Effectiveness of your holiday fundraising appeals

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Good morning, all!

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted, and for that delay, I give you my apologies.

I’m working on developing a few different things here, but I wanted to take a moment to provide a blog for you all as we enter into December, where you will undoubtedly be putting together end of year appeals to your house files to close out 2010 in  a strong fashion.

A recent study written by Convio called the “2010 HOLIDAY GIVING Report” — included one chart that particularly piqued my interest. It was a survey sent to a wide array of existing and potential donors to nonprofit organizations across all sub verticals, and here is how they surveyed audience responded:

Effectiveness of Holiday Appeals

This tells us that the top two most effective appeal types are: (1) Appeals that focus on people, animals, or places in need of the donor’s financial help, or (2) Appeals that explain the need for funds now.

This goes back to the old argument of “emotion vs. logic” (which I just so happened to write about in a blog post earlier in the year — check it by clicking here).

This tells us that both with high-dollar and holiday giver audiences, that focusing on the emotional side of the coin (i.e. here’s what your funds will do to help these people/animals in need) AND creating a sense of urgency (by describing WHY the funds are needed at this time) help to drive the effectiveness of your end of year fund raising campaigns.

I also found it interesting that 40% of high-dollar donors said that they would be willing to provide a gift in the event that your appeal reminded them that they will receive a tax deduction for their end of year gift.

Perhaps segmenting your donor file into “high-dollar donors” and “average-donors” and writing two separate messages to include this sort of message in the appeal to your high-dollar donor segment might be effective. Feel free to test it & roll out the better performing message to the remainder of the email files.

Good luck this holiday season in closing out 2010 strongly!

All the best,

— GC

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Should I send my email newsletter before my print newsletter?

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Newsletter

Should you send your email newsletter before your print version, or afterRecently, a colleague on our traditional side of the agency asked my thoughts on when they should time the delivery of one of our client's email newsletter against the delivery time frame for the print version.

 

In this case, the content is almost exactly the same. The lone difference is that the email version is an abbreviated version of the printed version.

So, she asked, “What are your thoughts on when we should send it?”, then offered, “We’re thinking we wait about 10 days to time the email newsletter to land nearly at the same time.”

When considering the content, I recommended that she actually send the email version of the newsletter as soon as it is ready, regardless of when the printed version is expected to be sent.

Why? It’s simple: build value for the email version of the newsletter.

There are a few value propositions for organizations to transition to sending email newsletters, as opposed to print, namely that they save on print production and shipping fees, but the most important thing we can do is position the email newsletter as a “first glance” at news — thereby creating a higher incentive for those registering to receive our newsletters in print to consider also registering their email addresses.

This gives us, as marketers, an opportunity to include them in other email delivery types (of course after receiving permission from those registered readers to do so).

It also delivers an opportunity for those reading our newsletters with a chance to get their news more quickly, more easily, and with a message to be “looking out” for our printed version to be delivered soon.

Of course, you need to segment your email file into a couple of groups (where one segment is on both email and print recipient lists, while the other is on an email-only recipient list). A simple change to your introduction copy to ensure the highest level of relevance will be necessary, as well.

That’s it for this week — quick and easy. I hope you enjoyed.

All the best,

— GC

Does sending more emails negatively affect my campaign results?

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We recently concluded the analysis of a campaign that focused upon generating funds on a single day. Of course, days leading up to “day zero” (or the campaign launch date), we leveraged our house email files to send “save the date” type email campaigns, and lead-ins that promoted the one-day fund raising event.

Throughout the campaign, there was a perception that by sending more email messages throughout the campaign to our house file, that we would negatively affect our campaign results.

We heard several arguments attempting to dissuade us from sending multiple messages, but we worked with the client to assure them that our tests indicated that we would be okay.

Revenue per hour

The campaign revenue per hour chart shows, with the red lines, each email message that we had sent throughout the campaign timeline, and revenue collected per hour of the campaign with the blue line.

