Your donor and enrollment messages are up against a stack of competition. As you reach out for year-end donations and begin the enrollment season, lots of others want your prospects attention too. Your brand has to push through the massive volume of advertising (both digital and postal) during the holiday season, plus loads of direct mail appeals. Lots of others are investing big budgets in getting the attention of consumers – but to you, they are vital communication moments that need to result in action.
The inbox is too full. Both digital and mailed marketing is overwhelming especially at year-end – forcing people to sort for only what is most important to them.
Since you aren’t likely to want to compete against the advertising budget of massive organizations and commercial interests, you need to find a different way to ensure that your messages stay top of mind. One key strategy is deep personalization – touching people in a way that connects to them personally and makes them part of your community.
Personalization is a Difference Maker
Personalization is not only an accelerator of decisions and giving levels, but it’s also a difference maker. If you aren’t deeply personalizing all of your communications then you are actually doing the opposite, you’re training people to ignore you. Human brains are wired to filter out the noise to focus on the relevant. Being relevant means delivering to people the things they are actually interested in—not just what your organization is interested in telling them.
Every time you deliver something that is irrelevant to an individual, you add one more stone to the wall that separates your organization from what people actually pay attention to.
What is Personalization?
Personalization is more than just the name on the top of the letter or email. It includes:
- Speaking to specific interests of smaller groups or segments
- Timing your communication for the individual time of day and week (yes, that’s possible)
- Sharing imagery that appeals to the individual
- Providing web content that changes to match the person who is viewing
- Avoiding any communication that is less than captivating to them personally
Nonprofits and schools have sometimes opted just to show large numbers of images online and send long e-newsletter communications to cover all the bases, but these actually dilute the brand and often irritate people. Segmenting lists is just the beginning, and often isn’t maintained.
To become highly effective, we have to employ the preferred communication channel too. Millennials prefer text messages, while boomers respond better to email and sometimes to Facebook Messenger. Some people still like snail mail. Preferences for response options come into play including online chat, paper response, or email and online forms.
Personalization is when preferences, communication channels, interests, and readiness are all combined to deliver the right information, in the right way at the right time. But without a little help, getting that done can be overwhelming.
That Personal Touch Requires a Technology Assist
Without the right kind of marketing automation, personalization can be impossible, keeping staff trapped in the world of endless lists and constant mailmerge. It simply isn’t realistic to take personalization beyond the name, address, and previous donor level without a technology assist.
The right kind of automation has six primary characteristics:
- It is built around a CRM (customer relationship manager).
- It collects personalization data from a variety of sources.
- It allows for easy grouping or segmentation from all the data available.
- It allows personalized communication based on different criteria.
- It supports a variety of response and payment options.
- It supports both recruiting and donor communications.
Effective technology learns from the interactions that the prospect has with your brand. It progressively profiles their interests, preferences, and responses.
These are all essentials that define the right kind of technology in place. What used to be available only to large institutions is now available to the majority of schools and nonprofits. A comprehensive solution should not be something that is entirely “cobbled together” from different resources. This can just create lots of digital maintenance tasks which defeats the purpose of automation. Just like hiring the right employee – you want your automation to have the right basic skill set from the start.
Effective automation doesn’t feel automated. Because it collects a variety of information about people beyond what they put into a form, it allows for messages that make connections you wouldn’t have considered that go way beyond what event they attended or how much they gave.
The other important part about what automation can deliver is to free staff from routine activity while still increasing its personal value. Things like not having to send out an email for every response, quickly creating lists based upon every possible data point, and getting prompted when it’s time for a personal thank you is an invaluable way to leverage limited staff time. It may seem counterintuitive, but Automation can actually help us put the human back into our communication and restore some sanity into our work life.