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Trend Watch 2017 By Dave Raley

Christian Leadership AllianceTrend Watch 2017: Three Trends Worthy of Your Attention

By Dave Raley ~

It’s common to kick off a new year by looking forward to the trends that are emerging —trends we expect to become increasingly important as the year goes on.

So I polled our team for what those trends are that we are excited to see develop in 2017, and I’d like to kick off the year by highlighting three in particular (plus a BONUS at the end — so keep reading).

Trend #1: Hyper-personalization increases

In the first week of the new year, Bryan Brown, our experience design VP, received this personalized email from Pandora — the popular music streaming service:

What a year! You listened to 2,556 songs over 125 hours in 2016. Keep the music going into 2017 and Raffi (Children’s) Radio. Listen Now.

Pandora knew Raffi Radio was Bryan’s most listened to station in 2016 — talk about personalized!

For all the years when marketers declared their ability to be hyper-personalized in communications, the reality is that data silos and technology have long been barriers to the ability to truly personalize communications. In 2017, we’re seeing the best technology that has ever existed as well as workarounds to data silos, enabling new levels of personalization far beyond just a name and address.

And hyper-personalization is not limited to online channels. Here’s what Christine Somoza, one of our team leaders, had to say about direct mail specifically:

Direct mail will continue to evolve and improve along with updated printing technologies, as well as increasingly savvy use of donor data. Donors, like consumers, will continue to want relevant, personal communications, and mail programs will step up to deliver on this promise.

Trend #2: Algorithms and machine-learning drive marketing decisions faster

The recent presidential election will be studied for years to come — one of the stories emerging is how the Trump campaign leveraged technology to make marketing decisions at a scale not possible by mere humans:

Kushner credits the campaign’s fundraising haul to machine learning. Per Forbes, his operation “(installed) digital marketing companies on a trading floor to make them compete for business. Ineffective ads were killed in minutes, while successful ones scaled. The campaign was sending more than 100,000 uniquely tweaked ads to targeted voters each day.” “Kushner explains how he led Trump to victory” — November 22, 2016

(The original piece from Forbes is here and makes for fascinating post-election reading.)

Steve Caldwell heads up the Analytics & Insight team at Masterworks. Here’s what he had to say:

Predictive analytics solutions will increasingly become more and more valuable to organizations. The ability to use prediction to make decisions has been around for some time, and has always been a key pillar within the marketing analytics landscape. Today, however, we are moving into what once seemed like a futuristic marketing environment, where logical algorithms drive decisions and artificial intelligence and machine learning technology have become easily accessible. Masterworks has long been helping clients use advanced statistical models and simulation tools to optimize things like donor segmentation and long-term planning. Tools like these will continue to expand into every facet of clients’ marketing decisions, optimizing more granular levels of the donor experience and increasing the ROI of marketing efforts.

Trend #3: Video increasingly dominates social media

The use of video has become critical to success in social media over the last two years, and we expect that to grow in 2017. In fact, when we’ve tested social media fundraising promotions, video has regularly beaten photo-based stories. People engage with video, and it doesn’t hurt that social media sites prioritize video content in their algorithms.

Here’s what our Social Media Strategist Tara Singh had to say:

With major social platforms like Facebook reducing organic reach significantly for brands and prioritizing video, non-profits will 1) invest more in paid content to engage people on social platforms and 2) experiment with live-streaming video to connect with supporters.

ANTI-Trend: Longstanding core principles are still true

Now here’s the bonus I mentioned earlier. I include this because every post like this about the new things to look to in the new year sends an implicit message — that things in the past must now no longer work. While that might be true for some tactics that become outdated, there are a myriad of core principles that never change — they just get better as they are adapted to the present. A few of those that will never go out of style:

Core Principle: Make decisions on long-term value and return

It is a constant temptation to make decisions on up front or short-term results, but we’re just as constantly reminded that what matters is long-term impact. So don’t be so quick to judge the success or failure of your efforts based on what happens initially. Have the discipline to look back at efforts 1 year later, 2 years later and evaluate the long-term impact of specific tests and efforts to determine their true value.

Core Principle: Stories move people – appeal to the heart

From Seth LaTour, our Managing Creative Director:

Immersive storytelling engages ministry constituents and drives results. Across all mediums, donors and prospects alike want to know more than just the facts and figures about your ministry. They want to be moved. They want to be immersed in a story that connects with their heart. They want proof that your ministry works, and the story of a life changed is that proof.

Core Principle: Acquisition media strategy is critical to bringing enough donors in to sustain and grow

From Sheryl Larson, Sr. Director of Media for Masterworks:

With the proliferation of more and more media channels at our fingertips (literally with a click or a swipe!), optimizing your media spend to acquire high-value, long-term donors — as well as to offer opportunities for new audiences to become your organization’s advocates — is key to the growth and success of NPOs.

There are many other core principles that won’t change in 2017 — if you don’t ask you don’t receive, increased frequency tends to increase results, and so on. Keep that in mind even as you look to what’s new in the new year.

I hope understanding these trends will help poise your ministry for growth in 2017. As always, let us know if you have any questions or would like to chat about any of these trends.


Dave Raley is Executive Vice President of Analytics, Innovation & Strategy for Masterworks. Dave leads one of the industry’s strongest teams in analytics, media, and strategy – and the industry’s only experience design team.

Experience more thought leadership from Masterworks at the Outcomes Conference 2017.  Alan ThornBurgh, VP of Client Strategy at Masterworks teams up with Kyle Barthelson, VP, Direct Marketing at the Alliance Defending Freedom to present the Intensive Training Institute session titled: Innovation Strategies that Work.   Come and discover how to fuel innovation and create momentum in your ministry!


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