Cathedral Corporation Delivers Award-Winning Customer Intimacy

Direct marketing is making a comeback at Rome, NY-based Cathedral Corporation. Not that it ever actually went away. The 90-plus-year-old firm has produced direct mail since its earliest days, providing fundraising and other stewardship services for churches. But where transactional work delivered Cathedral’s greatest growth from 1995 to 2005, direct marketing has performed that role of late, helping to drive 8% to 10% overall growth in the last few years, despite the recession.

“Full-color printing, PURLs, and multichannel communications are driving better results, and that has picked up our direct marketing,” says Marianne Gaige, President and Chief Executive Officer, Cathedral Corporation.

Cathedral’s transactional initiatives also thrive. Last year, the firm’s redesign of Citadel credit union’s statement into a transpromotional piece won a Best of the Best award from the Xerox (Booth 4026/3766) Premier Partners Global Network of leading print providers. And overall, transactional work and direct marketing each account for about half of Cathedral’s $25 million in annual revenues from 5,000 not-for-profits and businesses in a wide range of industries nationwide.

“Cathedral competes with a strategy that we call customer intimacy,” Gaige says. “We want to build relationships and lead customers to the future of print with email, PURLs, SMS text, presentment on the Web, and QR codes. We become part of a solution, part of their growth.”

That is certainly the case at the diocese of Erie, PA, where Cathedral is delivering a significant fundraising boost. Like most Roman Catholic diocese in the northeastern U.S., participation in Erie’s annual fundraiser has declined significantly over the last decade. Most dioceses seek to win back lapsed donors with relatively expensive direct mail programs, which historically deliver nominal returns of 0.5% to 2%.

To reinvigorate Erie’s 5,000 lapsed donors, who had not contributed over a four-year period—despite annual solicitations—Cathedral proposed a multi-media, personalized URL-campaign. “Rather than just ask them for money, we tried to reconnect with them,” says Gaige.

A series of three consecutively mailed postcards asked, “What Does It Mean to be Catholic?” and provided a PURL where personalized follow-ups helped recipients reconnect. The fourth mailer was a fundraising solicitation.

The results: the response rate doubled to 12%, with 600 contributions totaling more than $125,000, and an impressive 900% return on investment.


Merging statements

Citadel credit union had a different challenge: capturing growth in an expanding market. The institution, with more than a dozen branches in southeastern Pennsylvania, sought to boost member satisfaction and attract new members.

Initially, Citadel sought a straightforward redesign of its confusing monochrome statements, using highlight color to focus reader attention on key data, such as deposit and loan balances. However, it eventually opted for full-color statements, which still focus reader attention but look better and open up new promotional and cost-reduction opportunities.

Consequently, Citadel cut postage fees by merging member rewards statements with the monthly statements. And it created marketing opportunities with space for as many as 10 unique marketing messages—including variable photos—to 10 different member groups in each statement cycle.

Now, more than 200,000 full-color Citadel member statements are produced monthly in tight, 72-hour turnarounds on a Xerox 980 color continuous feed printer. “That’s what’s so critical about the 980,” Gaige says. “We can’t sell full-color and meet our service level agreement without the 980’s speed and quality.”

The solution has delivered as promised. Significant cost savings have been realized in production, materials, and postage costs. Citadel now runs a leaner call center. Member satisfaction is high. And Citadel is meeting its growth objectives.