Everywhere I look I read that direct mail marketing is where the bulk of the donors come from for non-profits. So why are we not putting our efforts into it? The truth is that as long as we have existed Kids Are Heroes has never spent a dime on postage. From what the experts say in order for it to be effective you have to spend a lot of money and recruit some expertise before a campaign can be successful. In doing a bit of research, given the cost of the material, postage and the mailing list itself, if you send out 1000 pieces it would cost approximately $800-$1000 and you may get 10 responses back. Someone also suggested hiring someone to write an effective letter which exacerbates your costs significantly. As I admitted, I am no expert on the subject but I do feel that there are more efficient ways to market if you have a tight budget.
There are many people who still don’t get either Facebook or Twitter, but to me these are no-brainers for marketing because they are FREE. Yes they do take time and effort but so does any type of marketing campaign. I have stopped “preaching” about it because people will believe what they want to believe. Recently I was speaking to a business owner who said,”Yeah we tried Twitter but it didn’t work. We only had 2 check-ins on FourSquare and those were our regular customers anyway.” Now that would normally have triggered me to vehemently argue the benefits of the platform if it is leveraged properly. But I have discovered it’s almost like arguing politics with someone. They have their side of it and they rarely change their opinions.
We have owned a YouTube channel for quite some time now but until recently have used it mainly as an outpost. If you have been following our Twitter stream recently you would have noticed that we have been delving much deeper into video production for marketing purposes. This new focus was partially triggered by the folks at GivCause who have graciously offered a platform for our new videos on a weekly basis. They have asked us for 5-10 minute “shows” where we either feature our heroes or cover new and interesting topics regarding our organization.
So the one problem with video production is that it too can be very expensive. Cameras, filters, lighting and video production software can add up thousand of dollars — money we do not have. So how are we doing it?
Well let’s just say that with the help of TechSoup.org and EBay we have acquired the software and built a “studio” in our basement for less than half of what that one direct mail campaign would have cost us. And as of this writing we have produced 3 marketing videos that have collectively garnered 2297 views on YouTube and SchoolTube combined. Admittedly to my knowledge they have not translated directly into donations but I do know they have helped us with awareness immensely. And they still live on which cannot be said for direct mail pieces.
When I was looking up arguments that were pro direct mail marketing, one said, “Well there’s only so many people who will see your marketing on the Internet so you will have to get involved with direct mail marketing sometime.” This baffled me because if I had spent $1000 to get 1000 “impressions” via the mail that would have been more than twice the money I spent to get more than double the views of our videos.
So here are the Top 5 Reasons I think videos are a more effective marketing tool than direct mail advertising for non-profits.
1. Videos are more engaging. Every Friday I go to the post office to check our mail. More often than not I receive an expensive tri-fold brochure from the same non-profit in my box. Each and every time it goes directly into the recycle bin at the post office. I have heard of this non-profit but to this day I still do not know what they do. I just don’t see how you can engage with someone through a piece of paper.
2. Videos last longer. Our videos remain on YouTube indefinitely whereas mail pieces can’t be looked at again once they have been discarded to the trash.
3. Videos connect with the audience better. It is far easier to demonstrate the passion of your charity through video than it is through a brochure. People can get to see your personalities and why you care so much about it.
4. Videos can be shared. When was the last time a friend came up to you and said, “Hey, you really need to see this postcard I got in the mail from a charity!!”? Yet when we post our videos on Facebook and Twitter they get shared with others all the time.
5. Videos can reach multiple audiences. As we approach 50,000 Twitter followers we can send them to our YouTube channel whenever we like. If I do it in the morning and then in the evening
6. Videos are FUN to produce! OK I know I said the “top 5 reasons” but I had to add in here that we are having a lot of fun producing them. In our case I do it with my daughter so we get to share ideas and spend some real quality time together. In addition these are skills that will help her immensely in life as she is comfortable both in front of and behind the camera.
Producing Compelling Videos
Sorry to disappoint those who jumped to this spot to see a definitive answer on how to produce a compelling video as I do not claim to be an expert here. It’s up to others to even say if we have hit the mark yet with one of our own. I had lunch last week with Conrad Weaver (@conjostudios), a friend who is in the video production business, and he was very gracious with his advice. He reminded me that 5-10 minute videos are on the “too long” side for casual YouTube viewing. I was aware of this but stubbornly felt that our fans would stick it out to the end. One thing Conrad told me that I did not know is that you can track the retention rate of each video in on YouTube. Sadly he was right, only 25% of our viewers were watching these longer videos to the end.
But that was not a deterrent for me. I knew instinctively that I would have to improve and get better from each experience. That is happening as planned so as far as I am concerned we are right on track. We do plan to keep our future videos under 3 minutes as best as we can. I also expect us to get better and better at creating interesting content. Our goal is to have one of our videos go viral one day so it can help spread the word about our organization. Any tips that you guerilla videographers out there have for us we would welcome you to leave them in the comments.
So I think with what we have we are now equipped to produce professional looking and (hopefully) very interesting videos. Look for our next one entitled “Find Your Passion” which will be our first experience with green screen technology. Feel free to ask questions if you have any. We are using a Flip Video camera and Adobe’s After Effects among other tools to produce these videos. Here are is a sample of one of our videos that was done using After Effects. Let us know what you think.
So for all of you folks who insist we still need to get into direct mail marketing, we would love it if you convinced us as to why. But be careful, if you do this we may have to ask you for the money to fund it.