Heading up a firm that has won numerous awards and honors for its campaign accomplishments, Mae Daniller is herself recognized as one of the nation’s top consultants in membership building and fund development.
During Women Communicators of Austin’s WCA@Lunch program in February, Daniller talked about the “Keys to Keeping Clients Content” and the insights she has gained in working with a client roster that reads like a who’s who list of visitor-based museums, science centers, gardens and arts-related nonprofits.
In 1999, Daniller launched Daniller + Company as a spin off of the nationally known direct response powerhouse, Rove + Company, where she had headed up the cultural side of that firm’s client roster for nearly 20 years. Since that time, she and her team have worked with nonprofits across the United States, including the Guggenheim Museum, MoMA New York, the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, The Franklin Institute, The Kimbell Art Museum, and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.
Her goal is to maintain long-term relationships and she takes pride in that fact. In quantitative terms, she noted that of the 42 clients with which Daniller + Company had already booked campaigns for 2023, 15 are organizations that she and her staff have been working with for over 20 years.
In explaining this success, Daniller referenced a focus on achieving excellences in five key areas:
- Integrity, which in practical terms means looking at and making recommendations based upon the client’s, not the agency’s bottom-line.
- Accountability, which requires the ability to execute the agreed-up plan
- Innovation and creativity that come into play as an important step in ensuring that the campaigns are developed so as to elevate and not compromise each client’s unique brand.
- Respect which involves acknowledging that the clients, themselves, are accountable to their respective boards and the agency’s role is to support them in that regard by delivering results.
- Encouraging all involved to stretch themselves. For the clients, this might mean putting a little more money into a campaign or a willingness to move a little beyond their comfort zones and try something different. From the agency side, the stretching might mean working just a little harder or, perhaps, creatively, to remain on-budget and on-schedule while delivering great results.
The goal of every project at Daniller + Company is to translate the “who” and the “why” of each organization’s mission into effective mail, email and social media campaigns directed at membership growth and/or annual fund raising. With clients located all over the country, this requires not only an understanding of the organization, but also of the locational differences that impact each regional market.
Out of these efforts has emerged a strong client list that has grown and evolved almost entirely by word of mouth. Daniller + Company does participate in industry related awards programs, and is proud to have been honored year-after-year for its accomplishments not only in terms of creative excellence, but in outstanding results. Accolades include 30 MAXI awards from the Direct Marketing Association of Washington, 18 Clarion Awards from AWC (American Women Communicators), and seven NonProfit PRO Awards.
Often, when approaching a new client, the firm will conduct an in-depth assessment of current programs or past campaigns and then present their findings and recommendations. The purpose of this process is to better ascertain what the client really wants and needs to accomplish, as well as to set realistic goals and then exceed expectations.
In addition to using Basecamp as a project management tool, Daniller and her team rely on regularly scheduled meetings to keep everyone on track. When a campaign is concluded, the firm then reports back and shares all of the data. As appropriate, this includes providing comparative results, even when the current numbers are not as successful as those from a previous year. For Daniller, transparency and honesty are the best ways to cultivate long-term relationships.
How does the firm maintain its competitive edge? Daniller cited an impressive list of to-do’s, starting with “build relationships, really listen to clients, and communicate honestly.” She also emphasized the importance of representing the client’s voice and brand rather than relying upon cookie-cutter solutions or falling into the trap of creating an agency “look.”
The bottom line is to make sure the client’s brand is translated into an effective direct response piece or program. And, to achieve that result, every step has to be carefully analyzed and considered.
Daniller’s final piece of advice is to “bring joy to our work and our internal culture, because that is a critical component in making not only our company, but our clients successful.”
- Keys to Keeping Clients Content: A WCA@Lunch Program Recap - March 13, 2023