Monday, March 14, 2011

Is Direct Mail Dead?

Direct mailers hard at work
In this day and age of all things online can the humble mailer still meet your fundraising needs? If you listen to the Web 2.0 gurus the answer is that direct mail is dead and should have been dead much earlier. They say the last advance in direct mail was the Guttenberg Press 500 years ago and it’s been all downhill since then.

Direct mailers point to the According to the 2010 Direct Mail Association Statistical Fact Book 79% of households either read or skim junk mail advertising sent to their home. Another study, done by International Communications Research for postal automation giant Pitney Bowes in 2007, found that 73 percent of consumers prefer mail for receiving new product announcements or offers from companies they do business with, as compared to 18 percent for e-mail. Mail was also preferred by 70 percent of respondents for receiving unsolicited information on products and services from companies with which they are not currently doing business.

So where does that leave your charity? I think the answer is that dumb direct mail is dead. It is true that the world has changed because of the online revolution, and it continues to change. Sending direct mail the way you used to ten or even five years ago is not a good idea. What email and social media has taught us is that personalized and interactive communications that promote relationships work. Not only that, but because they are online they are more measurable and they connect donors to charities faster and more cost effectively. But, flipping the argument, it has also taught us that dumb email isn’t the solution either. Taking your mailer and making it into an email won’t solve all your fundraising problems.

The takeaway is that you need to integrate your communications, be it by mail or email, into one strategy that can talk directly to your donors and connect them to you quickly and efficiently. The relationship is the most important thing.

An example is Rapid Donor Cultivation from Common Knowledge in San Francisco. It is admittedly an email product, but it’s claim to fame is its integration. Basically, it takes new e-supporters and sends them a series of clever information pieces over a short period of time that educate supporters about a key issue. That’s right. They break the golden rule not to bombard inboxes with emails by sending something like five emails in 10 weeks. They are personalized, customized and well written. Their conversion rate for donors was six times higher than average.

The debate over direct mail and direct email then is not about which platform is better but how all direct marketing needs to be smarter.

1 comment:

  1. With Direct mail campaigning, new sales and contacts are measurable and predictable. There is no need for repeated hit-and-miss guessing and estimating.