If there's any principle more fundamental to marketing success, The Agitator sure can't think of it. Suggestions welcome!

Knowing your customer means more than operating on gut instinct, wishful thinking or the perhaps dated presumptions of your nonprofit's founding fathers and mothers. It means …

  • First, collecting pertinent data on individual customer characteristics and behavior, as well as research data on attitudes and perceptions.
  • Second, aggregating all the relevant customer data in one unified database. [Not simple, as blogger & nonprofit marketer Katya Andresen is pointing out here in a useful series of posts on the thankless task!]
  • Third, acting on the customer knowledge you develop.

We believe in research. But too many nonprofits sit on piles of data and “insight” they never act upon.

Confess … how many times has your nonprofit gone out and “re-discovered” that you direct mail donors are old, your online donors are young, nobody reads the newsletter, hardly anyone giving you less than a thousand bucks a year can articulate a “brand attribute” of your organization. You probably do this as frequently as you change membership directors, executive directors, and/or direct mail agencies!

And then what?!

One of our favorite direct marketers, Denny Hatch, offers some great advice on figuring out who your customers are, and then acting on that information. Denny believes that catalog marketers are the best in the biz at knowing their customers and optimizing their value … and shows us why. We think he's right.

Roger & Tom

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