“Why is Direct Marketing behaving in this way?”

A bit of a taster or my recent IOF London’s First Thursday masterclass “How to set up a direct marketing fundraising programme”

“Think of a cause, any cause, and I will give them £10…”

I started my talk by offering to give away the ticket price of the event to anyone willing to tell me their name and why they wanted to make the donation but, in order the qualify, they had to…

Think of that cause now. Think about the work that they do and imagine, if you’re not already, imagine you are a long term supporter with a monthly direct debit.

Now imagine you see an appeal from that organisation. Any type of appeal but one asking for you to increase your direct debit. The appeal might be about a new project or the need to do more work. And this appeal makes you want to increase your direct debit. So you do. You increase your direct debit by the amount the appeal asked for. Then, a few days later, you get three letters. Three separate, similar looking, letters:

  • One is a letter thanking for your old direct debit amount.
  • Another is the same thank you letter for a lesser amount.
  • And the third is a thank you letter for the new amount you have just increased your direct debit to.

Three, almost identical, yet contradictory letters. With your bank account details on them!

How does that make you feel? (The consensus in the room was that you would be pissed off)

Well it is a true story. All of that did happen and I was the person that sent the three letters. The man who got the letters thought we were wasting his money. Fair enough. So he telephoned the chief exec (by boss’s, boss’s boss!) and told him what he thought. And the chief exec emailed my then director and asked her,

“Why is direct marketing behaving in this way?”

I got the message from her by email too, because I was in database training that day. I didn’t comprehend the irony at the time.

The problem was that previous donations were not marked acknowledged. My process thanked all the gifts not marked acknowledged and I did not realise, when I sent the 50 or so thank you letters, that there were more letters than there should have been. So although that wasn’t completely my fault, it was my responsibility.

And from this I learned the obvious but important things about direct marketing.

The three obvious but improvement important things about direct marketing.

  1. Each person has the potential to take what you do very personally.
  2. A grasp of the detail will help you make that a process works for you and your cause.
  3. Sometimes you have to embrace failure.

I then got to the point and explained how to set up a direct marketing fundraising programme and gave away my £10.  Anna from CAFOD was the lucky fundraiser, here’s the proof (because transparency in fundraising is always a good thing)

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How to fail – my top 5 mistakes (plus an infographic of some things I did right)

After six years and quite a few job titles, the time has come for me to move on from the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign to an exciting new role as Director of Fundraising and Marketing for Dignity in Dying. In my last few weeks of an epic three month notice period I took stock of what I have learnt.

What I learnt, was how to fail.

My top 5 #Fails

1. I late adopted

Sometimes the “next big thing” is the last thing we want to hear about. When you are a one and a half man digital team (half of me, one web manager) you don’t want another profile to manage. For this reason, I was very late to the Twitter party – what opportunity did I miss when my head was buried in Facebook?

I think I made up for it later, and a combination of getting colleagues posting their own content on Twitter coupled with a bit of content curation (like Storify)  is paying dividends now. But it all should have happened a year sooner I think.

LEARNING: You’ve got to be in it to win, fail fast

2. I made my mind up

I’m stubborn. Once I have decided something is a waste of time, it is a waste of time.

I would tell people not to waste time messing around with Google+. “Meh to Google+” I would say, *tumbleweed*. But the goal posts are always moving, especially in digital places, and a closed mind will fast go down the path of making big mistakes. Is it time for a rethink?

Fortunately I often caveat my Google+ advice by saying,  “if three people ask you why you are not on there then, perhaps, you should consider it”. So I might just wriggle my way out of that one. But I am still questioning my thinking on it. I am a fan of Google products and have heard the Google+ described by a very smart man (smarter than me, as I have forgotten his name but it was in a Google+ hangout at BarcampNFP) as “a platform unlike any other”. Also I recently read that Google+ is Google. Deal

LEARNING: Beware a closed mind

3. Nothing is optimised for mobile

Not one stinking page on the sites I looked after. It’s all pinch in, pinch out, thumb around and pinch again. I know how important it is, but I have failed to make it happen. I’ve included it in my handover, but that is lame. Utter fail.

LEARNING: Try harder, it’s always possible/worth it

4. I spend more time capturing data than analysing it

So much bloody data! Email data, web analytics, Facebook insights, social media monitoring, direct mail response rates, dashboards, heatmaps, reports, income forecasts…will it never end!

But what did I do with it all? Did I notice what the data was showing me and recommend the right way forward?

Well, some of the time I made good changes and some of the time I spent ages crunching numbers, slaving over a hot spread sheet only to realise I don’t know what the bloody hell is actually going on. But I can make a nice graph.

LEARNING: Always be clear about the difference between reporting and analysis?

5. I work too hard (no really)

I wanted to prove how vital adoption of digital tools and tactics to an organisation like MDC was and is. To a certain extent, I think I may have, but in doing so I have made my remit and workload too large. After an intensive three day handover with my replacement, it dawned on me how much stuff beyond what is the core of my job I do.

I’m always sticking my nose into other people’s problems to – I like to fix things. I like to show people how to do stuff – I’m part trainer/part coach and I love that. But it does mean to get all the core work done, you have to read draft copy on the way in to work, arrive a bit early, leave a bit late, skip a proper lunch break and tweet from the train on the way home. I’m a victim of the ease of mobile working. (Got your violin out yet?)

In all seriousness, no matter how good someone is at their job and developing their role, the more they do that the harder they are to replace and the bigger the risk of them leaving is to your organisation. I know one (or perhaps two) small organisations that might very well close shop or shrink dramatically if one key member of staff left. That’s a genuine concern for the our sector I think.

LEARNING: Stay focussed, delegate something

Final thought (and the promised infographic)

A recent study has shown that if you want to learn from failure, the path to learning is to forgive yourself after you make a mistake. Sometimes that is easier than others, but I can always take solace that I did do some things right. To mark some of those things I did do right (I think) at the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign, I have created the infographic below.

It is by no means a masterpiece. I cobbled it together using Hubspot’s  Marketer’s Simple Guide to Creating Infographics in PowerPoint. But what it does do is mark the end of a huge part of my life and the start of an exciting new chapter in my career.

Thanks to all the people at MDC, who made this infographic possible 🙂