If you’re struggling at reaching new donors or want to boost the good donor acquisition numbers you already have, outbound marketing to cold prospectscan be a low cost way to get your cause in front of a lot of people very quickly. Of course, to contact anyone you need contact information, meaning you’ll need to either buy a list, or build a list from scratch.
In this article, I want to share 11 steps for building a powerful prospect data mining and outbound nonprofit marketing campaign.
Like I mentioned, every outbound marketing campaign starts with a contact list. The success of your outbound campaign will ultimately be determined by the quality of your data, so you need to find good people and give them clear direction. Here’s how you can start…
1) Find Data Miners
It might be tempting to hire anyone off the street who is willing to perform such a grueling task of building a contact list from scratch, but we highly advise AGAINST this. Find capable data miners that are extremely internet savvy, excellent typists, knowledgable about spreadsheets, committed to excellent work, and who are dedicated.
The last thing in the world you need is someone quitting after 7 hours of mining data. To avoid this, try to assemble a cadre of data miners (at least 5) at the beginning. Treat them just as well as you would treat any full-time employee and make them feel important to the cause, BECAUSE THEY ARE! Inevitably, 2 or 3 will fall off due to time constraints and other committments, but you’ll need a few dedicated miners to complete tasks.
Here are a few ideas for finding capable data miners:
– Stay at home mothers who are taking a break from full-time work.
– People who are in a job training program, looking for skills and experience.
– College students who want resume building opportunities.
– Recently unemployed looking to bridge the gap between jobs.
2) Determine the Target Audience
After finding some talented prospect data miners, you’ll need to give them a basic list of names, businesses or associations to find data for. If you are looking to reach accounting executives in the Boston area, find an association listing online, copy all of the business names and paste them into a Google or Excel spreadsheet.
Quick note on Google v. Excel: Google Sheets is great if you have multiple people working on the same list. However, it is easier to make mistakes and delete rows and cells in Google. Offline Excel usage is the safer, less efficient method.
3) Determine the Fields
After finding a team of miners, and assembling a list of several hundred businesses/associations/etc that you want data for, you must clearly define the data points that you need to have collected. Determine if you want an address, phone number, email address, or all of the above. The most cost effective way of reaching out is obviously email, so we’ll explore that route for the purposes of this blog post. After determining that you require an email address to connect with a cold lead, you’ll also want to nail down the secondary data points that help you segment. Depending on your target audience, secondary data such as job title, business type, net worth, associations, gender, race, age, or marital status.
4) Map out specific processes
Before handing a list of names or businesses over to your data miners, do a few names yourself. Perform Google searches of the business/name that you’re looking for. String together different search terms, visit business websites, and even look at social media. After finding a process that is quick and effective, capture it with video or write each step down in the process. The more tools you can provide your employees, the more accurate and quicker their work will be.
5) Incentivize Data Miners
Even if you’re a charity or a cause-based organization, you can’t expect data mining to be free. Just like buying a lists costs money, buying data miners costs money as well. But, you can build a list for much less than you would have to pay for a list.
Come to an agreement on the structure of payment. Are you paying by the hour, by the contact record, or by the day? I suggest paying by the contact record. It’s the simplest and fairest way. Whether you’re paying 40, 50, or 75 cents per contact record should be determined by the amount of data points you’re requiring. If you want 8-10 data points for each name, your cost per record will be higher to $1. But, if you only require name, email address, and title, you should only need to pay closer to 50 cents per record.
Beyond payment, you also may need to incentivize for accuracy. It is easy to get careless and sloppy. Protect against this by incentivizing with delivery rates. Offer $50 or $100 extra to each person if your overall email delivery rates are higher than 95%. It may seem like a lot of money, but it’s better to pay a bit more to get in someone’s email inbox than to hire a team to spend hours collecting shaky data.
6) Tricks of the Trade
Depending on the industry you’re trying to reach, you may discover some secrets to finding email addresses quickly. Whether it’s through a specific social media outlet or Google search string, make sure everyone is aware of these “tricks of the trade.”
7) Dedicated Email Software
Since this new contact list you’re building consists of all cold leads, store this data in a different email software system than you do your warm prospects, donors, volunteers, and other constituents. Many email platforms such as MailChimp or Zoho Campaigns offer free or very inexpensive monthly email plans. Once you reach out to your list and you people start signing up, donating, or completing a form, then you can move them into your regular donor database.
If you need help upgrading your donor database, I’d encourage you to read this.
8) Email Marketing Best Practices
We’ve touched on best practices for email marketing in the past, but cold or outbound email marketing is slightly different.
Remember, you have no relationship with anyone on this contact list. To get them to open an email from you is a feat in and of itself. Start with a very straight-forward, action oriented subject line that gets them to at least open the email. The internal content should not be full of HTML garbage. It’s so often distracting and so few businesses (for profit or nonprofit) build good email templates.
So, stick with a simple HTML design with one image, one logo, a small amount of text, and a clear, BOLD Call to Action! Whether the recipient follows your CTA or not, at least when they’re done with your email, they’ll understand why you reached out and what you wanted from them.
9) Test, Track, Analyze, Repeat
When you start emailing your new list, it’s important to test small segments with different subject lines, interior content, CTAs, images, salutations, etc… Don’t blow a mass email out to your whole list without testing multiple variations with smaller groups.
Some email marketing platforms have A/B testing capabilities making testing a breeze. We touched on some subject lines that motivate volunteers a while back- and you can check that article out here.
10) Keeping the Outbound List Clean
From the time your data miners start collecting information, to the time you email your list may be a few weeks or even a few months. Inevitablity, things will change. The contacts on your list will change jobs, get laid off, go on maternity leave, retire, or the company domain will keeping the data clean.
You’ll only discover these things when you send an email out to 500 or 1000 people, and you get 45 auto-responses. Some of the auto-replies may be “out of office” but the auto-responess you need to pay attention to are the ones saying that your contact took a new job or there is a new person in charge.
Usually, the new person in charge, or the temporary replacement name and email address is listed. It’s important to replace the expired information with this new information to prevent deterioration of list quality. Here are a couple more tips for keeping a clean donor database. Here’s one. Here’s two.
11) Track New Sign-ups
After your cold contacts follow your CTA and either sign-up to volunteer, donate money, or fill out some other form, it’s important that you remove them from your outbound database. These are now real donors or hot prospects, so they should enter your donor database for cultivation and nuturing.
Track the amount of new signups you get for two reasons. You want to know whether the time you’ve spent creating and sending emails has worked, but you also want to measure ROI for your outbound nonprofit marketing campaign.