Archive for the ‘Direct marketing’ Category

Why Surveys Go Well With Predictive Models

October 13, 2010

Thanks to advancements in technology, companies now have the capability to analyze millions – if not billions – of transactional, demographic, and psychographic records in a short time and develop sophisticated models that can assess several scenarios: how likely a customer is likely to purchase again; when he/she will purchase again; how much he/she will spend in the next year; how likely he/she will defect; and many more. Yet, by themselves, predictive models don’t provide a complete picture or profile of the customer. While models can provide information on a prospect or customer’s willingness and ability to purchase based on similar characteristics of current customers, they don’t provide much information about the customer or prospect’s readiness to buy. Hence, a survey can be a highly useful supplement.

Using a survey before a promotion – assuming no effort is made trying to sell to the customer under the guise of the survey – can provide valuable information. With a simple attitudinal and behavioral survey, a marketer can gain a read on the market’s readiness and willingness to buy at that moment. Moreover, the marketer can gauge the purchase readiness of certain customer groups and segments, so that he/she can structure marketing promotions in a manner that makes the best use of marketing dollars. In addition, if certain groups are wary of or unwilling to buy a product, the marketer can look for ways to reach out to these groups for the future.

Another benefit of surveys is to help classify customers and prospects into market segments based on their answers to carefully designed questions. Often, surveys can capture data about prospects and customers that transactional and third-party overlay data sources cannot.

Surprisingly, many companies either do marketing research or predictive modeling, but not both. This is squandering a great marketing opportunity. These two approaches together can provide the missing pieces to the puzzle that will help marketers improve their planning, increase their marketing ROI, and maximize their profits and market share.

Analyzing Subgroups of Data

July 21, 2010

The data available to us has never been more voluminous. Thanks to technology, data about us and our environment are collected almost continuously. When we use a cell phone to call someone else’s cell phone, several pieces of information are collected: the two phone numbers involved in the call; the time the call started and ended; the cell phone towers closest to the two parties; the cell phone carriers; the distance of the call; the date; and many more. Cell phone companies use this information to determine where to increase capacity; refine, price, and promote their plans more effectively; and identify regions with inadequate coverage.

Multiply these different pieces of data by the number of calls in a year, a month, a day – even an hour – and you can easily see that we are dealing with enormous amounts of records and observations. While it’s good for decision makers to see what sales, school enrollment, cell phone usage, or any other pattern looks like in total, quite often they are even more interested in breaking down data into groups to see if certain groups behave differently. Quite often we hear decision makers asking questions like these:

  • How do depositors under age 35 compare with those between 35-54 and 55 & over in their choice of banking products?
  • How will voter support for Candidate A differ by race or ethnicity?
  • How does cell phone usage differ between men and women?
  • Does the length or severity of a prison sentence differ by race?

When we break data down into subgroups, we are trying to see whether knowing about these groups adds any additional meaningful information. This helps us customize marketing messages, product packages, pricing structures, and sales channels for different segments of our customers. There are many different ways we can break data down: by region, age, race, gender, income, spending levels; the list is limitless.

To give you an example of how data can be analyzed by groups, let’s revisit Jenny Kaplan, owner of K-Jen, the New Orleans-style restaurant. If you recall from the May 25 post, Jenny tested two coupon offers for her $10 jambalaya entrée: one offering 10% off and another offering $1 off. Even though the savings was the same, Jenny thought customers would respond differently. As Jenny found, neither offer was better than the other at increasing the average size of the table check. Now, Jenny wants to see if there is a preference for one offer over the other, based on customer age.

Jenny knows that of her 1,000-patron database, about 50% are the ages of 18 to 35; the rest are older than 35. So Jenny decides to send out 1,000 coupons via email as follows:

  

$1 off

10% off

Total Coupons

18-35

250

250

500

Over 35

250

250

500

Total Coupons

500

500

1,000

Half of Jenny’s customers received one coupon offer and half received the other. Looking carefully at the table above, half the people in each age group got one offer and the other half got the other offer. At the end of the promotion period, Jenny received back 200 coupons. She tracks the coupon codes back to her database and finds the following pattern:

Coupons Redeemed (Actual)

  

$1 off

10% off

Coupons Redeemed

18-35

35

65

100

Over 35

55

45

100

Coupons Redeemed

90

110

200

 

Exactly 200 coupons were redeemed, 100 from each age group. But notice something else: of the 200 people redeeming the coupon, 110 redeemed the coupon offering 10% off; just 90 redeemed the $1 off coupon. Does this mean the 10% off coupon was the better offer? Not so fast!

