Hugg’s Monthly Tip: We need left and right.

Hugg's Monthly TipLeft leg, right leg. Right hand, left hand. Left eye, right eye. Right ear, left ear.

To function correctly, we need everything on the left and everything on the right. Without that symmetry, we compensate, and when we compensate we use a lot more energy to coordinate our efforts.

It’s the same with your messaging. Does your right letter know what your left email is doing?

Are your emails and postal mail coordinated? Yes, they’re different, but like our two hands, when working together they’re much more powerful than working alone. They need to look and sound like they’re coming from the same organization that has the same mission and concerns.

Yet like your hands, your emails and postal mail shouldn’t be clones of each other. One might be stronger than the other, and one could be favored. But as much as they differ, they can’t look like they come from different people.

Yet a lot of messaging does. Maybe different people were responsible for each? Did your boss want your “new media” to have a “new look,” while your paper is “traditional?”

The solution may be as simple as having the same design standards. It could be a meeting between “hands.” Regardless, now is the time to clap them together and to fix the problem. Paper and e-mail don’t do as well alone as they do as a team. The hands need to shake, and agree.

Worth Considering: Email’s older cousin comes to the rescue.

Worth Considering from Matt HuggHow old is an “old” e-mail in your in-box? Three hours? Eight? How about 24? How many e-mails are over two days old? In e-mail terms, these are the Methuselahs.

E-mail and its cousins like text messages and internal social network messages are great ways to communicate quickly and efficiently. But there’s a major point to consider before you hit the “send” button for your next solicitation: what’s this message’s “hang time.” How long will your carefully crafted e-mail stay in the prospect’s mail box, and if it’s there, will it get a positive response?

But even if it’s not immediately deleted, the clock is still not your e-mail’s friend. The life-cycle of an e-mail is counted in minutes. If you get a response, you get a response now, not days from now. So if you’re not getting responses, what’s the solution? Send more e-mail?

Ironically enough, no. You know the answer. Despite the fact that e-mail is a much shorter lived medium, social constrictions stop us from sending more of them. In early 21st century America, being an accused “spammer” is up there with “breaking and entering” if you were to believe the popular press – especially if the e-mail recipient didn’t ask for the mail.

So what comes to the e-mail’s rescue? Its low tech, older cousin, postal mail. Why? Because postal mail stays on your prospect’s desk longer than an e-mail stays in an “In Box.” How much longer? Take your own survey based on your own mail and e-mail, but I’d say hundreds to thousands of times longer.

So is e-mail worthless? Not at all. The more gifts you can get by e-mail the more money you save, not just in mailing, but in gifts processing costs. After all, your donor is doing much of the data input by entering the gift information themselves.

What you need to do is back up your e-mail with paper mail. Use the same themes and maybe the same images. Coordinate each with the other so when someone gets your paper mail they remember the e-mail, and when they get the e-mail they can act on the paper. It can be a powerful combination.

Of course, I’m biased. I can write both your e-mail and paper mail solicitation. But whether you use me or do the work in-house, remember that e-mail works best with its older cousin paper mail, than it does alone.

Hugg’s Monthly Tip: Early and Often.

Hugg's Monthly TipEarly and often. When was the last time that the head of your organization communicated with your constituents? Not long ago, I hope. Yet that’s rarely the case. For all the work that’s required to run your typical nonprofit, sending out an update to 10,000 of her or his closest friends – your donors, prospects and clients – is probably not #1 on the list. That’s okay. Make it easy and write the letter (or have Matt write the letter) yourself. Regular communication with donors is a major problem for most nonprofits. Don’t let it be yours.

Worth Considering: Paper or Plastic?

Worth Considering from Matt HuggHow many times have we heard the question: paper or plastic? Actually not as much as we used to. Stores find that paper bags are pretty expensive, and more and more people bring their own bags. “Paper or plastic?” has become “bag or no bag?”

But in direct mail, paper or plastic is still the question.  Do we write to our donors on paper, or do you use that hunk of plastic on your desk: your computer.

There are two fundamental similarities between e-mail and paper mail:
1) Both are called “mail.”
2) Both use words.

