Data & Audience Insights, Direct Mail Products

Personalized Direct Mail: The Next Great Marketing Tool

Personalized direct mail gives modern marketers an opportunity to reach audiences like never before.

For decades, spray-and-pray mailings were the most common way to reach consumers. Everyone in a direct mail campaign received identical messaging and an identical offer on identical-looking mail pieces. It was easy to plan, inexpensive to produce, and affordable to mail to mass audiences.

In the last few years; postage and printing production costs have increased. Fortunately, thanks to advances in both hardware and software, it is much simpler to produce and mail customized mail pieces. And even better, today’s more targeted, personalized mailings produce better engagement, response, and ROI.

What is Personalized Direct Mail?

Personalized direct mail is any mail piece that uses one or more data elements that you have on a customer or prospect. Simple personalization, such as a name on a letter, or an address, is merged into the mail piece or printed in a separate pass or step.

Complex direct mail personalization uses variable data printing (VDP) by pulling dynamically-generated headlines, addresses, personal names, offers, graphics, or images from a file. They are inserted onto a static mail design or template based on a variable piece of data they’re matched to in your print files before the preflight stage. With the right digital press and software, a run of hundreds of thousands of unique mail pieces can be printed at high speed, each with whatever tailor-fit elements you choose to put on them.

Potentially, nearly every component of a direct mail piece can be personalized, like letters, headlines and subheads, body copy, inserts, images, graphics and charts, and CTA reply devices. Anywhere there is data that sets one prospect or customer apart from another, there’s an opportunity to use a variable element.

Benefits of Personalized Direct Mail

Why should you personalize direct mail? Several reasons stand out, all of which support an intelligent use of data to help guide your marketing strategy.

Here are some important benefits that make a solid case for establishing or building on a relationship with your customers with a focus on their own data points:

Improve Response Rates

Research by the Association of National Advertisers shows that mailing campaigns using personalization achieve response rates of 6%, a big improvement over an average of 2% for non-personalized direct mail. Even better, when a prospect converts into a customer, retention and renewal campaigns achieve higher ROI with personalized direct mail.

Build Brand Identity

Personalization and variable digital printing allow companies to create customized touchpoints for customers, raising the perception of the brand if done well. In addition, these tactics can help your company cross-sell and upsell products and services.

Meet Audience Expectations

In our digital age, our data defines us in so many transactions and interactions. From email subject lines to personalized offers that pop up on our app and account screens, we’ve come to expect personalized experiences. Personalized direct mail taps the same data and uses ink and paper to promote the same unique offers and individual messaging.

Support Audience Targeting

Segmentation strategies slice and dice audiences into distinct groups. Even so, your individual profiles in each cohort may be a good place to try some 1-to-1 targeting with personalized offers, images, and charts.

Attribute Response

It is easier to attribute response and sales to specific individual targets when using a unique response code or response method (see below)

7 Personalized Direct Mail Ideas to Use on Your Next Direct Mail Campaign

Lots of data points can be tapped to create a personalized direct mail campaign. 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.

Here are a few ways to incorporate personalized data in a direct mail campaign:

1. Personal Name

As noted earlier, adding a recipient’s name to a mail piece is not a new thing. Most people can’t resist looking at their name in print because it makes them feel special. But be careful not to overuse it. Instead, think strategically. Place it in a headline (on a postcard or folded self-mailer) or salutation (for letter mail) to grab a customer’s attention, and then sparingly after. You don’t want it to be too obvious as a marketing tactic.

2. Personalized Offers

Your customer’s purchase history – the items or services bought – the price points – the seasonality – is a rich source of information about their preferences and behavior. The same applies to their online browsing; you can target them with offers triggered when they shop a website or abandon a shopping cart.

If you’re raising funds for a non-profit, your personalized direct mail campaign may choose to adjust ask amounts based on past giving, recency or frequency of donations, or other factors.

3. Address

Geomarketing already segments and targets customers by a location, such as state, city, or zip code. But with direct mail personalization, you get even more granular. Many marketing campaigns, for example, drive greater response by including a customized map showing the route from your customer’s house to the nearest retail store, school, office, healthcare facility, or other target location.

4. Age

Some customers sell products such as life insurance, that use a customer’s age to calculate rates and offers. Colleges and senior living services are other examples of marketers that use age data.

5. Public Data

Publicly available records are a good source of data for marketing campaigns. Good examples include house sales and car registration information.

6. Personalized URLs

Personalization is in the name itself of PURLs. However, you don’t need to use a customer or prospect’s name. Another piece of recognizable, personal data, such as a street address, works as well.

7. QR Code

When your customer scans a QR code, they reach a personalized landing page with customized content, messaging, and offers. As with PURLs, this response method is fully trackable.

Please keep in mind: By themselves or in combinations, these customized unique elements capture attention, and with the right strategy, generate conversion when printed onto a one-of-a-kind mail piece.

Wrapping it up

Personalized direct mail marketing works because it is data-driven, targeted marketing at the micro level. It is part of an overall strategy that treats each individual as a person, not part of a group or mass audience. By leveraging the customer’s preferences and experiences, it builds a mail piece around how a company can fulfill the wants and needs of a customer or prospect. It also strengthens and creates an authentic long-term relationship built on familiarity, value, and trust.

Want to know how to incorporate personalized data in your direct mail campaigns? Our data team at would love to talk with you about variable data printing and share our expertise and capabilities!

Call or contact us today for a free quote!

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