Monthly Archives: August 2008

List hygiene: better than a trip to the dentist and a lot cheaper

Louise Stevens

Louise Stevens

Its back to school season here which means endless kid trips to the dentist, etc.  Sticker shock for parents anywhere, and parental time for lectures on hygiene.  Which in our business makes us think of nonprofit organization databases.  Hygiene, the number one missing element that could save you expense and, yes, pain.

Poor list hygiene happens by accident.  The box office may collect names in a variety of ways: from web site transactions, walk-ups, phone orders, mail orders.  Over time, the hygiene of your database can deteriorate, which could mean lost money in wasted direct mail, out of date email addresses, or more systemic problems that could mean the wrong donor gets the wrong letter, or worse!  Here are some of the typical problems, and tips for fixing them:   

1) Data may include incorrect addresses or incomplete addresses.   We advise doing a complete address correction at least once a year, or more, depending on your organization’s dynamics.  NCOA is an absolute must! 

2) Data may be kept by show, rather than anchored by the purchaser unique I.D.  That could result in thousands of duplicates!  Organizations using external box offic systems such as Ticketmaster often confront this problem.  Solution: we believe in the value of building a master database, and then regularly updating it from your box office files.

3) Data may need scrubbing for name/address duplications.  Louise Stevens may have bought the tickets for the last show; John Stevens may be buying the tickets for this show; and last year Mrs. John Stevens may have bought the tickets.  Oh, and women change their names more often than men. (Example: I just went back to adding Kenngott to my name to reconnect with college classmates on Lynked In and Plaxo and other social networking sites.)    Good scrubbing removes these dupes.

4) The box office data may not be coordinated with the development office data.  Again, a single I.D. that works across departments can eliminate confusion and make sure that every bit of data on each household is consolidated.

5) Show by show data may not be included as separate fields when the purchase is for a package or subscription.  The future marketing message can be targeted to households that purchase packages of popular operas like La Boheme and La Traviata as compared to householdds that like The Bonesetters’ Daughter and Nixon in China.

Accurate data saves duplicates in mailing, ensures your ability to prospect and target wisely, and can cut printing budget waste.  Accurate data also lets your customers know that you have studied them!  So get to work in the hygiene department.  It will save you huge headaches and a lot of money that can be put to far better use!

Manners and Email Appends

Doesn’t spam make you miss the days when people actually had manners?  When they asked if you wanted to hear from them?  Or how often they should contact you?  Wouldn’t it be nice to know how they got your name in the first place?

In the rush to add email addresses to match street addresses, it is tempting to go with any offer that comes across the web – spurious as it may be.  Beware the cheap and easy!  You may get emails, but your customers may see you as having spammed them!

We’ve studied just about every vendor that offers email appends.  Our favorite – and a company we like to do business with – is  We admire them because of their extensive protocol.  Let’s say we send them your street address and name to see if they can find an email for you within the vast pool of world wide email addresses that are already “double opt in.”  Let’s say they find your email.  The DON’T simply give that to us as a match.  Instead, they send you a number of requests, formally and properly done, asking if you would like to receive emails from the organization we represent.  Only you can say, “Sure, let them send me emails!”  And only then do we get the append.  Only then are you charged for the append.

We became acquainted with this old-fashioned but wonderful protocol when we got one of FreshAddress’s  polite inquiries on behalf of a terrific nonprofit, American Rivers. And an interesting thing happend.  We hadn’t paid that much attention to American Rivers before, but after we received that courtesy of a request, and then opted in, we felt this warm and fuzzy relationship with the organization.  We liked them going into the relationship.  Not a bad way to start an email association with prospects.  Imagione what it could do for your organization.

So today, we work with our ArrsMarket clients to manage the database street address-email address relationship, together wtih FreshAddress.  They’ve taught us that manners not only count: they make the deal!

Audience Development Through Savvy Prospecting

Louise Stevens

Louise Stevens

Penny wise and pound foolish is not the best way to buy a mailing list.  But we get at least a dozen offers a day for cheap mailing lists, and are always surprised how many marketers still respond to the chance to save a few pennies because it seems quick and easy.  When direct mail costs are sky high, and response rates are lower than ever, the point of direct mail isn’t to mail to everyone, but to get the right information into exactly the right hands.