The chart above is the “Revenue per hour” chart that outlines the revenue that we collected each hour that the campaign was live (represented by the blue line) and the email messages that we sent throughout the campaign timeline (indicated in the vertical red lines).

As you can see, each email that we sent immediately sparked a burst of revenue collected for several hours thereafter.

This is exceptionally interesting to me, considering my personal feeling was that we could possibly cause unwanted attrition to the email file size that we had worked so hard to build, while also “turning off” the audience in the email recipient list. It turns out I, and our clients, were wrong.

This is just another interesting example of the fact that a marketer’s intuition is always trumped by cold, hard data.

So, if you’re promoting a one-time event (a webinar, fund raising campaign, etc.) — definitely leverage more emails than less, as your audience will not be turned off by your consistent messaging.

All the best,

— GC

What anxiety exists within the most popular marketing channels?

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Throughout the recent years, I’ve been asked by a number of different marketers (both traditional, brand marketers and online marketers) on how they can leverage some of the newer marketing channels (namely social and mobile) to their advantage.

The first step in understanding how to leverage these marketing channels is to understand that your potential customers have a certain level of anxiety associated with providing you with their contact information within said marketing channels.

Marketing Channel Anxiety

In your online marketing efforts, you must truly understand the anxiety that your prospective audience has when it comes to providing information about themselves. If you look at your available marketing channels, you can begin building plans around the marketing channel in an attempt to upgrade people slowly over time for optimum results.

In an attempt to properly depict how I view the building anxiety associated with providing you their contact information, I show in the chart above, the progression that dramatically increases when you get more personal or start infringing upon two factors: (1) where the person lives, and (2) when the target can start incurring additional fees associated with receiving marketing campaigns and messages from your company.

In an attempt to provide more information and detail, I’ll reiterate the information shown in the graph above, within the following paragraphs:

Little Anxiety: Twitter

Twitter is possibly the lowest anxiety marketing channel available to marketers to use at the time of writing this article, but it also has possibly the highest “noise” factor. According to a recent study published by Mashable, 80% of Twitter activity is classified as “conversations” or “pointless babble”, while 15% of activity is categorized as either “Spam” or “self promotion”.

Additionally, the report indicates that Twitter account usage has a 60% abandonment rate — where a user will register for an account on their first visit, then 6-out-of-10 new accounts will never be visited or used again. This means that marketers need to be wary about pumping too much time and energy into their Twitter account activities, but those engaged followers that do use the accounts consistently that choose to follow your brand will indeed be looking at your messages, or “Tweets”.

I list Twitter in the category of “little” anxiety due almost exclusively to the point that it is the truest form of “opt-in” marketing. Adversely, it is also the easiest marketing channel to “opt-out” of, as well. If someone wants to stop seeing your Tweets/marketing messages — they simply unfollow you and that is the end of your ability to connect with them through the channel.

Marketers should build strategies around how to easily opt-in followers (by offering special offers, or exclusive content), but then have a messaging strategy that is focused on driving the engaged Twitter audience to convert in another marketing channel (i.e. “… become a ‘Fan’ on Facebook and receive X”, etc).

Low Anxiety: Facebook

Facebook is becoming the darling of social networks — and rightfully so. In a recent demographic report that I read online, Facebook has grown from 1/4/2009 – to – 1/4/2010 by 144.9% in the United States alone, to reach an overall network size (just within our country) to a total of 103,085,520 accounts. On the network, potential targets provide a number of different pieces of information that can be leveraged by smart marketing professionals for behavioral purposes. Identifying the “fan” page’s favorite music, television shows, books and movies in conjunction with the creation of the Facebook Fan Page gives marketers the opportunity to quickly an easily provide content onto the homepage of every “fan”.

Additionally, you can easily provide “fan” page members with the ability to, within a single click of a “Like” button, to post to their home page (where all of their networked contacts will see updates in their own homepages) your message, post, or Fan Page URL. It is a true viral network that is still increasing the level of its sophistication and opportunity.

