Know to Whom You’re Talking

It still pays big dividends to know who’s one the other end of the line. “A terrible package or solicitation to the right person has a greater likelihood of success than a great package or solicitation to the wrong person. That’s why a hotlist is still a very valuable tool for direct marketers,” said Lynn Swain, director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Scott Schultz, president of the marketing firm of Schultz and Williams.

The two discussed hotlists recently at the annual Bridge to Integrated Marketing and Fundraising Conference in National Harbor, Md.

A hotlist is a segment of a mailing list representing people who have had recent transactions with your organization or those with similar goals. These people might be buyers, donors or subscribers who purchased in the last 30, 60 or 90 days. The hotline is a desirable segment of the mailing because it has been proven to be a generally more responsive segment.

Since such hotlines are generally more expensive to rent, it makes great sense to build your own, Schultz and Swain said. Digital marketing has made this task much easier and more effective of late, they said. Methods used by the Cornell Lab to generate interest and build a hotlist include engaging:

  • Web traffic;
  • Facebook fans:
  • YouTube subscribers;
  • Merlin App Downloads;
  • Bird Cams; and,
  • Citizen scientists.

Of course, once you reach them, it is up to you to retain them, elevate their interest and grow their commitment. Remember, they warned, an advocacy group doesn’t necessarily want to convert online leads to members or donors. Pushing that point might cause people to abandon the site and lose their connection to the cause.

But engaging readers through the web, and sharing facts and knowledge about your cause goes a long way toward building future supporters.