Continue Direct Mailings Even During Difficult Times

by Tommaso Occhiuto, Progressive Direct Marketing

You have heard the saying “Desperate times require desperate measures.” Unfortunately, there is no better, or worse, time than the present to do all you can to improve your direct mail response rates. With the economic climate declining as it has in the last few years, everything in its wake gets affected. From gas to travel, to luxury items and everyday necessities, people have a hard time making ends meet.

The first to feel the pinch are often those people in the mid to lower portion of the wealth scale. Any type of donation is drastically cut. But what about major donors? Are they affected? The answer is YES due to increased demands on their generosity by a larger number of organizations seeking contributions. There is a direct correlation. It seems the more competition, the less or fewer the donations. And stay tuned, as this year’s presidential election nears, the additional political competition for funds will hurt even more.

So, what should a not-for-profit agency do to overcome all of these power waves from the competition?

First, keep your donors closer than ever to your cause. Cultivate the relationship you have with them deeper and stronger. Stay in touch more often rather than less. Attempt to mail during the most appropriate times or best windows of opportunities. *

Second, make sure the packages you send are simple and clear. Most importantly, make sure you tell them what to do – the call for action. Put an expiration or deadline on their response requests. Keep your text short and always try to avoid the unneeded “fluff”. Include a P.S. reiterating the call for action or message you are sending. Your response piece should be clear and simple to use. Even the envelope should have an intriguing teaser to spark the curiosity of the recipient. Above all else, make them want to open the envelope.

Third, and by far the most important thing you can do to enhance your response is related to your customer list. Keeping up your list is extremely important. In all cases, your list is the most important element in a direct mail campaign. Yet is the most misunderstood and misused element of it. When it comes to direct mail, the terms “mailing list” and “database” are often used interchangeably. But it is wise to know the difference.

A mailing list is a group of names, companies, addresses and phone numbers. The information it contains enables you to contact your prospect by mail or by phone. A database is that, and more. It will include a mailing list but should also accumulate and store relevant information about your prospects. With a higher level of information, you can attain more business and do it more effectively. Segmented and targeted mailings are key.

Typically, database management for all types of companies, including not-for-profits, is poor to mediocre. All lists should be direct mail friendly databases. To begin to understand the magnitude of the problem, recognize that almost 50 million people move around the United States every year. Without proper updates, your database will become “dirty” extremely quick. And remember that a “clean” list means lower printing and postage costs.

Although lists and databases are the foundation of your marketing efforts, understanding all the complex components of a good marketing campaign is equally important to get the best return on your investment, especially during these difficult times.

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