How to Design the Perfect Marketing Strategy

Today we welcome Stelter Client Strategist and outdoor adventure aficionado Kit Lancaster to the blog.

Are you a planner?

I definitely am. I geek out on creating detailed checklists and itineraries ahead of every camping trip or travel adventure. I once created a Google map outlining the exact route I would take and stops I would make to maximize my one day at the Minnesota State Fair.

But planning is also hard right now. We’re constantly responding to new challenges, new realities and new opportunities.

In times like these, it’s helpful to focus our plans on the essentials—what’s our goal, and how do we get there? That’s true if you’re a seasoned professional forging ahead, reviewing and refining your plans to respond to our new normal. And it’s also true if you’re a planned giving novice making marketing plans for the first time, perhaps spurred by Russell James’ new research that annual gifts often go up once a donor has made a legacy gift commitment.

Kathryn W. Miree, President of Kathryn W. Miree & Associates, Inc., recently presented “Designing the Perfect Marketing Strategy for Your Planned Giving Program” as part of Stelter’s monthly webinar series. It’s a timely webinar, filled with practical tips for refining or creating your planned giving marketing plans. Kathryn covers audience segmentation and messaging, as well as the importance of integrating planned giving into an overall development communications plan.

The webinar has many valuable takeaways, and today I’m excited to share a few of my favorites.

1. Every organization needs a clear case for support.

What’s your mission? What makes you unique? Where are you headed, and how will planned gifts help you get there?

Before you ask donors for a planned gift, you need to be able to articulate these answers.

Once you have a clear, compelling, urgent case for planned giving, use it everywhere. The same case for support should be used across each marketing touchpoint so that prospects know exactly why their future gift is so important—whether that’s to outsmart cancer, eradicate hunger or preserve our wild lands.

Not only should I see [your case for support] as a separate and distinct but aligned case with annual giving, but it should be consistent in every place that I find it.

— Kathryn W. Miree, President of Kathryn W. Miree & Associates, Inc.

2. Know your audience.

Getting the right message to the right audience is an essential marketing maxim. Kathryn recommends segmenting donors into tiers, and then tailoring donor-centric messaging to each audience:

Current planned giving donors: These donors have already notified your organization of their deferred gift. Thank these donors, talk with them about the impact they’ll make with their gift, and give them opportunities to provide feedback and tell their story.

Tier 1 prospects: These are your top prospects, and ideally you should be cultivating these donors through face-to-face conversations—hello, Zoom. (Quick plug: Stelter has tools that can help you prioritize which donors to talk with.) Talk with these donors about their goals, and share stories about other donors and why they’ve decided to make planned gifts.

Tier 2 prospects: These are current annual donors with consistent giving history. Engage them with educational marketing that prompts response and brings them closer to your organization. Show how your organization is affecting change and how they can partner with you to maximize their impact through a planned gift.

Tier 3 prospects: These donors have an interest in your organization but are still building their relationship with you. You can reach these donors through your website and by integrating planned giving messaging into your overall donor communications. Focus on the basics: Share your vision and provide introductory planned giving education and timely resources.

3. Drive and measure actions.

How do you know if your marketing strategy is working? Identify what success looks like—the specific action you want donors to take—and then measure it. It’s tempting to evaluate materials by how a finished piece looks, but it’s best to measure success by how a piece converts. Common actions to measure include email opens, brochure downloads, requests for gift annuity illustrations, opportunities for conversations, gifts closed, etc.

To drive your desired action, focus your marketing on an explicit call to action using active verbs that tell donors exactly what to do. Try “Complete and return the enclosed form to request our brochure” or “Call Lisa at (555) 555-5555 today.”

Once you establish your marketing program, you can compare current to past results, then refine your marketing approach. Data is only effective if it informs response, so this is an important stage: thoughtful review of what worked well, what didn’t work and what to change moving forward.

By combining this conversion-focused marketing plan with a clear, consistent case for support and smart messages tailored to the right people, your program should be in great shape to weather whatever comes at us next. It might not be a map of the state fair, but it’s a map for planned giving success.

See, isn’t planning fun? For more on designing the perfect marketing strategy for your gift planning program, watch Kathryn Miree’s hit webinar here.

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