The anxiety, albeit listed at “Low”, is still higher than Twitter in the fact that a large portion of people on the network will guard personal information (pictures, videos, etc.) from those that they do not know. This personal information will create pause in the mind of the target before agreeing to “fan” or “like” your content for just a moment. It is also listed at this level due to the fact that they can quickly and easily remove you from their follow list with a single click to remove you from their profile.

Marketers should leverage this marketing channel for advocacy purposes, allowing those that feel passionate about your cause, product, or company to share it with other like-minded friends and family members. It’s essentially the digital version of the most effective kind of marketing of all time: word-of-mouth marketing.

Medium Anxiety: Email

All of you marketers out there that have been developing name acquisition campaigns, or more specifically, online marketing campaigns to capture email addresses that you can continue to cultivate purchasers/donors from, you know of the difficulties associated with email capture. In fact, Convio released their annual Nonprofit Benchmark Study, which showed that the email registration rate from 2008 to 2009 across all nonprofit verticals dropped from 3.22% to 2.12% (which represents a 34.16% decline year over year).

That means that 97 of 100 website visitors will not provide you their email address. This is an extremely high number and usually is an indicator as to the fact that most organizations are not providing compelling enough reasons for website visitors to provide their email address and information.

If you’ve owned an email address for any extended period of time, you know how much unsolicited email you receive on a daily basis. People are tired of inbox clutter … and they’ll become far more picky as to who they will provide their email address to as we continue through the next decade.

To a marketer, email addresses are great. This is not a new concept — it’s been this way for the better part of this past decade. We can deliver highly personalized, well designed and email campaigns into the inbox of hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of people at once and analyze click behavior and provide follow-up analysis of how to reengage with anyone that interacted with your message. The only problem is that most people don’t prefer to get your email correspondence, and they’re proving it by declining year after year in terms of their email registration rate.

To collect this valuable information from your prospective customers/donors, you will need to provide a value exchange that is worth it to them. Offer incentives, free resources, access to special areas of your website, etc. in exchange for the email address, but understand that you’re likely going to fail more than you will succeed (unless, of course, your direct response marketing agency is KMA Direct Communications … yes, I know … a very shameless plug).

Moderate Anxiety: Physical Mailing Address

If you don’t know who I am — would you give me your address if I asked for it? Of course not, and in fact, people online are less likely to provide you their home address unless you’re shipping them something, they’re buying something (and have to in order to complete a transaction online), or they’re providing you a donation.

This one is quite obvious, but you would be surprised by those that I speak with that insist they need it. If you do not absolutely have to have it — I repeat, HAVE TO HAVE it — do not ask for it online.

Again, many organizations that I talk to will try to fight me tooth and nail on why it’s imperative that they have the mailing address of someone that wants to opt-in to receive their quarterly newsletter.

I can assure you … people looking to sign up to receive your newsletter email campaign don’t see it the same way.

If you feel like you have to have the mailing address, ask for it in a subsequent follow-up email. Look, if someone has given you their first name, last name and email address — you have the means through which to connect with them a countless number of times moving forward. So, collect that information now … and back fill the other information that you want to collect (mailing address, number of kids, household income, social security number … or whatever else it may be) at a later date.

Don’t force them to give it to you all at once. The odds are against you if you try to collect too much information too early. Play the odds.

High Anxiety: Mobile Phone

Just about every marketer nowadays wants to know how they can incorporate mobile (most notably, SMS/text messages or MMS) into their marketing campaigns. It usually starts by providing an opportunity for visitors to your website to provide their mobile device number into your database, at which point you need to have a system to administer and send a mass SMS/MMS campaign to those numbers. There are a number of FCC hoops that you will need to jump through, but more notably — you’re going to have a difficult time in getting those numbers from your website visitors.

Why? Because the cell phone carriers will, in most cases, charge your audience an additional fee to receive your SMS/MMS message(s). If you send several appeals or messages per month — those fees can stack up quickly and you’ll have a very disgruntled recipient, who will be far more likely to opt-out of receiving such messages than to clickthrough or convert for your campaign.