What Else is the Table Telling Us?

Look at each age group. Of the 100 customers aged 18-35, 65 redeemed the 10% off coupon; but of the 100 customers age 35 and up, just 45 did. Is that a meaningful difference or just a fluke? Do persons over 35 prefer an offer of $1 off to one of 10% off? There’s one way to tell: a chi-squared test for statistical significance.

The Chi-Squared Test

Generally, a chi-squared test is useful in determining associations between categories and observed results. The chi-squared – χ2 – statistic is value needed to determine statistical significance. In order to compute χ2, Jenny needs to know two things: the actual frequency distribution of the coupons redeemed (which is shown in the last table above), and the expected frequencies.

Expected frequencies are the types of frequencies you would expect the distribution of data to fall, based on probability. In this case, we have two equal sized groups: customers age 18-35 and customers over 35. Knowing nothing else besides the fact that the same number of people in these groups redeemed coupons, and that 110 of them redeemed the 10% off coupon, and 90 redeemed the $1 off coupon, we would expect that 55 customers in each group would redeem the 10% off coupon and 45 in each group would redeem the $1 off coupon. Hence, in our expected frequencies, we still expect 55% of the total customers to redeem the 10% off offer. Jenny’s expected frequencies are:

Coupons Redeemed (Expected)

  

$1 off

10% off

Coupons Redeemed

18-35 45 55 100
Over 35 45 55 100
Coupons Redeemed 90 110 200

 

As you can see, the totals for each row and column match those in the actual frequency table above. The mathematical way to compute the expected frequencies for each cell would be to multiply its corresponding column total by its corresponding row total and then divide it by the total number of observations. So, we would compute as follows:

Frequency of:

Formula:

Result

18-35 redeeming $1 off: =(100*90)/200

=45

18-35 redeeming 10% off: =(100*110)/200

=55

Over 35 redeeming $1 off: =(100*90)/200

=45

Over 35 redeeming 10% off: =(100*110)/200

=55

 

Now that Jenny knows the expected frequencies, she must determine the critical χ2 statistic to determine significance, then she must compute the χ2 statistic for her data. If the latter χ2 is greater than the critical χ2 statistic, then Jenny knows that the customer’s age group is associated the coupon offer redeemed.

Determining the Critical χ2 Statistic

To find out what her critical χ2 statistic is, Jenny must first determine the degrees of freedom in her data. For cross-tabulation tables, the number of degrees of freedom is a straightforward calculation:

Degrees of freedom = (# of rows – 1) * (# of columns -1)

So, Jenny has two rows of data and two columns, so she has (2-1)*(2-1) = 1 degree of freedom. With this information, Jenny grabs her old college statistics book and looks at the χ2 distribution table in the appendix. For a 95% confidence interval with one degree of freedom, her critical χ2 statistic is 3.84. When Jenny calculates the χ2 statistic from her frequencies, she will compare it with the critical χ2 statistic. If Jenny’s χ2 statistic is greater than the critical, she will conclude that the difference is statistically significant and that age does relate to which coupon offer is redeemed.

Calculating the χ2 Value From Observed Frequencies

Now, Jenny needs to compare the actual number of coupons redeemed for each group to their expected number. Essentially, to compute her χ2 value, Jenny follows a particular formula. For each cell, she subtracts the expected frequency of that cell from the actual frequency, squares the difference, and then divides it by the expected frequency. She does this for each cell. Then she sums up her results to get her χ2 value:

  

$1 off

10% off

18-35 =(35-45)^2/45 = 2.22 =(65-55)^2/55=1.82
Over 35 =(55-45)^2/45 = 2.22 =(45-55)^2/55=1.82
     

χ2=

2.22+1.82+2.22+1.82  

=

8.08  

 

Jenny’s χ2 value is 8.08, much higher than the critical 3.84, indicating that there is indeed an association between age and coupon redemption.

