Chapman Cubine Adams + Hussey (CCAH), a direct marketing agency, recently carried out an integrated appeal campaign for the American Association of University Women (AAUW) that was a huge win in meeting its objectives. I love hearing success stories because there are always lessons that can be useful for other marketers.
I chatted with CCAH’s Pete Carter, Principal and Senior VP, and Colleen Hutchings, Senior Account Executive, to get their perspectives on this integrated online/offline campaign.
According to Carter, there were two main goals for the campaign.
The first was practical: Money had to be raised to fund AAUW’s programs that increase awareness and participation of girls in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).
The second objective was conversion. About half of its members are dues-only contributors. This appeal was intended to educate these members about STEM, raise money, and set the stage for other mission-oriented appeals in the future.
The Direct Mail Package
Dropped to nearly 90,000 recipients on Nov. 5, 2015, this “go-to-format” consisted of an outer envelope, letter, reply form, insert, and courtesy reply envelope. The front of the outer was spare, only the logo and a teaser above the address: “Personal. Prepared for.” Because “STEM can be cerebral,” Carter said, the intent was simple: don’t give away too much, just get the recipient inside.
Across its four pages, the letter makes the case for STEM by reciting statistics and detailing how the AAUW’s programs – Tech Savvy and Tech Trek – are working. But the heart of the effort is a 2-page sheet of testimonials from girls who have participated in STEM programs. Sharing these, Carter says, provides “emotional content.” Members love photos and personal messages from beneficiaries of these programs; much of this content also appears in the emails.
The First Email: Do You Agree?
The first email was sent on Nov. 5 and relied on two subject line tactics to get opened, and then acted on.
First, it was personalized with the addressee’s name at the front. “Personalization can provide a big lift,” Hutchings noted.
Second, it sparked curiosity in the recipient: “[FNAME], take 20 seconds to answer one question.”
The question: “Do you agree that women and girls should be better represented in STEM?”
Using it three times over seven paragraphs is “kind of gimmicky” Hutchings admitted. “We can’t do it all the time.” “The audience will answer ‘yes’,” she continued. She pointed out that the “intention was to get more people to the donation form,” and to make it easy.
The clickthrough rate on this one was about 2,000 percent higher than the subsequent efforts, and it was the biggest revenue drive of the three emails.
One additional factor cited was using a deadline, “5 p.m. ET tomorrow, Friday, November 6” in the postscript of the letter. This touch was added at the last minute by the CCAH team, which, Hutchings said, “liked the idea of creating a sense of urgency … without going overboard.”
The Second Email: Stories
This effort, sent out on Nov. 12, has only four paragraphs, making it the shortest letter of the three emails in the campaign. As the focus is more personal and less abstract, it sets up the ask quickly.
The “DONATE NOW” button is followed by a stream of pictures from participants in the STEM programs, like those in direct mail testimonial. Scrolling or swiping down through them was designed to “make it more tangible”, according to Hutchings, by showing the reader cause and effect.
The Third Email: Steer a Young Woman
The final message dropped on Nov. 19, and is “much more representative of what [AAUW] emails sound like,” Hutchings said. In its nine paragraphs, the pitch to the member is very similar to what appears in the direct mail letter, emphasizing statistics on education, as well as on the success of AAUW’s programs in educating girls.
Despite the more academic tone, the copy also works on inducing some guilt in the member: “We must give every girl who has ever dreamed … the chance to fulfill her goals.” A related touchpoint is a call to duty: “Please do your part.”
This coordinated campaign resulted in raising a net of $23,899 for AAUW, with an average gift of $53.25.
For Carter, this success shows that the two channels can work hand-in-hand, and that “you can’t take either one away.” He makes the analogy of a customer who buys a sweater based on a saved J. Crew catalog to underline the importance of direct mail in a buying decision that otherwise may not have happened. “It primes the pump,” he said.
Marketers should “just try new tactics to engage people,” he advised, even if they’re different from what you’ve done in the past. There’s “lots of room to try different tactics and techniques,” Hutchings said. There are “innovative ways of getting to the ask … and the audience is receptive to that,” she added.