Sure, maybe you can come up with a few more, but the point is that increasingly, we are finding that people respond very differently to these very different media.

One of the most basic differences is how each ages. Think about what you consider an “old” e-mail in your in-box. One day? Three days? If it’s there a week, it’s ancient.

How about paper mail? If it makes it past the initial screening (and you can package it so its chances are better) then it may sit on a desk for weeks, or maybe months. Plenty of fundraisers tell stories of getting a pledge card back from a mailing that’s over a year old.

What can you do with each? E-mail has the potential for all of the “bells and whistles,” literally. If you want you can add sound, video, link directly to your web page and more.

Paper is limited, but in limitation is focus. In a paper piece, you can’t instantly run away to a web page. The paper carries the entire message, for better if it’s well crafted, for worse if it doesn’t make your case well.

Probably the biggest difference is cost. There’s a great rush to e-mail because once the infrastructure is paid for (remember, you and your donor need to buy your computers and link to the Internet, which costs a lot more than a metal mail box at the curb), it feels like it’s free.

Paper mail requires much more current budget expense. Postage, paper, assembly, printing… It takes a lot to pull together, plus it’s not as “green” (ignoring, of course, the plastic and heavy metal content and manufacturing costs of the computer.)

So you should move it all to e-mail, right? Not so fast. There’s a case to shift quite a bit to e-mail, but certainly not all of it. It turns out that “all of the above” is much more effective. In another Compelling Copy I talk about multi-channel marketing, but for right now let’s just say that e-mail and paper mail make a much more powerful combination than they do working alone.

Of course, I’m biased. Either way – paper, plastic or combined together – I can write you a set of letters that bring out the best in your mission, and your donors. But whether you use me or work in house, its paper AND plastic that’s going to serve you well.

Worth Considering: How we read.

Worth Considering from Matt Hugg

Since the 1500’s and the invention of movable print type, reading on paper has become increasingly popular. Paper was (and is) a great medium for many reasons, not the least of which was that given the right ink and size of print, it was easy for our eyes to see the words.

But like many things in our transitional age of technology, computers have changed all of that. So it should be of no surprise that we read differently “on screen” than we do “on paper.”

It makes sense when you think of it. Reading on screen is tiring. The imperceptible flicker (best seen when you see an active computer screen on television), the lighting, the distance from your eyes, the size and type of the font, and the quality of the computer screen all contribute to the problem.

There is so much of a difference that inventors of “e-reader” devices like Sony’s Reader, Amazon’s Kindle, Barnes and Noble’s Nook and others are busy creating “electronic ink” to emulate the paper experience. In the meantime, millions of us print out e-mails for ease of reading and portability – making our e-mails into de facto books.

Given that both parties – the recipient and the sender –  have invested in the infrastructure (computers and the technology connecting them: the internet) electronic information can unwittingly open a floodgate of information at the click of a mouse.

Printing is a much messier, time consuming process that pushes all of the costs onto the creator of the message. Therefore, postal mailing forces the creator to do some much needed editing – for the sake of costs, but also to the benefit of the reader.

What does all of this mean to your fundraising appeals?

Electronic? It’s less expensive to send once you invest in the equipment (which you use for other tasks), making it tempting to send lots of information. 

On the flip side, it turns out that since reading electronically makes your reader more tired, even though someone can send a lot, the reader only wants to read a little. In fact, readers of material on non-e-reader screens tend to read 25% slower than if the same content was on paper.

What’s more, like our mother’s taught us, it’s not what you say, but how you say it.  People who read on screen need simpler fonts – preferably “san-serif” fonts (like Arial) to be able to absorb information more quickly.

They also need shorter paragraphs and bolds and highlights to help discern the important text since there is so much volume hitting the e-mail (or mental) “In Box.”

All of this contrasts with paper – where you can use serif fonts (like New Times Roman). On paper you can tell longer stories that will potentially sit on their desk for more than 30 seconds.

Of course, I’m biased. I can make your case to donors either way, or better yet, both.

But wither you use me or do your writing in house, writing may always be writing, but reading isn’t what it used to be.