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Piecing Together a Direct Marketing Campaign

New to direct response marketing, I jumped at the chance to attend DMAW’s March DM 101 session. As I sat through the fantastic presentations, I realized that a direct marketing campaign is actually a lot like the delicious taco bar we enjoyed for lunch: In order to have a complete taco, all the components—crunchy or soft shell, meat or beans, toppings, sides—need to be laid out for you. You make your selections, and then you test and measure your satisfaction (success) to learn for the next time you’re presented with a delicious taco spread (hopefully at DM 201!). Of course, what’s most important with direct marketing (and with taco assembly, too), is to strategically choose from each of the components to create the best possible campaign.

We started the morning of the session with creative. For an integrated direct response campaign, the creative is like the taco’s shell—the important delivery method. Good creative carries the message—the institutional branding, the difference each individual donor makes, and especially how their donations will help. And there are multiple ways to convey the creative – phone, mail, digital; creative helps get users to the donation call to action in new and engaging ways. Of course, there are lots of ways to put together a taco—as a salad, with hard or soft shells made of corn or flour. It’s the same with creative. Different types of appeals can each result in a successful campaign—but regardless of which one you use, all the creative elements must be executed in harmony.


Copy, an important part of creative, is like the taco meat, or filling, if you’re one of our veggie friends. There are different types to choose from, all with different types of preparation styles.  It’s important to pick the copy types that resonate with each of your segments.

During the production presentation, we learned that the production process is the dressing up of our creative and copy to make sure donors have the best first impression of your DM campaign.  It’s important to think about the different aspects of production—like creative, strategy, audience, and costs—at the beginning stages of the campaign. Like the tasty toppings for your taco, the production elements need to be fresh, relevant, and considered early on!

The rest of the day gave equal attention to data, lists hygiene, caging, and online direct marketing. Like any taco dinner, the delicious salsas and sides are necessary to make it a perfect meal. The lists and the hygiene of those lists is just like like how, when I roll through a taco bar, I put a little rice on the plate, maybe beans, guacamole, and chips. Like any good taco eater, I assess how I did with the taco plate, just like you should with your lists. Depending on the response your list gets, you may need to make some changes for the next send – just like I know exactly which salsa or beans I’m going to add or omit from my next fiesta.

At the end of the day, the DMAW DM 101 was an excellent day in which my time was well spent learning all the ins and out of direct marketing and getting a better understanding of how all the elements fit together. If you’re as hungry as I am for a taco after this report, hit me up on Twitter and let’s swap strategies—DM and taco building!


Lauren Bailey

Lauren Bailey is a digital strategist with CDR Fundraising Group. She can be reached at