With the creation of smart phone (iPhone, Blackberry and Droid) applications, you can make special offers and send “push notifications” via your application to those that have downloaded it. You can connect with them efficiently this way, but as is such with any new technology, the pricing and capabilities for an application development firm can vary wildly.

As such, the cost to administer, run and promote mobile marketing is extremely high for most marketing organizations. Yes, you will have about the lowest amount of “noise” in this channel (most organizations are shying away from this until later down the road), but you will also pay a premium fee to reach those contacts via this channel.

On top of all of that — this definitely reigns supreme as the highest anxiety channel. I ask you: What SMS/MMS marketing lists are you on? Probably none.

I hope you found the post to be informational and enlightening and are now prepared to think about your marketing endeavors in a different light now that you fully understand the anxiety associated with receiving information from your organization via each of the aforementioned marketing channels.

— GC

Why marketers need to believe that clarity trumps persuasion

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Clarity Trumps Persuasion

When it comes to any marketing, but most specifically fund raising for non profit organizations, we need to force ourselves to remember that clarity always trumps persuasion in our marketing efforts. Transparency and honesty will always prevail.

Some of you may know that I’m a big fan of MarketingExperiments, and more specifically their Director — Dr. Flint McGlaughlin. One of the things that he touts frequently when teaching and educating young marketing professionals is that clarity trumps persuasion.

He argues that marketing professionals do not need to be a genius at persuasion, so long as you can simply take the time to study your processes and achieve genuine clarity.

How many times have you been to a website that cites they’re the “… world leader in __________“, or the “… recognized global leader in __________“?

The odds are that these organizations are not the leader, or recognized at all, but rather they are being led by marketing professionals that are practicing persuasion tactics.

This same approach should be applied to nonprofit organizations, specifically with regards to their fund raising efforts. Think about how you approach your audiences (existing and/or prospective donors). Are you leveraging persuasion or clarity in your marketing themes and messages?

Our friends Jill and Chay were being married a week or so ago and while attending the rehearsal dinner (my wife was one of her bridesmaids), I found myself in a long conversation with the soon-to-be bride’s mother. We had not had a chance to talk much in the past, but in the flow of the conversation I found out that she was a donor to one of the organizations that we here at KMA Direct Communications manage and execute fund raising campaigns for (whose name I will not include in this article).

I thoroughly enjoyed the conversation and her recommendations, as it was essentially a one-off donor survey. She was very candid with me and honest/forthcoming.

In our conversation, she told me that she would highly consider giving more often to the organization if they would simply show her how her (and other) donations were being allocated and what impact they have had. Because this client is so young (not even a year old yet), we have not had a chance to implement a “here is what your dollars are working for” type of message… but, her recommendation follows the theme for this message.

By providing her clarity and insight into how we are using her gift towards furthering our cause and making an impact on the world we live in, she is more likely to give more donations and more frequently.

In this case, there was no example of persuasion (we are, after all, good marketers and follow the principles that we preach … :-)), so I cannot identify how she was dissuaded from providing another gift due to it.

Strategically, we are planning on adding additional clarity into our messaging to share with donors the exact impact their gifts had regarding this nonprofit organization’s cause.

To close, and to echo the thoughts and direction of  Dr. Flint McGlaughlin, I will ask each of you to remember that clarity in your marketing process should always answer three things to your prospective donors:

  1. Where am I?
  2. What is your offer?
  3. Why should I give a gift to you?

If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.

– Jesus Christ, John 8:31-32

All the best,

— GC

Is it legal to send email campaigns to a purchased list?

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No SPAM

The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, signed by President George W. Bush, requires certain elements to be included in unsolicited email correspondence to make it legal and to protect the sender from lawsuits, but how do you feel ethically about sending to a purchased list?

In my past life, working for a large, privately-held, ESP (Email Service Provider) here in Dallas, TX — I learned quite a bit about the legality and ethics associated with email marketing. I would often receive questions from prospective customers regarding the legal aspect of sending “unsolicited” email campaigns — or as we more commonly refer to it — SPAM.

