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MarCom Matters

Issue: #49

Henry’s Mail

Owing to the quirkiness of birth order and longevity, my wife’s first cousin Henry recently turned 99 years old.

Now his hearing ain’t what it used to be, but he’s sharp as a tack, keeps up with current events and is as quick as anyone with the one-liner.

Over the last few years I’ve made it a point to stop by Henry’s house from time to time for a visit and some lunch.

Inevitably, during a lull in the conversation, he’ll point to the big stack of bulk mail sitting on his table and sigh, “You wouldn’t believe how much of this crap I get every day.”

You see, Henry has donated to a number of causes over the years.

And as we all know, no good deed goes unpunished. In his case, cash donations begat ever more solicitations.

While reading through several of the letters, I noticed a few distinct styles…

There’s the one we’re most familiar with, the personal story. It typically begins with a heartrending narrative about an individual, family or community.

There’s the no-nonsense, in-your-face style. This one firmly and repeatedly directs readers with statements like, “I need you to make a donation today so we can continue our mission.”

Then of course, there are the guilt-laden gifts: address labels, note pads, pens, flags, posters, calculators and even hard cash.

Afterwards, I began wondering if these approaches still work.

Turns out that the Direct Marketing Association, the group that measures such things, says the response rate for non-profit mail has dropped by a whopping 25 percent in the last 10 years.

Social media and email have taken up some of the slack, but not nearly enough to close the gap. And while telephone solicitation still produces the best results, it comes with a big price tag.

So what’s going on? Why keep doing the same-old-same-old in the face of declining returns?

I think the answer partly lies in not adequately identifying and responding to valid contributor concerns. And as luck would have it, these concerns are pretty similar to those of B2B buyers.

Here’s what I mean…

The bottom line: Buyers are concerned about more than products and services. But most B2B companies tend to ignore those concerns in their marketing and sales messaging. And that opens a big opportunity for you to differentiate your own company.

In the meantime, Henry has about 1,400 calendars he’s trying to unload. Let me know if you need one.