Is Your Direct Mail Funnel All Bookends?
October 20, 2023
Kevin Schulman, Founder, DonorVoice and DVCanvass
We send out X pieces, Y people respond. Done and dusted. This isn’t a funnel, it’s two bookends and no books.
You’re missing out on the stories, lessons, and nuances contained within the “books” in the middle – the donor behavior, preference and needs in these crucial steps. Here’s a much more complete mental model of what’s happening with your mail.
This isn’t academic, these are different jobs you’re hiring mail to perform, whether you know it or not.
Case in point, there is very low correlation between Open Rate (OR) and Keep Rate (KR). What you do to optimize the former is different than the latter. Are you thinking about your keep rate?
Redefining success requires optimizing differently for each donor decision.
To have data on OR and KR one needs to a) be curious and b) spend R&D dollars to investigate. This is done with representative, panels of consumers/donors who agree to participate in periodic research. Mail panelists track the mail they receive,
- open and keep
- open and throw away
- don’t open and throw away.
So what do we know about OR and KR?
- Here are features that impact OR:
- Special and larger size OEs
- A teaser with rhetorical questioning technique
- Color (negative effect)
- Promotional design on back of OE
- Campaign Appeal Volume (negative)
- Weight of package
- Features that impact the KR
- It’s worth underscoring, OR does not cause or predict KR so none of the above elements matter for keeping the appeal (i.e., not opening and throwing away)
- Stamped Reply
- Charity Logo on letter
- Letter length (1 page vs. > 1 page)
- Volunteer as testimonial
- Asking recipient to fill out reply form (negative)
- Receiving mailing at end of month
Many of these will be familiar and perhaps part of “best practice” and get lots of head nodding confirmation bias. But it’s equally instructive to see what has no effect on Keep Rate while trying to avoid cognitive dissonance:
- any color choices on the letter
- sender’s signature
Your mileage may vary with these findings and the larger point and need holds; direct mail is nuanced and multi-stage and a lot more involved than the bookshelf funnel of top and bottom.