SPAM email is one of those things that businesses don’t want to be associated with, but they always seem to creep closer and closer towards (especially in tight economic climates, or when their name acquisition efforts are not working as quickly as they would like).

So, in today’s blog, we’re going to review the legal aspects of sending campaign messages via email to purchased email lists.

This debate is really an ethical vs. legal one. As someone that previously purchased marketing lists and distributed email campaigns to them, I can tell you this — everyone that is on the list thinks that they can sue you for sending them your email.

I’m here to tell you that they can’t, so long as you cover your bases. So, let’s look at the legal aspects of the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003.

Definition:

SPAM is the use of electronic messaging systems (including most broadcast media, digital delivery systems) to send unsolicited bulk messages indiscriminately.

Summary of CAN-SPAM Act of 2003:

  • Signed into law by President George W. Bush on 12/16/2003
  • Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography And Marketing Act of 2003
  • SPAM is enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
  • Commonly referred to as “You Can SPAM Act”, as it legalizes most email spam, in particular it doesn’t require permission prior to marketing
  • Prohibits states from enacting stronger laws against unsolicited mail

If you do not want to be sued or shut down by the FTC, here is what you need to include in your message(s):

Legal Requirements:

  • Sender must provide physical mailing address in unsolicited messages
  • Provide recipient with a valid opt-out request
  • A recipient cannot be required to pay a fee to opt-out
  • A recipient can do as little as replying to the sender requesting opt-out
  • Opt-out requests must be honored within 10 days of receipt
  • A few other elements that are too geeky to worry about here (false headers, open relays, etc.)

So, in summary — so long as you include those items, you’re good to start carpet-bombing every email address you can buy, right?

Wrong.

This is where the ethical aspect of the debate comes into play.

You see, major spam monitoring services (services like Barracuda, SPAM Assassin, etc.) are not legally bound to deliver your email to their recipients (even if you include all of the legal requirements). They can (and do) run every email through a rigorous series of tests in an attempt to weed out even potentially SPAM email messages.

Here’s a chart from the Barracuda website that indicates all of the measures a single email message will go through to reach one of their recipients:

Barracuda Spam Architecture

Once you get on a spam blacklist, it can be a rigorous and time-consuming process to overcome. In fact, most ESP’s will not allow their clients to upload purchased email lists for the simple fact that it creates a massive headache for them to “clear their names” again with those said blacklist management companies.

From an ethical standpoint, I would (and will always) advise against buying email lists for sure fire marketing initiatives. That said, there are always exceptions (and I suppose you can persuade me that it is acceptable for certain scenarios and with certain businesses), but not for non-profits and their fund raising efforts.

It’s worth mentioning that there is a very clear difference between “rented lists” and “purchased lists”. The rented list is one that is provided to you by a reputable firm, that has double-opted in their audience and asked them if they would be willing to “receive advertisements from their affiliates” (you’ve seen these lists, right?). These names are rented for a certain period of time (or number of sends) by the marketing organization (and are never truly in control of the marketer).

A purchased list is either manually or automatically scraped (via a program/script) over the internet to collect email addresses (usually on “contact us” forms, or directories, etc). More often than not, a purchased list seller will relinquish control of email addresses/names to the marketing organization to own and market to an unlimited number of times.

It seems like a hard mountain to climb, but the journey of a thousand miles starts but with one small step — so, I would always advise that the funds you would spend on purchasing a list are better spent on advertising and growing your email house file organically.

With proper targeting and A/B testing, you can actually get to a point where your cost-per-acquisition (CPA) is not that much (a few dollars) for a name/email address.

We actually have one client here at KMA that makes at least $5.00 every time someone gives them their name/email address (because they subsequently turn into donors so quickly thereafter).

In conclusion:

An organically grown list will always outperform (some of our tests show between double to triple the results) of a purchased list and will not jeopardize your overall email marketing efforts (or leave you offline for a period of time due to grappling with SPAM monitoring services that have blacklisted you as a SPAMMER).

