By David Jefferies, Head of Marketing, Pitney Bowes
The charity sector faces a constant marketing challenge. Campaigns must have impact to draw in new donors and encourage repeat giving. But the public will quickly become suspicious of any campaign that is too overtly ostentatious or gimmicky.
When it comes to delivering the message, charities tread a fine line between driving awareness and alienating those who feel the money spent on creative wizardry would be better invested in more tangible benefits.
Direct mail remains a critical medium for the sector. Used successfully, it can deliver high-impact for relatively little outlay. Clearly, continued volume growth means that the direct mail produced by charities remains persuasive to the public.
A recent Pitney Bowes survey testifies to the strength of charity mailings. The survey asked a sample of consumers across Europe’s five main economies to nominate the sectors that they believed produced the most effective direct mail.
Results show that charities are regarded as one of the major winners in the world of direct marketing, behind only the free-spending retail and travel/holiday sectors in terms of perceived campaign effectiveness.
Undoubtedly, available technology is helping charities of every size to achieve cost-effective direct mail success. Charities can work within tight budgets without settling for compromise in campaign sophistication.
For smaller charities, perhaps operating at a local or regional level, mail volumes will not be anywhere near as large as high-profile national counterparts. But encouraging donors and supporters remains critical.
Much thought – and not a little expense – will go towards fine-tuning the creative message. Certainly, campaign success rests, in large part, on the power of the mailing to engage. But those charities seeking true cost-efficiency from their campaigns must look beyond the captivating word-play and imagery to the mechanics of creating and distributing the message.
Interestingly, today’s climate of deregulation in the postal market has brought significant benefits to lower volume mailers. Users of franking machines can benefit from a discount of 2p per mailed item – a not inconsiderable sum for a charity sending a steady volume of communications to supporters and prospects.
At the lower volume level, folding, inserting and franking technology continues to move on apace. The best technology is developing in line with today’s liberalised postal market to offer users choice, convenience and professionalism.
Of course, we now live in a multi-channel world and consumers rarely restrict themselves to messages from just one media. The reality is that a variety of media must work in tandem to deliver the best results.
For instance, email campaigns will work best when linked to other media and consistent personalisation is ensured across the channels used. However, email is largely a customer communication tool rather than an effective means of prospecting.
So, once a customer is on board, email can be a very successful means of communication, but often direct mail can drive customers online in the first place.
The EU Directive on Privacy and Electronic Communications, in tandem with local telephone privacy laws, places increasing limitations on unsolicited prospecting. Mail, however, is often seen as a non-intrusive and valued means of communication by both businesses and consumers. What’s more, response figures remain steady.
Charities face a very real need to ensure that their campaign communications stand out amongst the weight of marketing competition. Used intelligently, direct mail represents a cost-effective and dynamic medium.
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