Greater responsibility begets greater opportunity. That's the situation nonprofits face when using email to reach potential donors and volunteers, speakers said recently at a panel convened by the Direct Marketing Association at its New York City headquarters.
Nonprofits are subject to the bigger risk/reward scenario than for-profits because of inherent goodwill and greater expectations attached to cause-related marketing efforts, compared with those undertaken by conventional profit-driven vendors. To capitalize, a nonprofit should use email to build a dialogue with the recipient that it's cultivating to become a donor, said Al DiGuido, CEO of Bigfoot Interactive, an email service firm based in New York City.
An episodic, unfocused series of emails requesting contributors to give money or time can do more harm than good, he said. Instead, nonprofits should consider promoting local events and using email to link participants and donors, said Shar VanBoskirk, a consulting analyst with Forrester Research, a market research firm in Cambridge Mass.
The big primary goal: "Establish a level of trust," DiGuido said. Doing so can yield big dividends, or an outsized return on investment, according to DiGuido. And for nonprofits, there is the added bonus of donors often recognizing that such campaigns are less expensive to conduct than traditional direct mail efforts, effectively generating more money for the core mission.
Essentially, respondents are acknowledging the impact of ever increasing mailing and printing costs.
Moreover, an email campaign provides immediate feedback that sponsors quickly can use to modify and improve an ongoing effort. "It's interactive in scope and inexpensive," said John Ripa, of Acxion Corp., a Little Rock, Ark.-based database marketing firm.
To win creditability, nonprofits must use best industry practices embraced by profit-driven marketers to build relationships with recipients, said Stephanie Miller, vice president, strategic service, ReturnPath of New York, an email service firm. "The same rules apply to nonprofits," she said.
Often, it comes down to basic blocking and tackling, said Michael Mayor, head of NetCreations, a ReturnPath division. "You need to be proactive on the front end. Build the list properly if you want it delivered and for it to be responsive," he said. Subsequently, confirm that the recipient has requested such email and check to ensure that it has been delivered.
"The whole game today is (measured) in terms of deliverability. Sending is easy. Delivery is difficult," DiGuido said. Ensuring that the email is delivered to a receptive recipient is a two-step process. For the transmission to clear the Internet Service Provider's (ISP) spam filters, it must adhere to industry standards. That means ensuring that the message is properly formatted and free of potentially objectionable content. "ISPs are willing to work with marketers who follow best practices," Miller said. To minimize problems "err on the side of compliance," suggested Mayor. Increasing the relevance and utility of messages requires that the sender balance the recipients' needs with its goals, said Forrester's VanBoskirk. "Giving customers what they ask for creates customer conversation," she said.
And those "marketers who are not relevant are spammers. It's easy for them (recipients) to block (unwanted) messages," DiGuido warned. To avoid having emails being considered spam, "give the consumers a forum to tell you what is relevant to them, and then listen," Mayor said.
Finally, the speakers urged attendees to use email as part of an integrated, well-conceived, well-timed marketing effort. "You need to tie email marketing into the overall mix" that often features direct mail and telemarketing, said Acxion's Ripa. Moreover, frequency of transmissions, as well as content, must be considered, several speakers said.
Copyright © 2005 The NonProfit Times.
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