Interpreting the Results

Jenny concludes that patrons over the age of 35 are more inclined than patrons age 18-35 to take advantage of a coupon stating $1 off; patrons age 18-35 are more inclined to prefer the 10% off coupon. The way Jenny uses this information depends on the objectives of her business. If Jenny feels that K-Jen needs to attract more middle-aged and senior citizens, she should use the $1 off coupon when targeting them. If Jenny feels K-Jen isn’t selling enough Jambalaya, then she might try to stimulate demand by couponing, sending the $1 off coupon to patrons over the age of 35 and the 10% off coupon to those 18-35.

Jenny might even have a counterintuitive use for the information. If most of K-Jen’s regular patrons are over age 35, they may already be loyal customers. Jenny might still send them coupons, but give the 10% off coupon instead. Why? These customers are likely to buy the jambalaya anyway, so why not give them the coupon they are not as likely to redeem? After all, why give someone a discount if they’re going to buy anyway! Giving the 10% off coupon to these customers does two things: first, it shows them that K-Jen still cares about their business and keeps them aware of K-Jen as a dining option. Second, by using the lower redeeming coupon, Jenny can reduce her exposure to subsidizing loyal customers. In this instance, Jenny uses the coupons for advertising and promoting awareness, rather than moving orders of jambalaya.

There are several more ways to analyze data by subgroup, some of which will be discussed in future posts. It is important to remember that your research objectives dictate the information you collect, which dictate the appropriate analysis to conduct.

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Forecast Friday Topic: Building Regression Models With Excel

July 8, 2010
 (Twelfth in a series)
We’ve spent the last six weeks discussing regression analysis as a forecasting method. As you have seen, simple regression is a bit tedious to work out by hand, but for multiple regression analysis, you almost always need the aid of a computerized software package. Today I will demonstrate for you how to use the Regression Analysis feature of Microsoft Excel’s1 Analysis ToolPak Add-In. Excel 2007 comes with the Analysis ToolPak Add-In, which you can choose to activate. One way to know if Analysis ToolPak is activated on your version of Excel is to click on the Data tab on your workspace and see if there is a “Data Analysis” icon. The following thumbnail will illustrate:

 

Seeing if the Data Analysis ToolPak Add-In is activated.

Checking for the Data Analysis Add-In

Notice towards the upper right corner of the image, “Data Analysis” is highlighted in orange. The presence of the Data Analysis icon means that we have activated the Analysis ToolPak Add-In. If it wasn’t there, you would need to activate the Add-In, which you could do very easily by clicking the “Office” button in the top left hand corner, then clicking the “Excel Options” button, which will take you through the process of activating your add-in.

Setting up a Regression – Our Data Set

Generally in direct mail marketing, three components that often determine how much one spends – or whether he/she buys at all – are recency, frequency, and monetary value – known in short as RFM. Generally, the longer it has been since one’s last purchase (recency), the less he/she is likely to spend. Hence, we would expect a minus sign by the coefficient for recency. Also, RFM theorizes that the more frequently one buys, the greater his/her purchase. So, we would expect a plus sign by the coefficient for frequency. Finally, the higher the customer’s average purchases (monetary value), the greater his/her spending, so we would also expect a plus sign here. RFM is also used heavily by nonprofits in their capital and contributor campaigns, since they are often heavily reliant upon direct mail.

In our example here, a local nonprofit decided to test whether each RFM component had a relationship to a donor’s contribution, so it randomly selected 20 donors who contributed to its last appeal. Naturally, our dependent variable, Y, was the Contribution amount. The nonprofit also looked at three independent variables: months since last contribution (X1), times donated in last 12 months (X2), and average contribution over the last 12 months (X3). These independent variables represent recency, frequency, and monetary value, respectively. The table below shows our dataset:

Giving Patterns of 20 Donors

Donor

Contribution

Months Since Last Donation

Times Donated in last 12 months

Average Contribution in last 12 months

1

95

10

1

85

2

110

8

2

95

3

100

10

2

90

4

115

8

3

75

5

100

9

1

95

6

120

6

2

100

7

105

9

1

90

8

125

10

1

125

9

105

9

2

100

10

130

4

3

150

11

135

7

4

125

12

150

2

8

150

13

140

4

3

125

14

155

2

9

140

15

140

2

8

130

16

160

2

10

150

17

145

3

6

135

18

165

1

12

150

19

150

3

4

160

20

170

1

12

140

The thumbnail below shows what the data set looks like in Excel:

Data Set in Excel

Regression Data Set in Excel

Running the Regression

To run the regression, we need to select the regression tool from the Analysis ToolPak. We do this by clicking on the Data Analysis Tab. The  next thumbnail shows us what we need to do:

Regression Option

Selecting the Regression option from the Data Analysis ToolPak

After selecting the regression tool, we need to select our independent variables and our dependent variables. It is best to make sure all columns containing your independent variables are adjacent to each other, as they are in columns D, E, and F. Notice that column C from rows 2 to 22 contains our Y-range values (including the column label). In columns D, E, and F, rows 2 through 22 contain their respective X-range values. Notice in the thumbnail how we indicate those column/row positions for Y-range and X-range values.

Regression Options

Regression Options

We also need to decide where to place the regression output and what data we want the output to contain. In the thumbnail below, we choose to have the output placed in a new worksheet, called “Regression Output”, and we also check the box indicating that we want the residuals printed. Also notice that we checked the box “Labels”, so that row 2 won’t be inadvertently added into the model.

Regression Options - Continued

Regression Options - Continued

Looking at the Output

Now we run the regression and get the following output:

Regression Output

Regression Output (residuals not shown)

As you can see, cell B5 contains our R2, equal to .933, indicating that 93.3% of the variation in a donor’s contribution amount is explained by changes in recency, frequency, and monetary value. Also, notice the F-statistic in cell E12. It’s a large, strong 73.90, and cell F12 to the right is 0.00, suggesting the model is significant. (Note, the Significance F in cell F12 and the P-Values in cells E17-E20 for each parameter estimate are quick cues to significance. If you’re using a 95% confidence interval – which we are here – then you want those values to be no higher than 0.05).

Now let’s look at each parameter estimate. Cells B17-B20 contain our regression coefficients. We have the following equation:

Contribution Estimate = 87.27 – 1.80 *Months_Since_Last_Donation + 2.45 *Times_Donated_Last_12_Months + 0.35 *Average_Contribution_Last_12_Months

Simplifying, we have:

Contribution Estimate = 87.27 – 1.80*RECENCY + 2.45*FREQUENCY + 0.35*MONETARY_VALUE

Ŷ = 87.27 – 1.80X1 + 2.45X2 + 0.35X3

Note that even though we opted to display the residuals for each observation, I chose not to show them here.  It would have run below the fold, and would have been difficult to see.  Besides, for our analysis, we’re not going to worry about residuals right now.

Interpreting the Output

As we can see, each month since a donor’s last contribution reduces his contribution by an average of $1.80, when we hold frequency and monetary value constant. Likewise, for each time a donor has given in the last 12 months, the size of his contribution increases by an average of $2.45, holding the other two variables constant. In addition, each one-dollar increase in a donor’s average contribution increases his contribution by an average of 35 cents. Hence, all of our coefficients have the signs we expect.

T-Statistics and P-Values

Next, we need to look at the t-statistics and P-values. As mentioned above, for a 95% confidence interval, a parameter estimate must have a p-value no greater than 0.05 (or 0.10 for a 90% confidence interval, etc.), in order to be significant. In like manner, for a 95% confidence interval, t-statistics should be values of at least 1.96 (slightly higher for small samples, but 1.96 will work) or less than -1.96 if the coefficient is negative, to be significant:

Parameter

Coefficient

T-statistic

Significant?

