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

Further evidence that the preselected level on your conversion form increases your average sale

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Preselected Value Chart

Further evidence that the preselected value increases your average sale.

In an article that I wrote on this  blog back in July titled, “Preselected values — your donation form’s best friend,” I covered a test conducted by our friends at the Salem Web Network regarding how their average gift values were increased by sending visitors in a split test to a form with (A) no preselected values, and (B) a preselected value of $50.

In an effort to further implement this line of thinking into our processes for fund raising, we conducted a test with one of our clients in an attempt to increase our average gift (or average sale) amount.

As seen in the chart above, we had seven different donation levels, each level being given a specific dollar amount tied to each level. Our goal was to set the preselected value at “Supporting Member,” which was a $50 giving level.

We started our testing on 7/28 and ran it through 9/30.

Over the test period, we have seen an increase of “Supporting Member” or the $50 giving level amount increase by 24.2%.

One of the things that we wanted to do was ensure that there were no negative impact on other key measurement categories such as conversion rate, or a decline in upper tiered giving levels. It’s important to pay attention to these figures, as if we increase the number of $50 gifts in exchange for a large decrease in $75, or $100 gifts — we negatively impact the revenue we are generating.

Also, if we decrease the conversion rate, we’re losing donors as a result of our changes — which will have a negative impact on our lifetime donor values and subsequent year revenue figures.

I am proud to report that (at least through this test period) that we did not see a significant decrease in either of the two figures mentioned above.

In fact, you can see an increase in the next level up (“Level 3”) throughout this testing period and a decline in the amount of “Level 1” (the donor level below) throughout.

This tells us that those arriving at the site with the intent to give a gift/donate, are willing to give a gift at our preselected value level, or the next level up, as opposed to the “least expensive” option available on the form.

We’ll continue to run tests, and will be providing sporadic updates on the subject matter as time goes on.

Enjoy.

— 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

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.

The reason why you should continue using banner ads, even if the ROI isn’t there.

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The reason why you should continue using banner ads, even if the ROI isn’t there.

Advertising is not a direct response channel, but it can provide a significant lift to direct response marketing efforts when it is added to your overall mix of activities. Trust me, you're not throwing your money away when you advertise online.

If you’re like me, you’ve just wrapped up a great Independence Day break and you’re rolling up your sleeves in an attempt to put your nose to the grindstone. Don’t you just love 4-day work weeks? It makes everything seem to fly by, which is not necessarily a good thing.

After all, there are organizations out there that need help in their fund raising efforts — and the Strategist has been hammering away all week. I apologize for missing my Tuesday publishing date, although I highly doubt there is anyone out there that was disappointed. 🙂

Now, let’s get on with the show, eh? As promised in last week’s blog about the difference between marketing and advertising, I mentioned that I would write this week about banner advertising on the web and why you should do it, even if you ROI is not there.

We had a meeting with a customer before the holidays and this exact question was asked in our call. “Why should we continue to use banner ads if the ROI is not there?” It’s a valid question at the surface level. In today’s economy, it’s difficult to justify expenditures that do not bring a positive return on investment, right?

Well, I challenge that line of thinking. Why?

It’s a simple answer: Advertising is not a direct response channel.

Let me say that again — Advertising is NOT a direct response channel.

A direct response channel is where you’re engaging an audience directly, on a one-to-one level to ask them to perform a specific action. Believe it or not, by slapping a “CLICK HERE NOW!!!” button on your banner, you’re not actually marketing to an audience in a direct manner.

So, what is advertising? Advertising is an indirect response channel. It’s specifically used for brand building, brand awareness and brand loyalty initiatives.

Then, why would anyone want to spend money on that? Well, you can ask one of the million+ public companies that advertise daily on television, outdoor signage, over the radio, etc. — or I can just tell you.

When it comes to advertising, it’s about a consistent, repetitive interaction with a prospective and/or existing consumer base with your brand. The more times they hear the brand, the more “trust” is built in the brand. You may disagree with this, but I would imagine that you’re far more likely to buy a product from a large national brand than you are from the local mom & pop shop that sells the same widget, at a similar price point. It’s not just because of location (which is a major factor), but it’s also about the fact that you interact with the brand nearly daily.

With online marketing tactics like email marketing bringing such clarity and bottom line results to move the needle, it’s hard to justify to others within your organization the expenditures that you’re making in other online channels that are not “generating the same types of results”.

What if I told you that you need to look at your overall marketing/advertising mix as a mathematical equation? Remember all of the way back in high school when you took algebra? Well, take a look at this algebraic formula that I use to communicate the effectiveness of a true marketing and advertising mixture:

Marketing Effectiveness = (A + B) * C

Here are the variables that I plug into this equation:

  • A = Traditional direct marketing/sales activities
    This can include things like direct mail, telesales, trade shows, etc.
  • B = Online direct marketing/sales activities
    This can include email marketing, search engine marketing, etc.
  • C = Online/Offline Advertising activities
    This is whatever you are doing to advertise on the web, on television, outdoor signage, etc.

With this mathematical equation, the “A” value is increased when combined with “B”. But both values are MULTIPLIED when “C” is introduced to the equation. Yes, online/offline advertising is an expense in most cases (and really good marketing/advertising firms can find a way to give you at least 75% of your money back with their strategies — we do it all of the time), but by in large your other marketing activities will receive a lift when advertising is in the mix.

We’re in the process of compiling some figures to back these statistics up, so bear with me while we collect that data. I’ll be sure to post an update here whenever those numbers come back.

The idea is that even if your ad is shown to a particular website visitor and that visitor does not click on the ad — that they have received a “brand impression” (this isn’t ground breaking stuff, is it?). When we marketers target and deliver a direct response message to this visitor (direct mail, email, telephone call, etc.) — then the visitor will have already had an exposure to our brand, making our jobs much easier to ask them to perform whatever our call to action is.

My boss gave me a great video to watch the other day about subliminal advertising. This one is done by Derren Brown and it’s a short 6:40 watch.

I know, I know … you’re FAR too busy to watch the video, right? Trust me, it is totally worth it, so if you don’t watch it now, bookmark it and watch it later over a lunch break or something, OK?

They won’t let me embed the video directly, so when you attempt to watch the video, you will be driven to YouTube to watch it (in a new window).

Derren Brown — Subliminal Advertising:

If you don’t believe me, does this help?

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