Let’s face it – there are a lot of moving parts when you plan a direct mail campaign.  It’s easy to become overwhelmed and bogged down in a maze of details and to-do lists.  In this 3-part series, I’ll break down how to plan, create, and evaluate your mail campaigns so you can successfully navigate your way from start to finish.

Plan A Direct Mail Campaign

1)  What is your budget?

It’s no surprise that budget is one of the driving forces behind any direct mail campaign.  It sets the stage for things like how many appeals you mail in a fiscal year, what time(s) of year you mail, which donors you target, and what will be included in the package.  The budget may even play a role in which suppliers you decide to use.  Hard costs associated with a DM campaign can include writing copy, translation, graphic design, printing stock, lettershop production, and postage.  Sourcing suppliers and getting quotes well in advance of the campaign will help you plan and stay on budget.

2)  What is your message?

Are you trying to raise money? Generate awareness? Expand your donor base?  Having a firm understanding of who you are, what you are after, and how to communicate that message to your audience are key to creating a great DM package. It could be you want to tell a compelling story (we’re big on those), create a sense of urgency around your cause, or maybe your Executive Director is announcing some big, exciting news to the world.  Think about the 4 W’s – what, when, why, and who will deliver the message – and be sure to consider those W’s from the donor’s perspective.  See Leah’s post on How To Pick Your Perfect Signatory for some helpful insight.

3)  Who is your target audience?

Now more than ever, it’s critical to deliver the right message to the right people in order to get their attention and procure desired results.  So ask yourself: Who am I speaking to, and why? If you have a clear answer, you can design your direct mail package to deliver specific messaging to groups of donors in your database.  Segmenting your data doesn’t have to be complicated, but some thought should go into how you can leverage the donors you already have in your database and build lasting, meaningful relationships.  For a more in-depth look at targeting donors check out Heather’s post It’s All About The Data!

4)  Create a timeline

Having a work back schedule or critical path is a great tool for assigning responsibilities and deadlines to each task.  It also forces you to think about all the pieces involved in creating a successful campaign.  In my experience, a typical DM campaign takes about 3 months from start to finish but extra time should be built in if you are sending a premium package or you are mailing at a busy time of year. There are many free tools available online depending on what type of functionality you need, but a simple Word doc or Excel spreadsheet works just fine.  Start by creating a list of major to-dos and then ask your suppliers and colleagues how much time they will need to complete their part of the project.  Once the information is collected, work back from the drop date and assign a completion date to each task.

5)  How does this fit into your multi-channel platform?

Direct mail is only one way to communicate with your donors.  Plan to repurpose content from your direct mail letter to create follow up email blasts, social media posts, and website content to help keep you in the forefront of your donor’s mind.  It is an effective way to keep donors informed and up-to-date on your organization’s activities, and reaffirm why they should continue supporting your cause.

Now you know what you need to get to planning!

Coming soon – Part 2 will walk you through bringing your plan to life and actually creating a direct mail campaign!

This post was written by Tracy Holmes, former Logistics Specialist at Good Works, who managed all aspects of direct marketing production.