Wednesday, April 23, 2014

BIG’s Blog: Integrated Marketing is a Lie

Direct mail as a marketing and distribution fundraising methodology is in terminal decline. Of course you can still mail to long-time supporters and generate a positive return, and if you really have scale (mailing several millions) it can still generate significant net revenue.

But if you think direct mail will carry you long into the future, then why is your donor base growing older? And if you don’t know your donor base isn’t growing older because you haven’t done an age overlay … you are lying to yourself or, worse, your organization.

If you’re a small-to-medium-sized Development organization watching your mail program shrink and you get an email from an association or trade group touting a seminar or webinar with the title Direct Mail Is Alive And Well, how does it make you feel?

Obviously the intent is to combat the reality of the perception that mail is in decline. And of course with some of the largest nonprofit fundraising organizations moving out of direct mail, there is probably panic in the ranks. I mean … Exactly HOW MANY BILLIONS DID THE U.S. POSTAL SERVICE LOSE LAST YEAR?

But it gets worse and even more insidious. These mail veterans know that mail is in terminal decline, yet the latest ruse to get you to keep your mail program as the base of your fundraising is by adding the new sexy digital tools (email, Website, and social media). This combined effort, the so-called “integrated” or “multi-channel” marketing will somehow do better than just the mail program. This is the 1 + 1 = 3 promise.

And, of course, if it doesn’t work … it’s your fault. You just need to keep tweaking it until you see positive results.

Horse Hockey!

If you take direct mail out of your integrated mailing program, what are you left with? That’s right … digital online tools.

And how many of you are making pure online efforts generate enough revenue on-its-own to replace direct mail program revenue?

The problem with what you are trying to do online is a lack of  SCALE. We all understand that if you buy a million prospect
names for a mailing and you get a 1% response, that is 10,000 new donors added to your file. So how do you do that online?

You don’t!

Quit trying to take the “direct mail marketing” methodology and apply it to the online world!

An email communication IS NOT the same thing as a direct mail piece of mail. Completely different dynamics. How many letters do you get in the mail daily? How many emails do you get daily? Do YOU treat mail the same as email? I rest my case.

And, actually, email is the closest cousin to analogue terrestrial mail, but they don’t work the same … period.

Do this: Forward this blog post to five of your Development friends from other organizations. Ask them to honestly tell you if they believe integrated or multi-channel marketing is growing their revenue beyond what mail could do just by itself.

Listen to what they have to say.

Look, I know who the best direct mail fundraisers are. Remember, I’ve been a professional direct mail marketer for over 35 years. The best are still eking out gains . . . but they are running multi-million mailing programs. BUT THESE PEOPLE ARE SCARED TO DEATH.


Because they are smart. They know how to maximize and optimize the profitability of their mail programs and they see their donor files aging just like yours … which tells them that the decline is coming.

Even as they continue to profit from mail today, they know their future is online and many of them are looking at online models that “scale.”

Want to know more about scaling online … email me.

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