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My big marketing mistake

I goofed! – My ironic (moronic) use of digital to promote direct mail fundraising

Mea culpa.  I’m guilty of being a bit blind to the obvious last week. In my excitement to share a catchy marketing pitch, I forgot the very principles that were expounded in the nifty short video we produced.

Here’s how it played out. I’d read that only 7% of individual donations in North America are given online*.  That’s despite nearly 20 years of digital marketing advancement. I wasn’t that surprised — we’d been part of direct mail fundraising for all those years. We know that despite the growing number of valuable digital opportunities for sharing the stories of not-for-profits and online-only campaigns, like the recent Movember, there is still strong evidence that direct mail (DM) drives good ROI over the long term. And online giving is often inspired by well written personalized letters and choice photos delivered via direct mail.

In almost every single case new digital channels are more effective when used in concert with DM, phone and others. Canada Post recently re-engaged in the space with their Smartmail Marketing branding, making the case for the appropriate and highly successful use of direct mail.

I goofed! - My ironic (moronic) use of digital to promote direct mail fundraising. Click To Tweet

So, back to my mistake… with Giving Tuesday presenting itself as an excuse, I decided to make a short 1-minute video reminding people of the importance of the lowly envelope in supporting organizations that work with the challenges of poverty, disaster, education, the arts etc. My slogan: “On GivingTuesday, open your heart, an envelope and your cheque book”.

I’d imagined modest interest in the video, not viral exactly, but a rising Giving Tuesday re-awakening of the importance of DM to fundraisers. After all, I’m connected with hundreds of people whose livelihood is dependent upon envelope production, printing, writing, art, design, strategy and delivery of direct mail. On top of that, the many not-for-profits that I’m connected with might just be keen on this friendly supportive fundraising message too.

Bright and early on Tuesday, we started by posting the video on selected social media, sharing it by email and through LinkedIn messages to a very select group, including our staff. We personalized the shares and invited people to view and share the video. By noon only a few dozen people had viewed it. Five days later one hundred or so views were recorded.

The penny dropped at my 3 p.m. conference call with about 10 members of our team – just hours after we’d released the video into the wild. It was a coaching meeting to our Customer Experience Group. I’d asked who’d viewed the video I shared in the morning by email. The phone line hung there… almost completely silent. People were just too busy to open that email, and, my own staff included, had prioritized their email and put my message low on the list.

I’d made the crazy mistake of thinking that email and digital was the best way to get my message out. The very same lesson that I was trying to make in the video — that digital is not the answer for all marketing problems — had come back to bite me on my mouse finger.

Next year, I’ll be preparing a short note, printing it, personalizing it and dropping it in the mail a week or so ahead of Giving Tuesday. The irony of receiving an invitation by paper mail to watch a short Youtube video will not be lost on those who open it.

What I learned won’t stop me from tweeting and sharing this blog post. These things all work together in an ecosystem of storytelling.

BTW, here’s the link to the video. How You and the Post Office Can Change The World

* Blackbaud 2104 charitable giving report

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