In fundraising we know how well direct mail gives us the space and time to tell a compelling story and engage an audience. But its use doesn’t have to be restricted to communications with existing supporters. In fact, It provides a clear one-to-one marketing approach, enabling you to send a personalised message to an individual.
One of the things we find makes cold direct mail stands out is that it delivers long term return on investment (ROI). A really strong creative pack can pay huge dividends as they tend to be looked at for longer than any other channel – recipients hold on to mailings and reread them later or share them, they get seen by more people and often stimulate discussions.
In fact, Royal Mail has found that, when asked, 80% of people remember seeing or reading something sent to them during the previous month, while 60% say mail puts the sender front of mind. JICMAIL (the Joint Industry Committee for Mail) data suggests direct mail tends to stay in the house for up to a week.
As a result, it fuels informed decisions and brings in supporters who are more likely to stay long-term. We are currently seeing campaign response rates average anything from 0.75% to 2.3%. These figures are strongly influenced by creative treatment, prompt levels, as well as the type of engagement that is being encouraged. For example, raffles and lotteries tend to receive higher response rates than packs for high cash asks and Direct Debits.
So, if you are considering launching a cold DM campaign, here are some key tips on regulations and how to engage supporters:
When considering cold mail for the first time or after a break, it’s not unusual to have concerns around falling foul of GDPR. With cold data, you can contact people under legitimate interests. If you’re using this legal basis, you must undertake a Legitimate Interest Assessment, the ICO has a very useful template. You must also be clear on who you’re contacting and why, as well as giving people an opt-out option with every mailing. You will also need to do your due diligence to ensure that your data supplier is compliant with the law.
And the work doesn’t stop when the mailing goes out. You should be prepared to respond to a consumer who may contact you with a query or complaint. You need to be able to answer promptly any questions around the provenance of your data; and do always suggest they contact the MPS if they are looking to stop contact from third party mailers. Managed this way it’s rare for a phone call to end badly.
Deciding your audience
Understanding who you can reach with cold mail is important. Generally, most of the data comes from lifestyle, mail order files, and the Electoral Roll open register. This means these people generally do not find direct mail intrusive, as they are receiving and responding to communications and offers through this medium already.
If your organisation has used cold direct mail at some point in the past, it can also be really useful to look at what it has done before: what dataset you mailed, what creative was used and who the creative was written for. Not to mention how it performed – not just initially but are the respondents still supporters? – all this detail will provide insight you can apply to your new activity.
Once you’ve worked out who you want to reach and with what messaging, the next key step is sourcing the data. It is possible to do this yourself by approaching data owners directly. Alternatively, and an easier option, you can use a list broker. This tends to be the route most charities take, not only will they provide a wide and impartial view of what data’s available and know where to find it, but they will also take care of the due diligence for you.
Thanks to the high standard of today’s cold data and the rules under which we’re allowed to use it, you won’t need to source huge volumes – which also of course keeps down your production costs. How big a universe of names you test and then mail will depend on your resources and objectives, but a key thing to remember is that rather than being about numbers, successful data sourcing is about identifying the right lists. And within them, the data selections with the greatest potential for your cause.
Cold direct mail really is a valuable addition to the fundraising mix. Not only does it enable you to find new receptive audiences interested in your cause, but with people also receiving less mail than they used to, it stands out on the doormat. So, if for charities seeking new ways of growing your supporter base to bring in more income, it’s certainly worth a look.