up a $300,000 challenge grant. Whatever you give tonight, up to $300,000, I will match. Come on, let’s get this done!” Wow, that would be something.

***

So, you get what I am saying about the same old, same old event vs. a version of what I am describing above. This is a real fundraising event. Not the faux event that so many nonprofits spend so much time on. If you are going to do an event, do it right. Make it cause-oriented vs. just a happy time.

The cause is why the donors are involved — they want to make a difference in someone’s life. Program your event toward that reality. It will make a tremendous difference in the financial outcome and how the donors feel about your organization.

When Doing Good Is Bad (and Retail Is Better)

Because I work for nonprofits, I figure everyone wants to participate in do-gooding. Predictably, I make contributions to charity on behalf of the recipients for gifts. Call them socially responsible gifts. It makes me feel good to do that. I always presumed it made the recipient feel good, too.

When doing good is bad
When doing good is baa-d

[Editor’s note from Target Marketing: Retailers may be seeing returns right now, but nonprofits — not so much.]

There’s an old adage: “To a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

Because I work for nonprofits, I figure everyone wants to participate in do-gooding. Predictably, I make contributions to charity on behalf of the recipients for gifts. Call them socially responsible gifts. It makes me feel good to do that. I always presumed it made the recipient feel good, too.

A favorite of the Beloved (behavioral expert Otis Fulton) and mine is Heifer International. Last Christmas, we were excited to “give” a relative a sheep that was donated to a needy family in a Chinese village. A gift of diminishing hunger and poverty. Everyone is on board with that, right?

Yeeeeaaaahhh … No.

According to an article in the Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, givers badly overestimate how much their recipients will appreciate a charitable donation that is made in their name. That squares with my experience. I was excited and expected to get a phone call the moment the gift was received. Instead, I got a cursory “oh yeah, that was nice” when I inquired about if the gift notice showed up.

In one study, gift-givers chose between six gifts to give to a friend or family member. Three were donations to various charities. The other three were run-of-the-mill items: a travel mug, executive-style ballpoint pen and a USB flash drive.

Ninety-eight of the 245 participants in the study (40 percent) chose to give a charitable donation.

Interestingly, the less close a gift-giver was to the intended gift receiver, the more likely they were to give a gift of a charitable contribution.

It turns out that an overwhelming majority of the recipients would have rather received even a “really mundane tangible gift” instead of the charitable donation.

The way the recipient viewed the charitable donation had a lot to do with their relationship to the giver. Close friends didn’t object, and parents reported actually liking receiving the charitable donation from their children. The problems were with spouses and distant friends and relatives who were the most likely to evaluate the charitable contribution negatively.

How can this be explained? Lisa Cavanaugh, one of the study’s authors, said, “Recipients think [the charitable contribution] says more about you than about your commitment to them. One spouse actually said, ‘It showed me he cared about the world but he didn’t care about me.’ ”

One part of the equation is that people may be recognizing a socially responsible gift as an attempt by the gift giver to make themselves look good, like giving a really nice picture of yourself to someone. Typically the person most interested in a really nice picture of yourself is your mom, right?

But we believe the more important reason that giving to a specific nonprofit in another person’s name is less than ideal is that it deprives that person of giving something themselves.

That is problematic for the recipient because I don’t give them control, and I don’t actually allow them to “give.”

First, the recipient didn’t pick the charity — the giver did. Satisfaction is derived from three basic elements: being part of something bigger, showing competence and autonomy. As the giver, I didn’t deliver any of those three here.

Second, there is a well-studied “warm glow” effect from giving. That warm glow isn’t triggered for the recipient in this scenario, although presumably it may be for the giver. The recipient did not get to be socially responsible — the giver did (and I felt GREAT about it!).

So what is there to do?

If I want to give a socially responsible gift, I must give it in a way that allows the recipient choice. As an example, I could use a card from Charity Choice (not a plug — don’t know ‘em), which allows the recipient to choose from hundreds of charities to designate the gift, making the gift from the recipient, instead of from you.

Another way to inspire the warm glow and be socially responsible would be for me to allow the recipient of the gift to select how they will support Heifer International. If I could send the gift with an open end on it, to allow my recipient to pick a cow, or a chicken or a well, that would give us both something positive — the satisfaction derived from giving driven by autonomy and the warm glow effect.

I’m sure you think the Beloved and I are quite calculated about giving, altruism and nonprofits. And we are, for two reasons. First, giving is tricky and we are prone to plan campaigns in ways that bring consequences contrary to our intention. Second, the warm glow of giving cures diseases, educates children, prevents violence and so much more. We like understanding how to light that fire.

Revisiting the Lowly Postcard

Earlier this year, I received a postcard mailing from the Share and Care Foundation, a nonprofit organization located in New Jersey. In just four panels (one of which was the address panel), the postcard tackled one of those funding needs that make many fundraisers cringe — toilets.

Earlier this year, I received a postcard mailing from the Share and Care Foundation, a nonprofit organization located in New Jersey. In just four panels (one of which was the address panel), the postcard tackled one of those funding needs that make many fundraisers cringe — toilets.