The moral of the story goes back to an Aesop Fable about the Tortoise and the Hare — slow but steady wins the race.

— GC

Preselected values — your donation form’s best friend

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Preselected Form Fields

Preselected form fields are like driving your potential donors into a tunnel. Yes, they can turn around and leave the same way they came in, but if they convert, they're likely to convert at the level that you've selected for them.

I learned one of the most interesting factoids on a recent trip with my KMA colleagues to visit a valued partner in Salem Web Network a few weeks ago. It was a simple test that they had run, but the results were pretty staggering.

They wanted to run an A/B split test for a campaign on behalf of one of their faith-based non-profit organizations regarding whether or not Salem Web Network could generate better results by driving email traffic to a donation form with a preselected donation value.

In an attempt to not disclose any sensitive information about their test, their client and/or the exact figures that were generated, I’ve decided to share the figures based solely upon comparison against one another.

The first form (the control for the experiment) drove visitors to a campaign-specific landing page, with strong copy calling for donations for this particular cause. On the form, the Salem Web Network team used a standard array of donation form values that were relevant to the audience type. They did not leverage any preselected donation levels on this version.

The second form (the treated version of the form for this experiment) drove visitors to the same exact form as the control in every way, with the exception of the fact that the Salem Web Network team preselected the 2nd tier donation level.

The email marketing list was segmented at random to allow for the results to be to properly measured against one another. The email messages were exactly the same in every way, with the exception (of course) being the call to action link for the “control” email sending visitors to the form without preselected values, while the “treatment” email drove visitors to the form with the preselected value.

So, here’s the big question: Which form do you think performed better?

Based upon the title of this article, I’m assuming you already know. If you guessed the “treatment” version of the campaign, then you are indeed correct.

The “treatment” form outperformed the “control” in every major measurement statistic used to measure success by the Salem Web Network team.

Below are the staggering results:

  • 109.86% increase in overall number of donations
  • 111.21% increase in form completion percentage
  • 143.22% increase in average gift size
  • 157.12% increase in donations collected

The Salem Web Network team, being the good marketers that they are, eliminated the “control” version from the campaign plans and rolled the “treatment” version of the campaign out to the rest of the email file list generating a great ROI for their customer.

So, why is it that the “treatment” version of this campaign performed so much more favorably than that of the “control” version? It has everything to do with the psychological mindset of a donor.

Those that visited the landing page from the email list read and consumed compelling content contained in the email message and clicked through to the landing page for more information as to how they could support this particular client’s very noble cause.

Once on the “treatment” landing page, they were given an array of options to select in terms of a gift size. By controlling the form selection by giving them a level that we’d like for them to donate at (while, of course, allowing the donors to select whatever donation level they could afford, or felt compelled to give towards the cause), the Salem Web Network team effectively was able to lead donors to the water … and the donors drank.

This is an extremely important point to remember as a marketer — campaign targets (in this case, prospective donors) want to be lead in a particular direction. By sticking a landing page inside of your website (and showing your global navigation elements), or designing a form that has too many fields, or any other sort of items that can cause a psychological resistance to performing our call to action, we end up losing the sale.

Our landing pages need to be as streamlined and as simple as possible for our visitors to convert. If we do too much to “muddy the waters” so to speak, we provide our visitors with enough of a reason to leave us, rather than perform our call to action.

I will be implementing these tactics into future strategies for our clients moving forward and look forward to writing future blogs about amazing stories of increased fund raising results in the near future.

I hope you enjoyed these geeky numbers as much as I did.

— GC

More about Salem Web Network:
Salem Web Network is the online division of Salem Communications, which began in 1999 with a single website – OnePlace.com. Today, SWN consists of 12 national sites, including the most well-known brands in the faith marketplace, such as Crosswalk.com and Christianity.com. Additionally, more than 50 radio station websites are part of SWN’s platform, which now reaches more than 7 million users every month.

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