Direct Mail Data: The Simple & Transparent Truth

Success in direct marketing, the late marketing expert Ed Mayer said, “is 40 percent lists, 40 percent offers, and 20 percent everything else.” Although originally formulated back in the 1960s, there’s no reason to think that this ratio is any different today. In fact, data – the list – is the fuel that drives marketing.
Data is the lifeblood of direct mail printing and mailing in so many ways. Smart marketers make sure that it’s accurate and protected from misuse or harm. This builds trust, as well as saves postage and printing costs.

Assuming you’re one of those smart people, what’s next? How can you make good use of the data you have to make your direct mail interesting and helpful to a potential customer, and to drive action?

Read on for some insight into how good data can improve the remaining 60 percentage of the Mayer equation and make your direct mail successful.

Define Your Audience

Whether you’re targeting a wide or narrow audience in your outbound marketing, you need to define who your ideal customer is. If you’re starting from scratch – compiling your own list – there are many ways to build a database. Potential leads can be generated online or offline from social media, surveys, event signups, and online forms, just to name a few.

This is only a starting point. And depending on the market or markets you serve, you may wish to take it slow in asking prospects for information. In many cases, it may be more prudent to try to get people to opt-in for email first before asking for a physical address at a later stage. Established customers should be targeted very differently than prospects, based on modeling and how much data you already have on them.

Developing your own list only goes so far. To be more effective more quickly in marketing your products and services, it’s better to go to a third-party provider for high-quality, verified data. With more qualified names, you’ll also be more likely to test different segments and offers, even audiences of one.

Segment Your Data

Segmentation of data has been around for decades. Gender, age, income, financial status, and education level are all pretty obvious ones. Thanks to data you can match and append from vendors, you can dig even deeper into psychographics like hobbies, religion, and many more.

Geomarketing, which uses the customer’s or prospect’s address to target prospects, can drive response. In its simplest form, it selects by state, city, zip code, or by street or neighborhood. Easy-peasy, except that you can further refine your campaign by applying other demographics. You can also choose to focus on customers within a certain distance radius of a retail location, if that’s what our mail is promoting.

But one of the best measurements to look at is based on actual behavior: listing your customers by RFM (Recency, Frequency, Monetary). The best customers have bought the most recently, buy most frequently, and spent the most money. Ranking them by quintiles (groups of 20%) lets you prioritize what customers should get more of your attention, especially with data-driven offers and direct mail to keep them coming back.

And speaking of behavior, a customer’s online actions can result in data that spurs a direct mail effort. With programmatic mail, a company can retarget someone who showed interest in a product or service with a follow-up printed mail piece. If it meets certain behavioral criteria, a personalized special offer can be mailed in just a few days, reminding the prospect of their original intent, and maybe providing an incentive to make a purchase.

VDP Opportunities

Variable Data Print or VDP is more than just a tactic, more than mere personalization. It’s a powerful strategy that tailor-fits a direct mail package to each recipient based on some of their individual data points. A marketer can use this print and software technology combination to produce copy, images, and offers unique for every prospect or customer in a given mail campaign.

Because it is personalized in a deeper way, often with high visual appeal, the mail piece has a higher perceived relevance to the recipient. Direct mail that is relevant is compelling and valuable … and results in more conversions.

For example, a retailer can use direct mail to drive customers to the doors of one (or more) of its locations by including a personalized map with a route for them to follow, as well as distance information.

Considering all of the data that marketers and their partners (suppliers of 3rd party data) have on the average consumer, there are many possibilities using VDP. However, be careful using this data.

Rather than seem overbearing, disrespectful, or at worst, creepy, leverage what you know in such a way as to bring immediate value to the relationship you’re starting or growing. Using data wisely should be the foundation of creating a good customer experience, not its end goal.


Wrapping it up

  • Special care should be taken when creating VDP direct mail for certain industry verticals. Financial, age, and health data should be handled in the mail piece with the greatest respect for sensitivity and privacy.


  • Transpromo mail – Bills and statements are another opportunities for marketers to leverage their relationship with a customer by presenting data in a more interesting and appealing way, as well as make new offers on other products or service upgrades.


  • Use purchase history data to target customers with special offers based on their behavior, not necessarily your promotions.

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