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Case Study: Direct Mail Draws Blood (for a Good Cause)!

Date: March, 2013 --

            This Fresh Data Case Study looks to the Danes to demonstrate how a relatively small nonprofit, with a similarly small database, made use of a creative and well developed multichannel campaign that began with a targeted direct mail letter. This campaign will demonstrate the old mantra of quality over quantity when it comes to the size of your database and goes on to illustrate how nonprofits can incorporate a triggered email follow-up into the mix to produce that one-two-punch and boost the performance of the campaign. This case study is brought to you by Data Services, Inc. in partnership with our friends at the Prescott Report.

            The mission of one Danish charity is to encourage people in the Copenhagen area to donate blood. They normally mail four times a year in an effort to reach possible new donors, especially among those recently turned 18, and of course to mobilize previous donors. Their best response rate ever was 3.6%. 

            Their 2009 campaign styled “Why Not” obtained the highest total response rate ever through a carefully constructed psychologically inspired campaign. It was designed to articulate the objections of young people (18 to 28), often unspoken and not completely formed, and get to “Yes” using a very carefully constructed direct mail piece and an interactive website that would turn “No”, or “Maybe” to “Yes” through a series of likely questions or doubts and honest and straightforward answers.   

             The first insight was the articulation of the barriers within the target population to “Yes”, found to be four primary ones: ignorance of the need for blood; fear of the donation process; inertia; indecision. The campaign acknowledges concerns and barriers and the campaign inspires the target audience to reflect and choose to participate by answering their practical and emotional objections, making it easy to be a donor, and basically educating the target audience about donating.

            This was a four element multi-media campaign starting with a direct mail piece containing a reply postal card, a link to a very challenging and carefully constructed website, and concluding with a follow-up email two weeks after any visit to the site.

            First, the letter: Uncomplicated and to the point, it covers the objections and reasons for the “No” or the “Maybe” and speaks with a voice filled with respect, credibility, and a touch of humility. It also adds a nice sweepstakes sweetener.  

            The reply card reinforced the messages of the objection–struggle and communicated the typical, known barriers to volunteering to be a donor and the good reasons for doing so. The card also included an entry to a sweepstakes for a prize, the color of which was, of course, red. As noted, 50% of the new donors said “Yes” by returning the card. 

            And let’s recall that for the “No’s” and the “Maybe’s” there was the website.  The landing page mimicked the reply card device verbatim, invited the entry for the prize competition and permitted immediate registration to become a donor. Most critically, the site was carefully designed to lead the visitor to a series of questions addressed to the reasons why the visitor was not already a donor.

            The research had discovered 9 “why not” reasons. As the visitor selected any or all of these, he was led to a series of answers to the “why not”. For example, “I don’t have time” led to “It only takes 20 minutes and no more than 4 times a year.” Any “Why not” reason led to answers designed to counter the negative and lead to “OK”. If the visitor was still at “No” or “Maybe”, they were nevertheless led to the prize sweepstakes and entered in the drawing.

            The campaign was a multichannel one given that two weeks after the direct mail piece arrived, those identifying as “Maybe’s” received an email asking them if they had decided and inviting them to return to the site and register as a donor.

The results are truly extraordinary:   

The campaign mailed 6,700 young people in November 2009.

A total of 8.3% of these, or 566, ultimately signed up as new donors.

50% of the new donors, 283, became donors through the reply cards.

10% or 670 visited the website. (How much was sweeps-driven? We don’t know.)

29% of the visitors, 194, signed up on the website. (Given that the letter was designed to drive “No’s” and “Maybe’s” to the site, that’s an impressive conversion rate.)

At Data Services, we read that data to say they beat the control promotion by 130%! And note that it all started with a superficially simple letter in an envelope that was the result of sophisticated appreciation of what makes human beings decide to give blood (And certainly having the properly formatted, correct name and the address on the envelope was critical to that). The utilization of a triggered email marketing message is also a textbook example of utilizing direct mail in conjunction with an email follow-up as an effective new customer/donor acquisition tactic. 

Reach out to discuss how Data Services, Inc. can assist you in improving the way you go about utilizing data to inform your domestic and international direct marketing programs. If you’re not already working with us, we can only ask, “Why Not”?