Ask the DM Expert Lisa Nicole Dunne
lISA NICOLE DUNNE IS DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC FUNDRAISING AT UNICEF
When asked to write this, I started to think about how Direct Marketing has evolved in my experience and what factors I believe are most important to make DM effective, specifically in a charity environment.
A picture may say a thousand words, but the spreadsheet addict and geek in me is convinced that it is far more the use of data that makes for an effective DM. I remember in one of my first jobs being really impressed with the systematic generation of specific letters to suit customer situations-it all seemed so simple, automatically updating their details.
Now, thanks to CRM software or even just plain old excel, we can write to a large group of people about something very meaningful and specific to them, individually. We can segment, personalise, tailor and make things extremely relevant. We do this because we want to interact with these customers again and again, not just the “here and now” transactional focus of the past.
We all know DM communications have a job to do, even our customers! Whether that is to strengthen the relationship, look for feedback, ask for money, inform about a value-add service, or to sell something, we write to our customers (members/donors or whatever we call our clients), looking for a return, if not now, in the long run. The best marketing and communication programmes are exactly that - part of a bigger plan to develop a relationship, and are no longer sent in isolation.
In a non-profit environment the challenges are not radically different, for the most part. We still have to juggle and balance. It is still about balancing subtlety and simplicity with being clever and engaging; we still aim to come up with cut-through communications that ooze brand personality, yet are personable and motivating; we always ensure they are personalised, relevant and well-targeted, without crossing the personalisation line, or without making the segments too small to count. And we still have to juggle and balance short term gain with long term relationship goals. All the while ensuring we integrate with other brand messages. All in a days work? Well it certainly is why planning, and life-cycle management are becoming increasingly important in all sectors.
Now though, in my role with UNICEF Ireland, the challenge is about doing all of this - in a cost effective way. This was not new to me, as CRM budgets always have to stretch further than other marketing areas. But cost-effectiveness takes on even more importance in a not-for-profit scenario. Our donor’s do not want to see beautiful, clever, flip books, or high-gloss pull-out teasers that would certainly be worthy of awards. Our donors want to know that we are using money effectively, so communication is vital, but they do not want to see us being unnecessarily fanciful.
The job of the DM is still clear – we have to engage, thank, reassure, and inspire people to act (in this case with a generous donation). But now, more than ever, the challenge is to generate extremely high return on investment so that we have maximum funds available to do our job – to save thousands of children’s lives in 150 countries around the world.
You don't build it for yourself. You know what the people want and you build it for them." I love this Walt Disney quote, which for me this is the same as saying the customer is king. At UNICEF, our donors are vital to our continued work for children. The breadth of work UNICEF does for children around the world is so vast, that we need to be relevant when we talk to our individual supporters. We need to talk about how a simple mosquito net can save a whole family's life for 5 years to supporters who have an interest in malaria and we need to communicate about our progress for children’s education to our supporters of education programmes. We need to thank each individual donor for the individual contribution they have made to our work.
The key for me has always been relevance and personalisation, which in turns means being targeted, so all of this goes back to the basics of the database. What we know about our customers, how we maintain this, and then use it, are the cornerstones for effectiveness. I am still amazed that so often companies don’t invest enough time and effort into getting this right at all touch-points, on and offline, or in understanding how to select the right customers to include.
UNICEF Ireland’s DM has a job of raising money. We write to less people now than 3 years ago, and less often, but with improved efficiency because we don’t just write to everyone out of habit, and we write about things that matter to our individual donors.
Raindrops on roses - my 3 favourite things
Some of my favourite things in DM are when a business can agree that it makes sense to do something for nothing – a seemingly “random act of kindness” – just to say thanks, give a gift if it makes sense to do so, but most importantly resist the temptation to ask for something now. When I was at MINI Ireland, we sent all our customers a "thank you" in the form of a MINI blanket and it simply had a tag saying we were thinking of them and wanted them to feel “warm and fuzzy too”.
No P.S. Please come buy a new car! Still now, I meet MINI customers as I teach in DCU, who have their blankets and use them in their cars (yes they still drive them), or on their couches.
I also love when profiling and predictive analysis really drives results. It is often most suitable where you have hundreds of thousands of customer data records, but can be just as rewarding with smaller databases.
With UNICEF Ireland, nothing quite gets my adrenalin pumping than having an amazing day, literally within 4 days of writing to our donors and seeing the responses from supporters roll in. Nothing tells you are “on the money” quite like the immediate response in charity which IS the money. It is prospects like these that make me excited about returning after a maternity leave instead of being apprehensive.
UNICEF is leveraging the relationship building possibilities that digital platforms offer and engaging with new supporters through mobile and online marketing, and social networking. But whilst we are definitely more selective in times like these, donor relationship management or stewardship through postal communications continues to be at the core of how we raise funds and communicate with our supporters.
Lisa-Nicole Dunne has worked with Irish Life and Permanent, BMW Group Ireland, The Carphone Warehouse, Dublin City University, A-Z Children’s Charity, and is currently Director of Public Fundraising for UNICEF Ireland since February 2009. For more on UNICEF programmes for children, visit www.unicef.ie.