Using FastStats to shift towards a more supporter centric approach to marketing communications

Company Overview

PDSA is the leading UK veterinary charity and provides free veterinary care to the sick and injured pets of people in need and also promotes responsible pet ownership as part of its mission.

In 2010 PDSA PetAid Hospitals provided more than 2.3 million free treatments and sold more than 380,000 preventive treatments - the delivery of these services cost around £56 million. The charity’s veterinary work is funded entirely by public support; mainly through gifts in wills, donations and trading activity via its network of 180 retail stores.


PDSA has an extensive supporter database of over 6.8m records and has been a leading user of direct marketing techniques for many years. PDSA has been a FastStats user for over 10 years and has developed a large FastStats solution in order to service marketing needs. Historically supporters have been targeted with a large range of fundraising products grouped into key profit areas such as committed giving, gaming, traditional donations, and trading. This product based strategy has been extremely successful over many years but increasing competition, product over-targeting, and maturing products have resulted in declining response rates, increased acquisition costs, and rising supporter opt out rates.

The FastStats® product suite is an invaluable element of the contact strategy process.

The “PDSA Contact Strategy” is an attempt to shift towards a more supporter centric approach to marketing communications. An environment where all communications are based on supporters’ behavioural and demographic characteristics – marketing is empirical and data led – and communications work together in a consistent, coherent and co-ordinated way to deliver a series of defined objectives.

Project Overview

PDSA have begun the process of implementing and testing a ‘Contact Strategy‘ to challenge the existing business as usual activity and address the long term strategy issues across Direct and Legacy Marketing.

The strategic vision is to test a supporter-focused approach to direct marketing to improve product targeting and achieve data efficiencies and ultimately increase net income.

The FastStats product suite has been used extensively across the whole project, from providing analysis to support the project rationale, to holding the data architecture for managing the marketing activity to Supporters.

  1. Audit & Insight
  2. Project Initiation
  3. Segmentation
  4. Models
  5. Contact Flows
  6. Architecture definition, Testing and Reporting

The early stages of the project were outsourced to Callcredit Solutions (CiG). CiG delivered a segmentation solution, a series of targeting models and a supporter-focused approach to marketing using distinct contact streams, focussed on delivering key business objectives for PDSA. PDSA have further developed this approach, defining a detailed communications programme and data flow process for managing supporter relationships.

In December 2010 the segmentation and models were delivered into FastStats Discoverer and validated, and the coding of the Contact Strategy architecture began.


CiG developed a hierarchical segmentation solution. The principle solution is behavioural, split by recency of transactions that categorises supporters into twenty two distinct segments as shown below. The Secondary solution is nine demographic segments, split by the key characteristics of age and income using actual date of births where available and supplemented by Cameo 1 household data.The underlying variables and segmentation business rules are all coded on Phoenix to allow PDSA to store and calculate historical values for time series analysis. All supporters are re-scored monthly and the data passed to FastStats via a weekly build. CAMEO is CiG’s family of consumer classification systems.

PDSA Segmentation Solution


CiG also developed three targeting models in order to identify those supporters who were at risk of attrition or good prospects for up-sell.

  1. Best Friends Retention Model
  2. Lottery to Donation Cross-sell Model
  3. Cashcascade Cross-sell Model

These models were delivered and coded into Phoenix and all supporters are re-scored monthly and the data passed to FastStats via a weekly build. In addition, two committed giving targeting models were created using the Decision Tree tool in Discoverer and coded directly onto FastStats and available as virtual variables.

  1. Best Friends Targeting Model
  2. Sponsor Me Better Targeting Model

Contact Strategy Solution

The key principle of the contact strategy solution is a hierarchical contact ‘stream’ structure to represent five marketing objectives:

  • New Recruits
  • Up Sell
  • Cross Sell
  • Retention
  • Reactivation

Supporters are placed into a stream based on their behavioural segment, model scores and supporter activity. These streams are further split into ‘flows’ to represent the communication strategy and determine and manage the communications supporters will receive based on product specific business rules. Supporters move around the streams and flows via further business rules that determine flow ‘exits’. ‘Maintenance’ streams have also been developed to manage responses to specific streams and also to hold supporters in “pools” or resting places for ‘Business as Usual’ (BAU) activity, enabling other products to target specific streams.

Cross-sell Allocation to Streams / Flows

Cross-sell is at the heart of the contact strategy and targets supporters who look like a good prospect for a commitment, an appeal donation or a legacy. It compromises of five streams and thirty-one flows, eight of which have been launched and all of which have been coded in Discoverer.

Testing & Results

PDSA began testing in March 2011. To evaluate this test, FastStats Discoverer was used to set up statistically valid test and control samples and FastStats Excelsior used to deliver a reporting suite - enabling the performance of the test and control to be monitored and the key objectives to be tracked.

The FastStats product suite is an invaluable element of the contact strategy process: Its flexibility has allowed the process to be continually amended throughout the test, meaning that the project team and marketing analysts have had control of the key processes and are able to ‘architect’ the core elements without calling on IT resources. The marketing teams are exposed to the data and the processes in a familiar, transparent and useable environment, supported by the Analysts. In addition it provides the building blocks for more advanced campaign management tools (e.g. PeopleStage).

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