Taking the longer view

The beauty of direct marketing is that it is measurable and accountable. Send out mailing “A” and you can tell exactly what it generates: how many responses, how many donors, how many dollars.

The curse of direct marketing is that it encourages more limited, short-term thinking. If an email appeal generates “X” in revenue, or an advocacy outreach generates “Y” clicks, and a newsletter or other informational appeal generates fewer of each, is it worth the effort?

I’d like to suggest two ways in which a longer view may be of benefit.

Take a longer view forward. 

I think we all agree a donor is worth more than the initial contribution.  Certainly annual giving is worth considering, as is longer term value  (aka lifetime value, a cumulative value over a minimum of three to five years).

Most of us would likely agree there’s also value in non-donor responses as well. An inquiry, request for information or other engagement may well convert to a donation at a later date.  But how do you know what that engagement is worth?

Take a longer view back, as well.

Not every dollar can be tied directly (attributed) to an individual effort. This has been an ongoing challenge to marketers, especially as the number and types of outreach (web, email, social, etc.) have increased. 

Back to the email example noted above. Our hypothesis is that informational messages contribute to engagement and engagement increases the likelihood of donations. There is a value in those messages, even if it’s not direct revenue.

But how can you begin to establish that value?

If you eliminate the informational messages and open rates begin to fall, revenue trends will likely follow. Unfortunately, that won’t be measurable in a single effort. Likely not even in a single year. It may require a longer historical perspective.

The problem is, the longer view is only available if you build it now. And that investment requires a bit of vision in its own right!