Lists don’t matter. Do you agree?

in Email,Online Fundraising

I read a surprising article the other day. It essentially said that you need to put 70-percent of your effort in crafting a terrific offer. Then 10% on the list and 20% on everything else. In other words, the list was least important.

To quote the article: “On the Internet, lists count the least. Names are so cheap, you can blitz the world practically for free.”

Even though the author was talking about online (i.e., email), I still don’t agree with this statement. Do you?

You’ll find the article “Famous Last Words: About Offers,” in Target Marketing and the author is Denny Hatch. I respect Mr. Hatch, but on this topic I disagree.

I believe list selection is critical whether in direct mail or email. Yes, the offer is also critical. No doubt about that.

However, in my opinion you give your best effort to every element: List, offer, product/service/mission, copy, design, etc. And I don’t bother trying to assign levels of importance (e.g., one element is x%, another y%).

Why do I think the list is worth more
than 10% of your effort?

Donors, members and consumers are savvy and darn particular. You send them junk and they’ll quickly delete, ignore or unsubscribe.

It doesn’t matter how great your offer is, if it’s not relevant to the recipient they won’t respond.

For example: You grab tons of lists to blast out an email and I happen to be on one of those lists. You could send me an incredible appeal on your cause … but I won’t even consider donating if it doesn’t align with my core beliefs. I’m not interested and you can’t persuade me regardless of how great your offer is. And I’m not unique. You’ve wasted effort with this hap-hazard approach and stirred up discontent along the way to poorly targeted recipients like me.

Yes, sending out great offers willy-nilly to poorly selected audiences will hurt your marketing efforts far more than it might help.

Today it’s all about relevance, value and personalized communications. How can they value something they aren’t the least bit interested in? And how are you going to personalize that communication?

Email blasts (AKA: email blitz) may be cheap; but the days of their effectiveness – and acceptable ROI – have passed. And you also risk annoying the recipients of your junk email.

Nope. Choose your list carefully. And if mailing to your house file, segment carefully and only send emails to donors and members who are interested in that specific topic. They’ll value and respond to your great offer in significant volumes.

What do you think? Are email lists trivial and of minor importance … or are do they warrant serious attention?

Related posts:

3 critical factors of nonprofit email

Acquisition – to hunt or NOT to hunt for the masses

The nonprofit with the best data wins – the key to sending relevant messages for higher response