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Business is Personal

Imagine you’re in the middle of mowing your lawn when all of a sudden a big knock and cloud of smoke exits your lawn mower. There you are, holding on to a now giant paperweight watching the ghost of your mower slowly drift down the road. This is not good. For one, your lawn mower has apparently just died. Second, you now have an uneven lawn that resembles alien crop circles. You need to borrow your neighbor’s mower. Here are two different approaches you could take to getting your neighbor to happily loan you their mower:

“Hi, neighbor, my lawn mower broke, can I borrow yours?”

Or, “Hi, Bob, my lawn mower broke, can I borrow yours?”

There is only one difference between these two sentences. One is generic and one is personal. It is much more likely that your neighbor will feel better about loaning you his mower when there is sense of personal connection. Addressing your neighbor by their name conveys that you know them. When we feel like someone knows us we are more likely to trust him or her. We are more likely to expect they will treat us like a friend as opposed to some random person. And, a friend will more likely treat your assets (a lawn mower) as they do their own because there is an implied ongoing relationship. Although, the fact that your own lawn mower just blew up would probably give your neighbor a little concern over their own.

This psychological affect that personalization has on the brain can be seen in all types of situations in life. It can also be a highly effective tool in marketing, particularly with direct mail. Personalization is utilized in many forms of media from emails to web pages (PURLs) to personalized ads and entertainment based on browsing history to the way your phone interacts with you. The small detail of personalization is a way to make all of these interactions feel more relevant and trustworthy. Direct mail is the one form of media, however, where we have the opportunity to not only address the person by name, but we can do it through an already trusted marketing channel that is tangible and memorable.

Personalization in direct mail has shown to increase the response rate in some cases by 135%.1 This form of personalized marketing is particularly effective with nonprofits, which can bring in 60 to 80% of their total revenue through direct mail fund raising efforts.2

Personalization doesn’t need to stop at just addressing a person by name. Anything that is in your database can be used to personalize a direct mail piece such as previous buying or giving history, location, age, race, gender, ages of children, age of home, income, etc. There are endless possibilities when it comes to what variables can be used and how. Variables in the data can be used as simple text, or can trigger different messages entirely from the whole letter body to the graphics and images. In fact, when more complex variable data is used to construct messages in direct mail the response rates can increase up to 500%.1

Marketers must be cautious though. One element that can turn an otherwise great personalized message into a complete failure is bad data. Addressing your neighbor Bob as Mrs. Burnett will greatly hinder the likelihood of you finishing your lawn. Effective personalized marketing relies on high quality data. It is vitally important that if you use personalization in any of your marketing efforts that you have accurate data. It is well worth it to utilize CASS and NCOA services, implement strict data entry practices with staff, and periodically review your database to maintain accuracy. Do not expect a mail service provider to catch oddities in your data. Including records marked as “do not mail” or having notes such as “deceased” in the name fields can often make it into the mail. Data for mailing is typically processed with software that only looks at the street address and compares records based on an alphanumeric string.

Creating a great personalized direct mail campaign doesn’t have to be difficult. With good design, high quality data, and accurate production, one can easily pull off a highly effective marketing effort. Phillips Printing provides consultation, design, data services, production and mailing for such campaigns. Please contact us if you have any questions regarding the process. We’re here to help.

1 Canon Solutions America. 2 Pursuant.