Data & Audience Insights

Make Your Mail Personal With VDP

When you want your customers to sit up and really take notice of your mail, get personal with variable data printing (VDP).

That is, use purchase data or demographics … any data that is unique to an individual, and create a customized printed piece just for that person.

Until recently, “personalization” in direct mail meant merging in a name, an address, and not much else. Prospects who saw their names repeated a few times in a letter were supposed to feel special. But did we really expect them to think they were getting a personal letter?

The problem with this approach is that it isn’t truly personal.

It’s awkward, not conversational at all. Everyone in the campaign gets an identical pitch and an identical offer on identical-looking mailpieces.

That’s the old way.

Today, technology lets you speak to customers one to one.

As more marketers adopt digital printing and use all of the customer data they’ve collected or purchased, they can work with their printers to create powerful direct mail that grabs a recipient’s attention, builds interest and establishes a deeper relationship.

Why use personalized mail?

When you collect data about your customer, you can start to build a profile of each one. Reviewing your data can tell you more about their purchase and lifestyle.

But that data means almost nothing if it isn’t centered around your customers and their wants and needs. You must connect your insights to create messages and offers that help them as individuals.

The result? A better relationship with (and loyalty to) your brand. Also, studies show that variable messaging can deliver higher response rates and sales.

What to customize on your direct mailpiece

Here are some ideas:

  • Copy (recipient’s name, address, account number, balance due, loyalty status, program benefits, etc.)
  • Graphics (images, charts, maps)
  • Offers (prices, fundraising ask amounts)
  • Calls to Action (personalized URLs, landing pages)

One of these critical elements, or a combination, is tied to a prospect’s or customer’s own information. So, it’s much more likely to get and keep their attention than a generic or static direct mail piece.

With VDP, you could have 20,000 separate variations on your campaign in a 20,000 piece drop.

Think of the possibilities!

Here are four:

Retailer: Print a map showing the route from your customer’s house to the nearest location of your store. Or, mail a flyer offering special prices on items they’ve bought in the past.

Bank: Offer a customized loan offer based on their credit rating.

Utility: Present options for heating or cooling the house based on square footage and past energy usage.

Non-profit: Persuade them to upgrade their membership and its benefits with special donation amounts.

Thanks to what you know about your customers’ age, gender, and other demographics, you can choose images in for your direct mail that they are more likely to identify with.

Do this first: Clean your data

Personalization and variable digital printing allow companies to create customized touchpoints for customers, raising the perception of the brand if done well. These tactics can help your company cross-sell and upsell products and services. But you must manage your data carefully.

Your data must be clean – correct and up to date. Mailing to a dirty list wastes your postage budget. At a minimum, you must run your mailing files against the USPS’s CASS (Coding Accuracy Support System), NCOA (National Change of Address), and ACS (Address Change Service) databases.

Next: Develop an ROI strategy

Once you have total confidence in your data, you must develop a strategy to increase your campaign ROI with that data.

You need to find out:

  • Do I have enough data?
  • Do I have too much data?

Without the right tools and people to capitalize on your customer data, a highly complex personalized campaign won’t achieve the results you want or help you build a holistic view of your customer.

Don’t forget privacy

How consumers think about sharing specific types of data, such as name or purchase history, or with specific industries, or brands can vary greatly by generation, gender, or income level. What one segment considers creepy or invasive by one segment might be acceptable to another.

In response to theft, hacking, and misuse of personal data that have generated so much concern in the last few years, consider how customers will feel about how you use their data. Let them know how you acquired, plan to use, and protect their personal information.

Wrapping it up

Personalization technology has been around for years. In the online world, analytics has led to the rapid adoption of customized experiences for consumers.

In direct mail, however, personalization, or even a strategy to implement it effectively, has been much slower to catch on.

Consumers want content and advertising to be relevant and customized, just not too noticeable or obvious.

Personalized direct mail can do this. The best personalized direct mail pieces don’t come off as targeted or conspicuous. Instead, they feel personal, inviting, and warm.

Because complex personalization is still somewhat rare in direct mail, now is the time to incorporate it into your direct mail programs to stand out against the competition in the mailbox.

A highly personalized direct mail piece, informed by the customer’s own data, helps to establish a comfortable buying environment and experience.

Using today’s printing solutions, the personalized mail campaign connects with your consumer on a human-to-human level and creates an authentic long-term relationship built on familiarity, value, and trust.

Contact the team at for ideas on how to put your data and state-of-the-art printing options together!

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