That’s why we believe in qualifying prospects with a depth of analytics and descriptors before we suggest that a client invest in a single prospect mailing address.  ArtsMarket applies all the available demographics and for some clients we even shape custom clusters – we find households with all the charactersitcis that match up with their target prospects.  We then work with various wholesalers to find additional qualifyers.  Because most of our clients are arts, cultural, and entertainment organizations, we add qualifyers that find households that are self-identified as interested in the arts.  There are numerous refinements on this.  For one client, we recently created a prospect list of people who attend theater, like to live an arts and culturally active life, and are interested in gourmet cooking.   For another client, we refined our base of culturally interested households with those who have hobbies in collecting antiques, in woodworking, in heritage, and in domestic travel. 

It takes time to cherry pick through all the available prospects in a given market to find this kind of high quality prospect, and it admittedly costs a bit more up front.  On the other hand, it is generally much cheaper than buying a list of subscribers to various magazines, most of which charge premium prices for there subscribers.  The time and cost per name is worth it when your response rates soar beyond the norm, and when you are not only reaching a likely prospect, but a truly warm prospect.  That’s when ROI kicks up, and you can smile all the way to the next finance meeting.

The Book of Season Marketing

Louise Stevens

Louise Stevens

Season brochures are the catalogues of the arts field.  So, with the cost of postage and printing at all time highs, are they worth the cost?  Plenty of pros would love to say no: they just can’t convince their orgamizations to toss the tradition of print.  Problem is, most brochures have a shorter life span than a catalogue selling spring clothing in June.  (If it isn’t urgent or timely, who cares?)  They go in the toss bin.

So, what’s a smart marketer to do?

At ArtsMarket, we think the recent trends in savvy retail catalogues should point the way for the future.

1) Begin by qualifying customers who will receive the “catalogue.”  Only mail to those who are most likely to respond.  Cut your list dramaticaly.  Qualify as much as you can.  If need be, use email or snail mail to pre-qualify customers to get the full package by giving them a special offer teaser.   

2) Create shelf life.  Our latest “edition” of the Brooks Brothers “book” arrived yesterday.  At a good inch thick, and with classic photos and history along with curiosities and the practical – the stuff you really order, as compared, say, to a hand made morning coat – it has shelf life.  It is cool, quirky, distinctive, elegant.  It is a venerable coffee table book – making it a distinct step up from the bathroom reading bin.   Imagine an opera company including everything you need to know to be a savvy opera goer in an inch thick glossy book.  You get it: even if you can’t afford the ticket, you’d want to keep a copy of the book around to impress your friends.  Word of mouth rarely gets better than this.

3) Create offers and imbed them in the catalogue.  The next catalogue we opened was from one of those soap and candles places.  Is this stuff you need to buy when your wallet is thin?  No.  But they included not one but three time sensitive MAJOR savings cards for specific products that were so convincing and easy to peel off the catalogue page that, yes, we stuck them in the wallet, went to the mall, and bought.  Imagine three time sensitive major offers in a season brochure.  Sure, including a special offer such as 40% off when the customer buys the first ticket might cut into season sales.  On the other hand, it might just add to season sales and it might gain a customer who wouldn’t spend on the first ticket.

4) Make the on-line offer even better.  The season brochure should be a tool to move people to on-line, not to keep them dependent on paper.  So sweeten the on-line offer.  We spotted a quick snapshot of how retailers are doing this when we got a print catalogue from JC Penney and then decided to go on-line for further information, only to find the on-line offer was different than the print offer, and by the time we were finished, the on-line offers had us hooked.  Almost as much fun as eBay.  Imagine moving arts buyers to better on-line deals, and being able to build a deeper on-line data relationship along the way by gaining all that information from them.  And then offering more deals… 

5) Qualify, qualify, qualify.  We just edited back one client’s direct mail list for a Chicago series by some 80,000 records that we are certain won’t produce.  That’s a lot of saved postage and printing.  Imagine what you could do with the spare change saved.