We’re so tired of studies that set up email and direct mail as an either/or proposition.
EveryAction’s paper, 10 Steps For A Modern, Multi-Channel Approach to Direct Mall, seems to avoid that error. Written for fundraisers, it says: “anyone who says that you have to choose between digital and direct mail fundraising is setting you up with a false dichotomy.”
True, but then the authors turn around and argue that email is becoming a saturated market.
“If your donors and supporters are anything like the average user, they likely have filters set up that keep them from ever opening a large chunk of the email they receive,” they write.
That’s a sad commentary if your devoted donors are filtering your emails.
Then the study notes that direct mail “gets your message in front of your donors’ face in a way that email often can’t.” Agreed: assuming you have the budget, you can send lavish direct mail pieces that illustrate your cause and pop right out at the reader.
But direct mail, unlike email, cannot be filtered — the most the recipient can do is trash it without reading it. And there’s no way to unsubscribe without writing back or going into another channel, although the study argues that you should honor opt-out requests.
The study acknowledges: “Closing the donation loop can take longer with direct mail.” Moreover, it suggests that direct mail users should learn from email.
For one thing, the writers posit that you may have “already integrated collecting feedback into your email fundraising processes.”
That’s good. But why not include “a feedback form on the back of your direct mail reply device?” they ask. “Even if they don’t fill it out, donors will notice the good-faith attempt to seek out their opinions.”
Similarly, ”If you’ve ever sought your donors’ feedback — like a quick survey when they joined your email list, for example — you can and should refer back to it now,” the study continues..
Oddly, the authors mix up their history when they say that “A/B testing: it isn’t just for email!” A/B testing was used in direct mail long before anyone dreamed of email.
Still, users of both channels probably need to be reminded of how to do this. Once you have segmented your donors into different personas, “it’s time to create a few different versions (version A, version B, version C… however many you’d like) of each appeal you’re creating for each persona.”
In addition, the study urges fundraisers to thank donors ASAP. That is much more easily done with transactional email
In the end, it’s hard to say which channel influences the other most. Take the matter of using third-party lists.
“You already know that in the email world, purchasing email lists from random corners of the internet and sending people email they either haven’t consented to receive or have only marginally consented to receive — also known as “gray mail” — isn’t considered a best practice; so don’t take this approach in your direct mail program either.”
Here’s the lesson: Use multiple channels. And as nonprofit CRM provider, EveryAction suggests using a unified donor monument system to track them.