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May 30, 2017

Why Personalization Matters in Direct Mail


Using personalization in marketing is nothing new. From greeting customers at the door to using a customer’s first name in an email salutation, personalization strengthens the client/customer relationship, improves customer experience, and makes customers feel valued.


But with improvements in technology, our ability to personalize elements of a direct mail piece have become much more sophisticated.

Today, personalization goes far beyond using a customer’s first name in the copy. Marketers with good instinct and a robust customer database can personalize everything from the offer to the graphics used in the layout.


This is where purchased lists fall short of a carefully grown and manicured organic database. When you collect information from your current and potential customers (through lead nurturing efforts and inbound marketing), you’re collecting personal data that you can turn into gold by using it to customize campaigns, increase response, and thereby boost the ROI.


Of course, in order to personalize effectively, you need an organized database with good, clean data. Use this data hygiene checklist to make sure your list is squeaky clean.


According to data collected by the USPS, someone who receives a direct mail piece from a company they’ve previously purchased from has a response rate of 18.4%. That number plummets to just 4.6% for an unknown organization.


If simply being familiar to a recipient can have that much impact on response rates, think about how effective a direct mail piece personalized using past customer data–such as purchase history, location, age, or marital status–could be.

Why is personalization so effective? 

For one thing, people like it. In Dale Carnegie’s famous book, How to Win Friends & Influence People, he writes, “Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” Using a person’s name in conversation can make them feel a stronger sense of liking and willingness to help you out. Likewise, using someone’s name in direct mail creates an affinity between you and your customer that increases the likelihood that they will respond. 

“Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”
- Dale Carnegie

It also improves targeting. Personalization is like putting a magnifying glass over your standard audience segmenting. You can zoom in on exactly what will make each recipient tick, customizing the offer and content based on their past shopping behavior, preferences, and demographics.


It’s highly relevant. We are hardwired to filter out the noise and pay more attention to things that are relevant to us. Think about how in a crowded party, you can effectively tune out the conversations around you – until you happen to catch your own name being said. You immediately turn around or strain your ears to hear what’s being said. Personalization snags our attention because it’s relevant to our needs or interests.


Personalization enhances customer experience. When you’re trying to decide what movie to watch on Friday night, which is a more satisfying experience: scrolling through the top 10 most popular downloads on iTunes, or choosing from one of the options suggested by Netflix based on your viewing history? Personalization minimizes information overload, which makes it easier for people to make a decision – and act on it.


Without fail, delivering a direct mail piece that speaks to an individual's specific needs or desires will increase response rates.

Personalization in Action 

Now that you understand what makes personalization so effective, here are seven ideas for how to personalize your next direct mail campaign:


1. Offer – Use information about the customer’s past interactions with your company to customize the offer you send them.

2. Copy – Addressing a customer is a commonplace tactic, but that doesn’t make it any less powerful. If you have their name, use it.

3. Imagery – Swapping out the images you use in the mail piece based on a customer’s location can help the content feel familiar, relevant to their daily life and surroundings.

4. Form – Pre-filling certain fields of a form with customer data like name, address, and phone number can increase response by making it even easier for them to complete it.

5. PURLs – Take the personalization online by directing recipients to a PURL (personalized URL). With PURLs, you can serve personalized content and more effectively track user behavior following a direct mail drop.

6. Gender – Sometimes, men and women view the same product differently. Adjusting content based on gender can portray the offer in a light that’s most appealing to them.

7. Reminder – If your product or service is something that needs to be repurchased or renewed after a certain period of time, create personalized campaigns based on the timing of a customer’s last purchase.

Offering a customized coupon with a quick expiration date can add urgency to the reminder.

8. Industry – Different industries have different reasons for using your products and services. Use variable data printing to make sure you’re speaking their language. 


As modern marketers, we are armed to the gills with data. What distinguishes great marketers from mediocre marketers is how well we wield it. Put your data on the frontlines by personalizing your direct mail campaigns.


Is your next campaign ready to rock and roll?

Download our free Direct Mail Production Checklist to ensure your next project is produced on time, on budget, and according to plan.


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