“The Toilet Crisis” was the headline on the first inside panel. The copy continued, “600 million people in India do not have access to indoor toilets,” and then explained in two bullet points that this leads to the spread of diseases and safety issues for women.

I was intrigued. After all, conventional wisdom is that postcards, lacking a response means other than going online, are not the best fundraising tool. They also offer limited space to make a case for support. Yet they are relatively inexpensive and lack the barrier of the envelope that one needs to open before seeing the contents. So, was this enough to drive people to the website to give a $130 toilet to a family in India?

I spoke to Tejal Parekh, the senior operations manager at Share and Care Foundation, and asked her, “So, did it work?” The short answer is “yes.” The foundation’s goal for the mailer was to raise enough money to build 750 toilets in 2016; it already has completed more than 500 toilets as a result of donations it’s received from the postcard and a follow-up email.

That’s worth a second look, so let’s unpack this postcard just a bit.

Measuring 8×6″, the mailer folded to 4×6″ and was double tabbed. The address panel had a live, presorted, standard-rate stamp. There was no teaser on that panel, but it did invite the recipient to sign up for updates; call or email with questions, comments or concerns; or “Please let us know if you receive duplicate mailings.” In other words, this panel was hardworking, albeit functional.

BardenPostcard1
The exterior of Share and Care Foundation’s postcard that aimed to raise money for toilets in India.

The front panel was pretty much a rule-breaker when it comes to direct response. It had artwork—a doorway that might represent the entrance to a house, but it’s not really clear because it is stylized. The headline was in all caps with a drop shadow and never mentioned “you,” the donor. Added to that, it referred to one of the least sexy of all programs: indoor toilets, and sanitation and hygiene education.

But once you opened the postcard, the story unfolded, beginning with the headline noted earlier.

Parekh explained that the young person on the marketing team who put this together for Share and Care Foundation “told the story in a few simple lines. People don’t want to see too much misery, so photos were more positive images, and there was also a simple drawing of a family. It was short, yet it told a story.”

The interior of Share & Care Foundation's postcard that aimed to raise money for toilets in India.
The interior of Share and Care Foundation’s postcard that aimed to raise money for toilets in India.

I agree. The postcard caught my attention and apparently that of others on its U.S. database—donors and prospects. As mentioned, the response was excellent. Why? According to Parekh, the offer made sense, and the price point was reasonable.

The response mechanism was to drive people to a webpage that reiterated the offer (and added more information). When one clicked the “Donate Today” button at the bottom of the page, he or she went directly to a donation page that quickly summed up the offer and asked for $130 for a toilet. There were also lower amounts, but $130 was the focus. (One change I would make would be to add the “Donate Today” button to the top of the page, as well; right now, there is a “Donate Now” button as part of the header, but when you click that, it goes to a generic donation page. That could discourage someone who just wants to give a toilet.)

One of the surprises for the foundation was that a lot of lapsed donors responded. Again, it was a clear, compelling offer (reduce disease and improve women’s safety) at an affordable price point ($130). Plus, the only barrier to reading about the offer was two tabs. The copy was minimal, the story was easily understood, and the focus was on the beneficiaries, not the organization. Plus, it offered proof—the foundation already built 350 toilets in four villages and wanted to do more.

Yes, there are some things I would l want to change on this mailer (that’s an occupational hazard), but that’s not the point; the point is that Share and Care Foundation took a risk and sent out a lowly postcard that some would argue lacks what it takes to be a serious fundraiser—and made it work. It told a story briefly and in terms “Average Pat Donor” could understand. It made it relatively easy to respond by providing a simple URL and a specific landing page. It kept its costs low.

The foundation took a risk—and it paid off. So kudos to Share and Care Foundation. And for all the rest of us, maybe it’s time to rethink the postcard. It’s worth a test, but remember Parekh’s advice: The offer and the price point need to make sense, and the story has to be simple.

Hey Fundraisers: It’s Time to Show Your Stuff!

I love reading direct mail and email. Not just because it’s my job, but because of the insights that I get, and can pass on to others.

Fundraising campaigns are particularly interesting because of how much they rely on emotion, content, and storytelling to drive action. The kinds of things some marketers in the for-profit sector should pay more attention to.

Since 2006, NonProfit PRO, a sister brand of Target Marketing, has held the Gold Awards for Fundraising Excellence. I’ve been honored to be a judge for that entire time, and will be again this year.

I love reading direct mail and email. Not just because it’s my job with Who’s Mailing What!, but because of the insights that I get, and can pass on to others.

Fundraising campaigns are particularly interesting because of how much they rely on emotion, content, and storytelling to drive action. The kinds of things some marketers in the for-profit sector should pay more attention to.

Since 2006, NonProfit PRO, a sister brand of Target Marketing, has held a competition for the Gold Awards for Fundraising Excellence. I’ve been honored to be a judge for that entire time, and will be again this year.

WorldvisionI’ve included a few images from past winners, by the way, in this post.

So, the competition opened yesterday. If you’re with a nonprofit or agency (or know someone who is), and you’ve achieved some stellar results, you can get the ball rolling here. See what your colleagues have done in past years here and here.