Intercept

87.27

4.32

Yes

Months since Last

(1.80)

(1.44)

No

Times Donated

2.45

2.87

Yes

Average Contribution

0.35

3.26

Yes

Notice that the coefficient for Months Since Last Donation has a t-statistic of -1.44. It is not significant. Another way to tell whether the parameter estimates are significant is to look at the Lower 95% and Upper 95% values in columns F and G.  If the lower and upper 95% confidence interval values for a parameter estimate are both negative or both positive, they are significant.  However, if the lower 95% value is negative and the upper 95% is positive (as is the case with Months Since Last Donation), then the parameter estimate is not significant, since its confidence interval range crosses zero.  Hence Months Since Last Donation is not significant.  Yet, the model still has a 93.3% coefficient of determination. Does this mean we can drop this variable from our regression? Not so fast!

Regression Violation Present!

Generally, when an independent variable we expect to be an important predictor of our dependent variable comes up as statistically insignificant, it is sometimes a sign of multicollinearity. And that is definitely the case with the nonprofit’s model. That will be our topic in next week’s Forecast Friday post.

Forecasting with the Output

Since we’re going to take on multicollinearity next week, let’s pretend our model is A-OK, and generate some forecasts.

We’ll go to our regression output worksheet, select cells A17 through B20, which contain our regression variables and coefficients, and then click Copy (or do a CTRL-C):

Selecting the Coefficients

Selecting the Coefficients

Next, let’s paste those coefficients and transpose them in another worksheet.  Here’s how to select the “Transpose” option when pasting:

Pasting Data Using the Transpose Option

Next, this is what the result of our transpose will be:

Transposed Data

Transposed Data

Now, the nonprofit organization looks at five prospective donors whom they are planning to solicit. They look at their past giving history as shown in the next thumbnail:

Prospective Donors - Before Applying Model

Knowing this information, we want to multiply those values by their respective coefficients. Take a look at the formula in cell F7 as we do just that, in the next thumbnail:

Forecasting with Regression Output

Note how the cell numbers containing the coefficients have their column letters enveloped in ‘$’. The dollar signs tell Excel that when we copy the formula down the next four rows, that it still reference those cells. Otherwise, for each row down, Excel would multiply each blank cell below the coefficients by the next donor’s information.  Here’s are the forecasts generated:

Forecasts made with Model

Next Forecast Friday Topic: Multicollinearity

Today you learned how to develop regression models using Excel and how to use Excel to interpret the output. You also found out that our model exhibited multicollinearity, a violation of one of the key regression assumptions. Next week and the week after, we will discuss multicollinearity in depth: how to detect it, how to correct it, and when to live with it. We will again be using the nonprofit’s model.  As I’ve said before, models are far from perfect and, as such, should only aid – not replace – the decision-making process.

 1 Note: Excel is a registered trademark of Microsoft Corporation. Use of Microsoft Excel in this post is intended only for a demonstration of how to use Excel for regression analysis and does not constitute an endorsement of Microsoft Excel or any other Microsoft product by Analysights, LLC.

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The Man Who Feared Analytics

June 9, 2010

A business owner had once been referred to me by a colleague with whom he had already been doing business. For many years, the businessman’s photography business had been sustained through direct mail advertising, and he often received a 5%-7% response rate, an accomplishment that would boggle most direct marketers. But the recent economic downturn combined with photography’s being a discretionary expense, he soon found his direct mail solicitations bringing in a puny 0.8% response rate. The business owner had a great product, a great price, and a great offer, but at that response rate, he was no longer breaking even.

My colleague and I spoke with the businessman about his dilemma. We talked through his business; we looked at his most recent mailer, learned how he obtained his mailing lists, and discussed his promotion schedule. We found that the photographer would buy a list of names, mail them once, and then use a different list, not giving people enough opportunity to develop awareness of his business. We also found that he didn’t have much information about the people he was mailing.

We recommended that analytics could help the photographer maximize his margin by improving both the top and bottom line. Analytics would first help him understand which customers were responding to his mailings. Then he could purchase lists of people with characteristics similar to those past respondents. His response rate would go up, since he would be sending to a list of people most receptive to his photography. He would also be able to mail fewer people, cutting out those with little likelihood of response. He could then use the savings to remail the members of his target segments who hadn’t responded to his earlier mailing, and thus increase their awareness. It all sounded good to the photographer.

And then, he decided he was going to wait to see if things got better!

Why the Fear of Analytics?

