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Best practices for personalizing direct mail

Posted by Sheera Eby on May 20, 2013

Today consumers and business decision-makers demand a greater level of personalization than ever before. According to MarketSherpa, 69% of people state that they would exchange their data for better, more personalized service. Furthermore, a study J&C conducted in the first quarter of 2013 indicated that 2 out of 3 consumers prefer personalized communications to mass, non-customized communications.

Consumers and business decision-makers receive an abundance of communications hourly, and personalization is becoming absolutely critical to break through the clutter. That includes personalized direct mail.

For years, marketers have realized that segmentation drives relevancy. But now, people demand a higher level of personalization. They demand communications relevant at a segment level as well as the inclusion of specifics about them, their interests and their behavior.

The bottom line is that direct mail personalization leads to increased relevancy, which in turn leads to better response.

Creating personalized direct mail requires discipline and application of best practices. Here are seven best practices to keep in mind to deliver effective and response-oriented personalized direct mail.

1. Start with aggregate-level segmentation.
The starting point for all direct mail is to first consider segmentation designations. Tailoring direct mail content has always been a fundamental direct marketing best practice. Customizing direct mail for groups should leverage a combination of analytics and insights. The most common approach is to first determine similar segments based on analytics, and then conduct research to best understand the insights of the groups. Typically, the insights will drive the direct mail customization for those groups.

2. Utilize personalization to make the decision simpler and easier.
Providing personalized information helps ensure a process can be completed simply and easily. For example, Jacobs & Clevenger manages a program for Nokia Location and Commerce, the world leader in navigation system map technology. The program targets vehicle owners for map updates. Users need their vehicle information, including make, model and either Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) or navigation platform information. This presents a barrier for most vehicle owners to complete the process. Developing direct mail that is personalized with this information has demonstrated a lift in response. This is the type of direct mail personalization that prospects and customers expect and appreciate.

3. Personalize the response device.

personal dm #1In general, about 20% to 25% of target customers will respond with the printed response device. This involves mailing back the enrollment form. The printed response device in direct mail serves as both a physical and subliminal reminder to respond. Personalizing direct mail response devices can help expedite the process and increase response rates. We have found inclusion of the recipient’s account number on the response device helpful in driving enrollments and renewals across a number of industries.

4. Leverage behavioral data to create personalization.
Rather than just sending out blanket mail that proclaims “50% off sale,” promote products based on past buying behavior. Key buying behavior trigger points include purchase history, abandonment of page or shopping cart, and defecting or lapsing. Consider what you know about the target, then enhance the communications based on individual buying behavior. Direct mail personalization based on buying behavior is one of the strongest forms of customization and it almost always generates a positive lift in response.

5. Utilize right sidebar area for customized information.
We know that in every direct mail package, the letter is the most-read component. That’s why it’s important to ensure that the letter is working as hard as it can. The right sidebar column is one area that can be utilized to provide personalized information in direct mail. Highly tailored content can be developed across areas that differ across multiple groups, with bullets helping the reader find key information immediately. Increasing relevancy through customized content is exactly what readers expect. Generic direct mail packages without personalization produce inferior results compared with packages that contain meaningful and accurate personalization.

6. Consider using personalized URLs.

personal dm #2Tests show that personalized information, including personalized URLs (PURLs), empower and reinforce your direct mail communications. Incorporating a PURL within the mail creates a curiosity. The user wants to know what is on a page that is attached to their name or their business’s name. When using PURLs, it is critical to promote the personalized URL within the direct mail. Delivering a personalized URL constitutes the highest form of direct mail personalization and can create a significant lift in program response.

7. Use targeting to improve efficiency and as a mechanism for tailoring.
Marrying predictive modeling with other targeting techniques can deliver the optimal tailored direct marketing approach. Overlaying segmentation onto a predictive model can optimize mailing efficiency while delivering mechanisms for tailored messaging. This methodology provides a strong foundation to determine like groups that can be targeted with messages, and possible factors that can be identified for personalizing targeted communications.

Incorporating these seven best practices for direct mail personalization will help ensure better results and a higher return on marketing investment for your direct mail.

Topics: Direct Marketing, Best Practices

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