The Devil’s in the Details

When it comes to the success of a mailing, direct marketers tend to focuses on the creative or the strategy, but most don’t pay attention to the execution until it’s too late.

This past week I received two offers from the same company on the same day. The purpose of the mailing was to upsell me. Sign up for a third product, bundle my services and get a discount.

The strategy was great.

The creative was great. (I opened both letters.)

But the execution was flawed.

Remember, I received both letters on the same day.

One letter offered me a $400 reward card if I signed up by May 10th. The other letter offered me a $500 reward card if I signed up by May 17th.

I’m going to assume the plan was to send me the first offer and, if I didn’t respond, to send me the second. And I’m also going to assume that no one paid attention to the delivery time of these letters. Otherwise, why would I get two competing offers…on the same day?

And this is where the Devil lies.

We need to ask the “What If” questions.

What if both of these offers arrive in home at the same time?

We’ve been in this business long enough to know that mailings get delayed, printers make errors, acts of nature happen, the unexpected occurs, etc., etc. The list could go on.

Years ago I worked on a campaign that used national monuments as the focal point of the creative. Two weeks into the first drop 9/11 happened. We pulled the campaign immediately and quickly went to work developing our Plan B. I’m sure all of you can think of a similar experience.

It is our job as direct marketers to pay attention to every detail. We need to be more than copywriters, designers, statisticians, and strategist. We need to be Risk Managers. We need to think about all the issues that have happened to one of our campaigns in the past and come up with a plan in case something similar happens again. We need to look at all the points in the process, not just what happens within our walls, and fill in the cracks so the execution is smooth.

What could this company have done differently?

Well, for starters, they could have paid attention to delivery dates. They could have planned more time between the drops, giving me time to respond. They also could have used email as the second delivery option. They have my email address. If the second email wasn’t a follow-up to my non-response they could have de-duped the mailing lists. There are so many different things they could have done. But the biggest thing they should have done was ask the “what ifs”.

One to One Marketing, Anyone?

I escaped Atlanta right before “Snowmageddon 2” and traveled to safer lands – the DMA non-profit conference in DC. It had been a while since I attended one of these conferences and I was very happy to be back. The DMA not only gives me the opportunity to meet with colleagues I don’t get to see too often  but it also gives me a chance to learn what other organizations have been doing and have found to work best for them.

As we all know, Direct Marketing is and should be channel-agnostic. As fundraisers, we should be using every medium that our constituents use to reach out to them. So I was extremely pleased to see a lot of sessions on digital and new technologies. In fact, I sat in on the session call “Emerging Technologies: Creating Real Change and Producing Far More Than Loose Change”.

As I sat and listened to the presenters, I couldn’t stop thinking about how direct marketing is becoming true one-to-one marketing. The main focus of one-to-one marketing is personalizing each interaction with the donor. The conviction being that through this personalization greater customer loyalty and better return on investment is fostered.

We already have taken steps to one-to-one marketing through the use of variable copy (and sometimes images) in direct mail and through emails with the use of PURLs. We treat donors differently if they give $100, over $10, or if they give once a year versus monthly. And, we include specific messaging to constituents based on their interest in our organizations. Dynamic listings in Google allow us to direct people to specific landing pages built around their interest.

But rather than focusing on one individual constituent (mainly due to cost), we do this to various segmentations of the donor file. But now it seems that the possibilities are endless.

A few sessions talked about the development of Personas: using demographic, psychographics and buying behavior to help build these Personas and then using the Persona to determine content and contact strategy.

We know that people give for different reasons, but we still build our campaigns for the masses and include a little personalization for some added “oomph”. With technology that we have at our hands, what if we were to go further?

What if– with Echo technology we start tailoring the telemarketer’s accent and pace to match that of the donor so they feel like they’re giving to a local organization? Donors living in Massachusetts would hear a Boston accent. Donors living in Atlanta would hear a Southern accent.

What if — with cookies we start serving up not just different ads but different homepages? A grandmother in Washington giving to a national organization would see images of the work being done in her home state. A young supporter fresh out of college would be served images of other college age people participating and making a difference.

It might take a lot of planning and some pretty tight programming, but wouldn’t it be worth it? Or would we just pull our hairs out going crazy trying to control and understand the madness we’ve created?

The technology is here. But is there anyone willing to grab and run?

Life Is One Big Improv

Here’s a blog I wrote back in 2009. Thought I’d share again on this new site.

After class last night, I started thinking about improv and how it relates to life. 

In improv, there are no lines to memorize, no actions to run through, no stage directions to follow. When you get up to do a scene, you don’t know what’s going to happen, where it’s going to lead, or who’s going to do what. 

Sometimes, all you know is the situation – if you’re lucky. 

Sometimes you just get a sentence. Or a word. 

Your creativity, your emotions, your actions determine how that scene is going to play out. You are the deciding factor. 

There are no rehearsals. There are no retakes. You’ve got one shot. And that’s it.

Kind of scary, uh? 

But isn’t that life. No rehearsals, no directions, no plot. 

Life is one big improv. Or a bunch of little ones going on at the same time. 

Think about it. 

Sure you can plan for things. You can prepare for what you’re going to say or do. But the truth of the matter is, you don’t know what’s going to happen next. You don’t know what that other person is going to say, act or feel. 

You don’t know. 

But the good news is, just like improv, you are the one who controls the scene. 

Now grant it, some people are better at improv than others. But everyone can be good. Anyone can make a scene fun and exciting to watch, as long as they follow the “rules.”

So I started thinking, if life and improv are so similar and if we can make improv great by following at least a few of the rules, then maybe, just maybe if we applied those same guidelines to our everyday situations, we could have a great life. 

It’s worth a shot. Right?

So here they are:
1. Have a want
2. Define your relationship
3. Don’t negate what you have been told to be true
4. “Yes, and…”
5. Listen
6. Resolve arguments quickly
7. Don’t go back
8. Don’t hold back
9. Trust your instincts
10. Have fun

These are just the 10 that I thought of. If you have any more, let me know and I’ll add them.