The photographer’s decision is a common refrain of marketers. Marketers and business owners who are introduced to analytics are like riders on a roller coaster: thrilled and nervous at the same time. While marketers are excited about the benefits of analytics, they are also concerned about its cost; they’re afraid of change; and they’re intimidated by the perceived complexity of analytics. We’ll tackle each of these fears here.

FEAR #1: Analytics could be expensive.

REALITY: Analytics is an investment that pays for itself.

The cost of analytics can appear staggering, especially in lean times. Some of the most sophisticated analytics techniques can run into tens – if not hundreds – of thousands of dollars for a large corporation. However, for many smaller companies, analytics can run a few thousand dollars, but still a lot of money. But analytics is not an expense; you are getting something great in return: the insights you need to make better informed marketing decisions and identify the areas in your marketing that you can improve or enhance; the ability to target customers and prospects more effectively, resulting in increased sales and reduced costs; and the chance to establish long-term continuous improvement systems.

Had the photographer gone through with the analytics for his upcoming mail, the entire analysis would have cost him somewhere between $1,300 and $1,800. But that fee would have enabled him to identify where his mailings were getting the greatest bang for his buck and he might have made up for it in reduced mailing costs and increased revenues. Once the analytics had saved or made the photographer at least $1,800, it would have paid for itself.

FEAR #2: Analytics means a change in the way we do things.

REALITY: Analytics brings about change gradually and seamlessly.
The photographer had been using direct mail over and over again, because it worked over and over again – until recently. In fact, having lost so much money on his recent direct mails, he’s probably leery of new approaches, so he stays the course out of familiarity. That’s quite common. But this is the nice part about analytics: change can be gradual! Analytics is about testing the waters, so to reduce risk. Perhaps the photographer could have done a test where half of his mailings were executed the traditional way, and half done the way the analytics recommended. Over the course of a short period, the photographer could then decide for himself what approach was working best.

FEAR #3: Analytics is “over my head.”
REALITY: You need only understand a few high level concepts.

Those complicated and busy mathematical formulas, in all their Greek symbol glory, can be intimidating to people who are not mathematicians, statisticians, or economists. In fact, even I get intimidated from those equations. We must remember, however, that these formulas were developed to improve the way we do things! With analytics, all you need to know is what approach was employed, what it does, why it’s important, and how to apply it – all of which are very simple. Analysts like me deal with all the complicated stuff – finding the approach, employing it, debugging it, refining it, and then packaging it in a way that you can apply seamlessly. And if you don’t understand something about the analytical approach employed, by all means, ask! And any good analyst will give you all the guidance you need until you’re able to apply the analytics on your own.

Forgoing Analytics Can Cost Your Business Three Times Over!

Analytics is one of those tools that many marketers know can enhance their businesses, yet decide to hold off on – either for cost, perceived complexity, or just plain fear. This inaction can be very dangerous. Analytics is not just a tool that improves your business decision making; it also helps you diagnose problems, identify opportunities, and make predictions about the future. Failure to do these properly costs you in three ways. First, you market incorrectly, wasting money. Second, you market to the wrong people; they don’t buy, and you lose revenue you could have made marketing to the right people. Third, you fail to recognize opportunities, and you forgo any sales those missed opportunities may have brought. Analytics is an investment that pays for itself, pays dividends down the road, brings about change in an easy and acceptable way, and whose benefits are easy to grasp and financially rewarding.

Charities are Spying on You – But That’s Not Necessarily a Bad Thing!

May 26, 2010

The June 2010 issue of SmartMoney magazine contained an interesting article, “Are Charities Spying On You?,” which discussed the different ways nonprofit organizations are trying to find out information – available from public sources – on current and prospective donors. As one who has worked in the field of data mining and predictive analytics, I found the article interesting in large part because of how well the nonprofit sector has made use of these very techniques in designing their campaigns, solicitations, and programming.

At first glance, it can seem frightening what charities can learn about you. For instance, the article mentions how some charities’ prospect-research departments look at LinkedIn profiles, survey your salary history, and even use satellite images to get information on the home in which you live. And there is a wealth of information out there about us: Zillow.com gives info about the value of our homes and those around it; if you write articles or letters to the editor of your newspaper, online versions can often be found on Google; buy or sell any real estate? That too gets published in the online version of the newspaper; and online bridal and baby shower registries, graduation and wedding announcements, and any other news are fair game. And your shopping history! If you buy online or through a catalog, your name ends up on mailing lists that charities buy. Face it, there’s a lot of information about us that is widely and publicly available.

