Direct Messaging: just a phone call away.

For the rich and/or famous, a recent study suggests that direct messaging and social media are the keys to their purse strings. And phone calls, one of marketing’s mainstays in direct messaging, can still build a personal bridge to deepen relationships.

This research was done by a New York City agency that touts itself as the “authority in marketing to the affluent population.”  For 30 years, they have been successfully communicating with affluent consumers, targeting households with annual incomes higher than $500,000.  

Their purpose is to “counteract forces that would conspire to depress consumer spending in the luxury sector this holiday season.” They promote focusing on message personalization and discrete value propositions.

Their strategy is to have a lot of sales staff ready to call their best customers immediately following Thanksgiving. “As old fashioned as it seems, I think the telephone is the best weapon this season for companies selling high-priced products.”

Hmmm . . . I wonder how this could relate to major donor fundraising?

Obviously, according to this research, affluent consumers are not put off by an old-fashioned phone call. Especially when the messaging communicates quality, authenticity and value.

So, maybe it’s time for a test. Take a segment of major donors and create a “direct messaging” strategy. Do a split test.

Ring their bell! Call the designated donor segment. Start with thanks. But also position the call around the year-end tax implications of a gift or other donor-focused benefits. Offer quality — a chance to do something significant; authenticity — a genuine need; and value — some kind of multiplier or match. A major donor representative for one of our clients reported recently that he called and set up an appointment with a man in his portfolio of major donors. When they met, the donor pulled out a notepad listing about 250 organizations that had asked him for money over the past year. Then he revealed that “you were the first person to call me in 2010!” And the year was almost over. It seems like development people are missing a huge opportunity here for personal contact. But we can change that. 

Expect to be voice-mailed. Many folks screen their calls. That’s okay. Actually it might be better than a live pick up in some cases. Do a 30-second power summary of your message on their voice mail. Promise a follow-up letter and get it in the mail (or email if you have their e-address) before you go home that night.

Be prepared for objections. Count on it, someone is going to be offended by a call. A few folks might even be angry. But face it, they’re angry with your mail and online communications as well. The phone just gives them an easy opportunity to blow off steam. So, switch to a message of graciousness, apology and a hint of surprise: “I’m so sorry, I was so excited about sharing this, and so many folks have wanted to hear more about this opportunity. I’ll just mail you this information, so I’m not bothering you and put you on our ‘don’t call list.’ Thanks, again, for being part of this great mission to (org. purpose).”

Then, follow those donors involved in the split test, noting both annual and long-term giving.

The Big Apple research also came to the surprising conclusion that “wealthy consumers were 2.5 times more likely than other consumers to agree that they think social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter are a good way to receive exclusive offers.” Go figure. But it’s worth a test.

Doug Clark

Senior Vice President Client Services