Categories include direct mail, email, peer-to-peer, special events, social media, and much more. All efforts must have run in calendar year 2015.

And why should you submit your campaigns? Because great work deserves to be seen, and rewarded.

MASPCA_01Sometimes I’m just staggered at how so much effort from so many people goes into a campaign, from the initial brainstorming, to rollout, to evaluating the results of whatever channel or channels were used.

I’ve always taken the words of Denny Hatch to heart:

You cannot judge good direct marketing; it judges you.

In other words, good direct marketing does what it was designed to do. It doesn’t matter if you hate it/don’t understand it/are horrified by it. If it works, it’s good. And it’s your job (and my job) to analyze it and figure out why it worked. And then steal smart.

But with the Gold Awards, it’s not all about how much money a multichannel effort netted, or the cost to raise a dollar for a direct mail package. If it were, all of those figures would dictate who won.

CCDBesides the money, we want you tell us how a campaign engaged your donors and made an impact. How it was a game-changer. How it helped support your non-profit’s mission, or met its goals.

Whether you were daring or plain, innovative or tried-and-true, please let us know.

Move us with your powerful stories and images. Inspire us with your copy. Impress us with your results and ROI.

Whatever you’ve done and you’re proud of, we’d love to see it!

Dollars for Democracy in 2016 Election

Well, the two major parties have just finished their national conventions, but this very strange election year is far from over. For better or for worse. In 2016, direct mail is still an effective way to raise money for a political campaign and get people to the polls. Here are some thoughts about two recent direct mail efforts from the Clinton and Trump campaigns.

Well, the two major parties have just finished their national conventions, but this very strange election year is far from over. For better or for worse.

ElectionDayEagleOver the past four election cycles, I have written about what I’ve seen going on in direct mail and email collected by Who’s Mailing What!

For example, in 2012, I looked at two fundraising direct mail tactics that were used for the first time. And, earlier this year, I offered some tips on how to get political direct mail noticed.

From formats and premiums, and call-to-action (CTA) buttons to subject lines, there’s a lot to review and think about. So far, I’m not seeing anything that’s all that new or different. So, I’ve decided to look at what really drives response in this sector: the copy.

Way back in 1984, the second-ever issue of the print newsletter Who’s Mailing What! featured a critique of Republican efforts by liberal fundraiser Roger Craver.

The first part of his “Dollars For Democracy” article still resonates very strongly in its section “Why People Give to Politics.” (If you’d like, just email me at pbobnak@napco.com and I can send you a PDF of it in its entirety.)

To summarize his analysis: political direct mail contributors are not the “fat cats” who expect favors or budget earmarks in exchange for money. Rather, they’re what he calls “donors of principle.” These are people who don’t need to be persuaded about the rightness of a candidate, party or issue, but can be motivated to donate by a mailer’s copy and design.

According to Craver, the best direct mail packages are those that include one or more of these factors in how the copy is written:

  •  a sense of mission or challenge;
  •  a sense of selectivity, or exclusivity that flatters the recipient;
  •  a sense of urgent need that gets the contributor to give ASAP; and
  •  a sense of continuity and effectiveness that acknowledges the power of the opponent, but also reassures victory if a donation is made soon.

In 2016, direct mail is still an effective way to raise money for a political campaign and get people to the polls. But email can take advantage of Craver’s factors 24/7, based on the day’s events in a campaign.

ElectionEnv_0001

I’ll be examining email in a future column, but for now, some thoughts about two recent direct mail efforts from the Clinton and Trump campaigns.

Mission

Since her campaign began, the direct mail for Hillary Victory Fund has asked a question on its outer: “[FNAME], this is our moment … are you with me?” Inside, she talks about her upbringing and offers: “I still believe that if you do your part, you ought to be able to get ahead and stay ahead.”

The Trump Make America Great Again Committee envelope puts its slogan in all caps on the front of its outer: “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN.” “This election is going to be about big ideas,” the letter claims.

Selectivity

After explaining her vision, Clinton goes after the GOP’s: “You and I know their plan fails us.” “Right now, we have to fight harder than ever for the Democratic vision,” she says.

Trump urges the donor to complete the enclosed issues survey and make a donation. “I cannot succeed, nor can our Party prevail … without the support of dedicated Americans like you,” he declares.

Urgency

“Republicans are coming at us with everything they’ve got,” Clinton warns. “Primary season is here — right now — and we need you in this critical moment.”

For Trump, the warning: “America’s future is on the line.” And later, “America is truly at a crossroads in this presidential election.”

Continuity

“But Republicans are spending millions to mislead voters, so we must be able to expose the lies and rhetoric,” Clinton says. “We can keep the White House, help Democrats win up and down the ticket in November, and deliver real victories.”

“Hillary Clinton, the Democrats, and their liberal cronies will continue to raise and spend every dollar they can get their hands on,” Trump says. “[Y]our gift is critical … to helping get our message out.”

Keep in mind that these “ingredients”, as Craver called them, may vary from one effort to the next. But, he said, “successful packages contain most or all of them.” I’m going to keep my eyes open as more mail comes to my desk. And as always, I’d love to hear your comments below.