When people in your organization review a mail piece, people expend sound, fury, and energy on the teaser copy, the word choice in the letter, and the photographs used.
But I bet you could send around a reply envelope with the wrong return address on it and have no one notice it. I’ve actually done this test, albeit unintentionally; I am not immune. I caught the error in the final proof process, meaning I missed it twice before.
This is where you, as the direct marketing expert, justify your salary. Anyone can go through a letter with a red pen and choose their own favorite words. You get to do the unsexy things that will get results.
And the reply device is probably the unsexiest thing in mail, which is saying something. If your mail piece were the crack spy team, the reply device would the guy in the van.
“You know what? I’m sick of being in the van. You guys are going to be in the van next time. I’ve been in the van for 15 years, Harry.”
— Gib, True Lies
It’s also where a mail piece is one and lost. And it’s a place where you can implement your priorities where no one will yell boo.
So, some ideas:
- Anchoring. We’ve talked a bit about this here and the science of ask strings here. However, there’s a wonderful SOFII article about the making of a mail piece here that explains the below the reply device.
Did you notice the $6518 option? Not only is that a nice high anchor that people are giving toward, but they find that some people actually give that. From the SOFII piece:
There is, however, one twist: there is an option to donate a sum of $6,518. We put that figure in because it is the actual average cost of granting a wish. Every now and then, when I’ve done that before, you find a donor who is willing to donate at that level. We did this once for a hospital when the price point for a piece of equipment was $6,942.73. Thirteen people “bought” this device. These donors upgraded from an average of $65 to nearly $7,000. It never hurts to ask.
Good for you, Make-A-Wish!
- Ask for more information about a donor. Your mind must always be in two places about a donor or prospect: where they are now and where there are the possibilities of them going. One opportunity is for this donor to become a multichannel donor; to do that, you need an email address or phone number. And, while you can append these data, this has costs both in money and in not learning what method(s) by which your donor wants to be contacted.
- Ask about other opportunities. Would this donor be interested in more information about becoming a monthly donor, leaving your organization in their will, or donating a used car? You will never know unless you ask.
- Customize based on what you already know. Usually, reply devices are mass printed, which seems to be a missed opportunity. If you already have the person’s email address or phone number, you shouldn’t ask again. Likewise, if someone has ignored your checkbox for planned giving five times in a row, perhaps a monthly giving offer is more her/his speed.
There’s also the reply envelope; if the reply device is the guy in the van, the envelope is the guy in the van’s intern. Usually these are blank. However, messaging on the envelope can:
- Reinforce the person’s decision to donate with trust indicators like the BBB seal.
- Build urgency with messages like “Rush this envelope to save lives.”
- Spread program awareness (e.g., “If you or a loved one has been affected by X, please call our hot line at 800-XXX-XXXX”)
- Help with the program allocation of your mail piece in joint cost allocation. (For those not familiar with this procedure, you should be looking at each of your pieces and determining what percentage of this content is for each of your programs and what is fundraising for the purposes of your tax returns. Additional program messaging on the envelope gives a slight boost to the programmatic content.)
Just because the reply mechanisms don’t have as much messaging doesn’t mean that you still can’t make them work for you. Hopefully, these tips have helped you customize your reply so that you can get more replies.