One of the many ways the nonprofit sector kicks the commercial world's butt is our reliance on direct marketing rather than the squishy, money-wasting "discipline" of advertising. Not many nonprofits are flailing about trying to measure "impressions" or "noted" scores. We have response rates, ROI, and net revenue to tell us if we're connecting with our audiences.
And we can test our work to find out for sure if one approach is better than another. Wanna see someone's head explode? Ask a brand-advertising person to test something.
Inside Direct Mail recently featured an article on testing offers. Price and Prejudice: Using Logic to Guide Offer Tests:
Most marketers spend too little [time] on lists and even less [effort] on the testing of offers. They plunge into expensive, new creative, convinced that a fresh look or tone will increase their ROI. They've been proven wrong a thousand times. There are no shortcuts to direct marketing results ... thoughtful, solid and constant offer testing is the only way to get there ....
Spiffy new creative is exciting and fun. (Heck, I'm a creative director -- that's what I like best!) But the real leverage is farther upstream with the offer, or, in fundraising terms, the call to action. You can get quick and inexpensive improvements to a well-performing direct mail appeal by testing:
- The ask array. Try starting with lower ask amounts, or (more likely) going higher. Try more amounts than the standard three. Play with the order or look at emphasizing one. You can probably find a good sweet spot between response and average gift by testing this.
- The handle. If you're asking for round amounts ($25, $50, $75), try odd amounts ($23.91, $48.72, $76.20).
- Adding an interactive or bounce-back device. Includes something in the package for the donor to sign and return that symbolically emphasizes the importance of her gift.
- Adding leverage. Matching funds or other things that multiply the donor's gift. This is as near to a sure-fire winner as you can get.
- Being more specific. If what you're asking the donor to do is clear and motivating, more specificity is better. But not automatically.
Testing is a powerful tool for understanding donor behavior. Use it, and watch your results improve.