But is this so terrible? For the most part, I don’t think so. Surely, it’s bad if that information is being used against you. But think of the ways this data mining proves beneficial:

Customization

Let’s assume that you and I are both donors to the Republican National Committee. That suggests we’re both politically active and politically conservative. But are we engaged with the RNC in the same way? Most likely not. You might have donated to the RNC because you’re a wealthy individual who values low taxes and opposes a national health care plan; I might have donated because I am a social conservative who wants prayer in public schools, favors school choice, and opposes abortion. By seeking out information on us, the RNC can tailor its communications in a manner that speaks to each of us individually, sending you information about how it’s fighting proposed tax hikes in various states, and sending me information about school choice initiatives. In this way, the RNC maintains its relevance to each of us.

In addition, it’s very likely, in this example, that you’re donating a lot more money to the RNC than I am. Hence, that would likely lead the RNC to offer you special perks, such as free passes for you and a guest to meet various candidates or attend special luncheons or events. For me, I might at best be given an autographed photo of the event – in exchange for a donation of course – or an invite to the same events, but with a donation of a lot of money requested. I might get information about when the next Tea Party rally in my area will be held. Or even a brief newsletter. One can argue that the treatment you’re getting vs. that of what I’m getting is unfair. However, think of it like this: at a casino, people who gamble regularly and heavily are given all sorts of complimentary perks: drinks, food, a host to attend to their needs, and even special reduced rate stays. That’s because these gamblers are making so much money for the casino, that the cost of these “comps” is small in comparison. In addition, the casino wants to make it more fun for these gamblers to lose money, so that they’ll keep on playing. In short, the special treatment you’re getting is something you’re paying for, if indirectly. I’m getting less because I’m giving less; you’re getting more because you’re giving more. And the charity will give you more to keep you giving more!

Reduced Waste

Before direct marketing got so sophisticated, mass marketing was the only tactic. If you had a product to sell, you sent the same solicitation to thousands, if not millions of people and hoped for a 1-2% response rate. Most people simply threw your solicitation in the garbage when it came in the mail. Many recipients didn’t have a need for the item you were selling or the appeal for which you were soliciting, and disregarded your piece. As a result, lots of paper was wasted, and the phrase “junk mail” came into existence. In addition, if you used follow-up methods, such as phone calls after the mailing, that got costly trying to qualify the leads, just because of the labor involved.

Now, with targeted marketing and list rental, sales, and sharing, charities can build predictive models that estimate each current and prospective donor’s likelihood of responding to a promotion. As a result, the charity doesn’t need to send out quite a large mailing; it can mail solely to those with the best chance of responding, reducing the amount of paper, print, and postage involved, not to mention reduced labor costs involved, both in the production of the piece and in the staffing of the outbound call center. In short, the charity’s data mining is helping the environment, reducing overhead, and increasing the top and bottom lines.

Better Programming

By knowing more about you, the charity can know what makes you “tick,” so that it can come up with programs that fit your needs. Even if you’re not a large donor, if you and other donors feel strongly about certain issues, or value certain programs, the charity can develop programs that are suitable to its members at large. And while many larger donors may be granted special privileges, their large donations can help fund the programs of those who donate less. Everybody wins.

Not bad at all

The data mining tactics charities use aren’t bad. People don’t want to be bombarded with solicitations for which they see no value in it for themselves. Data mining makes it very possible to give you an offer that is relevant to your situation, is cost-effective and resource-efficient, and design programs from which you’re likely to benefit. It is important to note, that while major donors get several great perks, charities must not ignore those whose donations are smaller, for two reasons: first, they have the potential to become major donors, and second, because of their smaller donations, it’s very likely their frequency of giving is greater. This can mean a great stream of gifts to the charity over time. Hence, charities should do things that show these donors they’re appreciated – and, quite often, this too is often accomplished by data mining.

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