Elizabeth Keserauskis

Building relationships and making connections

Spray and pray

I read a very interesting blog post updating me on the new terminology describing unmeasured direct mail as a part of your overall marketing and advertising strategy.  It’s now called “Spray and Pray,” and defined by The Agitator in the context of fundraising: 

“…the thoughtless, non-strategic practice of tossing as many appeals and acquisition pieces as an organization can afford — regardless of long-term result…”

Let’s put this in the context of higher education student recruitment and fundraising.  The phrase is obviously referring to the way direct mail is handled: you spray pieces, cast a wide net to a not necessarily highly qualified audience, and you pray they take whatever action you’re asking of them in the direct mail, whether that be to contribute money to your alma mater, attend an event, request more info, or even enroll in classes.  The problem here is that you can only pray they do what you asked.

Another option is implementing tactics such as Google AdWords or other search engine marketing tactics; obviously Yahoo, MSN, and others have their own ad serving platforms.  Facebook even has an ad serving platform that is very similar to Google’s.

In those instances, you define who your target audience is, what is a qualified lead or prospect to you, and make sure that your ad is served only to those prospects. In addition, you’re serving ad copy that matches what they have searched for. For example, if someone is searching for St. Louis MBA programs, you’re not going to serve them ad copy that addresses the School of Education program’s offerings. You’re going to give them ad copy tailored to what they’re looking for, which is an MBA program. You’re also going to take them to a landing page on your website that also addresses specifically what they are looking for.

Now, I understand that there have been improvements in direct mail technology, such as print on demand, variable data fields and personalized URLs for tracking responses where you can really try to personalize a direct mail piece based on what you know of your customer and their preferences, but direct mail still is not as interactive, measurable and successful as a search engine marketing campaign.

So why then do colleges and universities still spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to purchase names and ‘spray and pray’ with direct mail campaigns to prospective students and donors without even investigating the success of search engine marketing campaigns, such as Google AdWords? Even if you just do a test run, side-by-side to determine which one has a better return on your investment. I have asked countless groups of people I have presented to a series of four questions:

  1. When is the last time you went to the printed yellow pages, looked up a product or service and made a purchase?
  2. When is the last time you made a purchase based on a radio, TV or print ad you have seen?
  3. When is the last time you made a purchase based on a piece of unsolicited direct mail you receive?
  4. When is the last time you opened up your browser, went to Google or Yahoo, searched for a product or service, and ultimately made a purchase on line?

You can guess what the funnel of number of hands raised through each question. How many times do I have to ask the question before someone listens and sees value in SEM? Why is higher education different than any other information gathering sales process?

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March 21, 2010 - Posted by | higher education, marketing, sales | , , ,

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