Friday, 18 November 2011

Getting the basics right - #1

And what’s wrong with that?

I give to a number of organisations. Both from personal choice and to monitor what my competitors are up to. And I am constantly amazed by how many different creative packs I receive. Every year, every time.  I’m also horrified by how many get my name or address wrong.  Or my latest from The Princes Trust – that couldn’t even be bothered to use my name – simply sent to ‘Dear Prince’s Trust Supporter.’ (I have a monthly direct debit with them). 

(There’ll be a separate post on Christmas mailings)

I read emails asking; “Why are our direct mail results going down?” Every time I resist the temptation to reply and simply say: it’s probably because you’re not doing it properly. 

Get the basics right: learn to love that data!

Ask: Where are your results and reviews? How are you segmenting your data? And if you don’t know the answer, or haven’t done these things, you blooming well should. How can you know what’s worked and who’s given if you don’t do these things? Why are you wasting your money developing new mailings, when you don’t know what works?

Remember, remember the cornerstone of direct marketing:

If you think that creative development is the most important element in direct marketing then you’re in the wrong business. Even a brilliant mailing will fall if sent to the wrong people. Even a dull one can do well to the right ones. Good data is an asset. Poor data is a liability.

Choosing the right audience is so much more important than what we can do creatively. Even with the best creative in the world, if the data is inaccurate, incomplete or out of date, the appeal is going to suffer. I once cancelled a direct debit with UNICEF because they kept calling me Mrs. 

I’m certainly not going to give to The Prince’s Trust Christmas appeal. If they can’t be bothered to call me by my name, I can’t be bothered to send them my money. They can’t want it that bad.

The database is full of people – not just data. What counts is how we use it. Direct marketing is a way of talking directly to our donors – the database is the tool that makes this happen. We go to the expense of recruiting new donors – we shouldn’t lose them just because we get it wrong.

Danielle Atkinson


  1. Wise words indeed. It is frightening how many charities are indifferent to the importance of data.Can't wait for your Christmas mailing special!

  2. Hi, your article is very interesting but are you referring to regular 'snail mail' or email communication. If it's the latter, can you recommend any software for personalising emails?


  3. "If you haven't any charity in your heart you have the worst kind of heart trouble" to cure it help people, let's unite for one good cause, be a volunteer"save lives"!mawaddainternationalaid