Hello and welcome back to my blog series about direct mail! My name is Dustin. I’m a Solution Engineer for Salesforce.org based in Charleston, SC. Today we are going to be going over an exciting topic in the marketing space: multichannel marketing.
What is multichannel marketing?
No, I’m not talking about those infomercials that seem to be on every channel when you’re flipping through at night. I am referring to the practice of distributing your nonprofit’s marketing message through a variety of media – print mailings, direct response television (DRTV), email, SMS, billboards, or even signs at your local bus stop.
Your nonprofit’s brand is made up of all of the ways people interact with your message. So you need to make sure people hear your message more than once, and in different places! In fact, IAB research shows that that consumers that view a consistent message across multiple channels improve their perception of that brand by 68%.
So why cover this as a topic in a blog series about direct mail? Well, direct mail is just one component of your overall marketing strategy. As I work with nonprofits of all shapes and sizes, I’m seeing other forms of marketing slowly pulling market share away from the direct mail space. I am not here to say that direct mail is dead – we are far from that. What I am saying is that an integrated multichannel marketing strategy is becoming more and more critical. It is important to consider direct mail as an important piece of your larger marketing plan.
Why should my direct marketing team care about multichannel?
How many times have you gotten a print direct mail piece from a nonprofit asking you for a donation when you just made one online? Does that make you feel like a valued donor? No. Does it make you feel like the organization knows and cares about you? No. Does it make you feel like they are a good steward of your donation since they are wasting money on unnecessary direct mail? Nope. It is up to you as part of the marketing or fundraising team to ensure that your constituents do not feel this way. And you do that by breaking down the silos and implementing a true multichannel strategy that puts your constituent (not your internal processes and tools) at the center.
If your organization is like many nonprofits, your probably have lots of internal silos. These silos could be organizational or technical. By organizational I mean the actual org chart – think digital marketing team vs. offline marketing team. A technical silo, on the other hand, would be having one database for email marketing, a separate one for fundraising, and a third for your program management. My number-one goal for this post is to encourage your organization to take down these silos wherever possible. This will result in a positive customer experience and in turn provide a higher return on your marketing spend.
Our nonprofit donors are looking to the for-profit space to define the experiences they have with the organizations they donate to. Let’s use Amazon as an example. When I make a purchase from Amazon, I expect them to know exactly who I am, to suggest what I may want to buy, and also to make the fulfillment process seamless by constantly updating me on delivery status. That is what your customers are expecting. It is the type of service that I am seeing my most successful clients provide to their constituents. If you also look at any list of the most innovative companies in the world you will notice that is what they are doing as well. Why should a nonprofit be any different?
So how do I start building a multichannel strategy?
The main goal of a multichannel strategy is to have a consistent customer experience across all departments. This means no silos. This experience takes places with every interaction to your organization – print, social, email, telemarketing, etc. After all, your customers see you as one organization, not separate departments.
I always encourage my clients start with the org chart first if possible. Are there places where you can begin to work across departments to ensure a cohesive marketing strategy? It could be as simple as planning emails and social posts to be sent out at the same time as print mailings to reinforce messaging. Or it could be as something as bold as changing the org chart to create a culture which places your constituent at the center of all of your marketing efforts – regardless of channel. Oftentimes this change needs to come from the top of an organization. For example, your Chief Marketing Officer may decide to consolidate the direct mail and email marketing teams under one common umbrella to ensure a consistent message. The main takeaway here is to create a marketing culture within your organization that puts your constituent first – not one that is beholden to channel-based internal departments.
Now on to the tech. As a central pillar, you should have one place to go for your marketing data. This could be structured data within a constituent relationship management system, or CRM (such as the Nonprofit Success Pack), archived in a data warehouse, or unstructured data. Within one of these data repositories, I encourage you to collect as much data as possible. Long gone are the days where you are just looking at last year’s fundraising data for direct mail segmentation. Leading organizations are now using statistical models combined with artificial intelligence to layer in program participation, events, volunteering statistics, and other third-party data to their fundraising activity to generate segments. These segments are then used to put their constituents on multichannel marketing journeys. You will need all of your data available somewhere to do this type of work. I encourage you to think though this very carefully when selecting software vendors. Your main goal here should be to eliminate data silos in any way possible. Be sure that you are selecting software vendors who can help break down silos and also provide access to industry-leading artificial intelligence tools.
Once you have all of your data in a single place, then you can take advantage of new and innovative tools to facilitate your marketing journeys. For example, Salesforce’s Marketing Cloud will allow you to trigger emails, SMS messages, and even social media ads based off of steps in a marketing journey.
That journey could be kicked off by responses to a print mailing. You could also use segmentation tools to create direct mail segments off of email responses, clicks, opens, etc. The possibilities are really endless. To come full circle, none of this would be possible if you have data silos.
Donor experience – not just attribution of revenue
I wanted to finish off this blog post by taking about a concept that is still being worked out in both the for-profit and nonprofit spaces. That is revenue attribution. This basically means who gets credit for the donation when it comes in. In the nonprofit world this is usually divided between online and offline, but it could also include other mediums like telemarketing or DRTV. This attribution is often a driver for team budgets and headcounts, so it can be a point of contention for many groups.
Sadly, nonprofit departments sometimes argue over who “owns” a donor and their donations. This can result in selfish business decisions and sadly more data silos as the departments work on their own priorities. Each of these groups are always very well-intended, but it often does not result in a truly seamless experience for the donor. It also does not offer the nuanced, detailed data that a consolidated impact platform would offer. I challenge you to consider the donor experience as the number-one priority at your organization. This may require taking a second look at your organizational structure, as I mentioned earlier, but it will pay off in the long run.
As for counting attribution, I have seen this done in many ways. Source codes are the current standard in the industry for heavy direct mail organizations. Gift codes are another easy way to attribute a gift to a department. I have also seen organizations do this via reporting on things like gift date and channel after the donation has been processed. It really all depends on your business needs. This is one of those areas that is changing rapidly, and I expect to see even more changes in the new year.
The bottom line is:
1. Direct mail is still very important, but you need to have an integrated marketing strategy that incorporates multiple channels for the best donor experience
2. Consolidate your organizational silos by collaborating across departments to plan your marketing – to avoid problems like duplicate mailings to people who have already donated at an event or online
3. Focus on creating a great donor experience.
As always, please reach out with any questions that you may have! For more on nonprofit fundraising and improving your communications, read this e-book.