Cutting Through the Clutter: How to Get Your Direct Mail Campaign to Stand Out

June 7, 2019

SO MUCH MEDIA!!

I know I don’t need to tell you how pervasive all the media we consume is. It’s littered with targeted advertising messages. All that might make you think it’s getting harder and harder to cut through all that clutter. It’s everywhere. And it’s overwhelming.

According to Forbes, we’re exposed to anywhere between 4,000 and 10,000 ads every day. Even if someone spent just one second on each ad, that’s an hour and 7 minutes a day on the low end and 2 hours and 47 minutes a day at the max.

In the article where I saw that stat, I was served five ads, two of which followed me down the page as I scrolled. There was a video that auto-played without sound. And there was another that was an animated logo that would incessantly spin a ball on its finger trying to get my attention.

So, how do we, as marketing fundraisers vying for mental real estate, cut through the clutter? The good news is that there are lots of ways to reach people, and the Direct Mail I’m talking about here can occupy a different space from those other messages, and we have the power to make that happen.

For those aged 65 and up, most of their media time is spent on television, whether it’s live or recorded, taking up 60% of their consumption. This shows an interest in settling into a story that some of the other age ranges show less patience for.

Because we use direct mail to communicate with this audience, there are lots of opportunities that those micro-messages just don’t have the ability to get across. Here they are!

Draw them into the picture

When we write direct mail pieces, we take the time to draw a fully developed story. We build as much of a world as we can for the reader in two or four pages (there’s another blog post in here about letter length, but we’ll skip that for now…). Very few of those other messages expect to have your attention for more than a moment, so just as few even try to do this. They rely on attention-grabbing tactics.

We should revel in that opportunity to slow down and speak with the reader. Create a vivid image that resonates with someone long after they’ve put the letter down. Include the details that the mini-message has to elide. Envelope them in this world and let them live there while they read.

The donors need to be a big part of the picture we’re drawing. Fundraising should always be donor-centric, which is not what the 9,999 other pieces of content that we interact with each day are doing. We have the opportunity to make this about them because they’re a part of something special.

By taking the time to recognize them, we earn their attention. We earn their emotional connection. And hopefully, we earn their commitment to continue to support the cause we have in common.

Be emotive

The emotional connection we earn does not come easily. We get to build that with the person who has chosen to open the envelope and give us their time (and there’s already an amazing blog post here written by my colleague Nadine about how to do that!). That connection helps bring a story to life.

Emotion takes time to build. Advertisers know the value of emotion in these messages, and some manage to develop that connection, but it is less personal and relies more on clichés and tropes to get there. A well-written letter can bare the soul of a person to the reader. Add to that the letter revolves around a cause the reader usually already cares about, and you’ve got power.

The offer

Finally, and probably most importantly, supporters can’t find our offer anywhere else. We give them their moment as the hero. We provide the path to accomplishing their most important goals.

There are many “good deal” offers out there, but very few offer a genuine feeling. Big brands cash in on that by creating lifestyle brands. But in the end, when someone succumbs and buys a bottle of Coke, they never feel quite like the young people in sunglasses partying by a bonfire on the beach.

When our donors make gifts in response to a Direct Mail appeal, as long as we are doing our job thanking them and sharing their impact with great stewardship, they know that they have made the difference they wanted to make.

The messages we share with supporters get to the heart of our deepest desires for good in the world, and we can’t be glib in getting there. We get to take the slow road to a supporter’s heart, and in so doing, we occupy a space that no other marketing can ever challenge.

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Morgan Steacy

Morgan Steacy

Fundraiser. Dreamer. Punny Dad. Political junkie. Runner. Food lover (making and eating!). Exclamation mark enthusiast!!