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The Direct Mail Doctor examines personalization

Posted by Randy Mitchell on November 11, 2014

In his last article, the Direct Mail Doctor offered some healthy advice about the amount of information in direct mail letters and whether or not to include a response device.

But the good Doctor’s work is never done.

Today, there are some new cases that will put his knowledge to the test and require some proven direct marketing best practices to find a cure. So let’s not keep our patients waiting; bring on the Doctor.

The power of personalization

Dear Doc,
This week we had our company-wide planning meeting to define objectives for next year. During the meeting, our marketing manager challenged the entire team to form a “more personal” connection with our customers. I understand her goal in theory, but putting it into practice is another story. Our direct mail already has the recipient’s name and address. That’s personalization, right? And we definitely can’t change our website for every visitor. Don’t get me wrong, I truly do want to help us ratchet up our personalization. But I honestly don’t know where to begin. Any thoughts?

- Confused in Connecticut


Dear CC,
Your marketing manager is on the right track. Personalization is one of the advantages of direct mail. But to form the more meaningful customer connection she wants, you need to go far beyond the name and address. Effective personalization is all about relevancy. And that applies to B2B and B2C communications. Here are some examples:

  • For an automotive mailing, personalization starts with the vehicle itself. That includes the make, model, model year and even the service history and Vehicle Identification Number.
  • For a retail mailing, the personalized copy might reference a target’s past purchases and offer new recommendations based on that previous customer behavior.
  • If you’re targeting small business customers, remember that they tend to believe their company is unique. The communications should be personalized to reflect their specific industry, acknowledge their pain points and offer tangible ways to help them become more productive and profitable.

Those are just a few examples, but the intention is clear. Make sure your personalization enhances the relevancy for the customer.

One more point: You may not be able to change your website, but you can use personalized URLs or PURLs. These web pages allow you to reflect the high level of personalization you used in the direct mail. That way, when the customer goes online, they will have a seamless experience and the knowledge that this web page was created specifically for them. Now that’s the power of personalization.

What gets read the most?

Dear Direct Mail Doctor,
I have a bet with a coworker and we’ve agreed to let you decide who is right. I hope it’s me, because a week’s worth of lattes is riding on this. Here’s our dispute: I say the most-read part of any letter is the headline. It’s a no-brainer right? The headline is big, bold and the first thing you see when you open the package. She insists the P.S. gets the most attention. Seriously? The P.S. is way down at the bottom of the letter. It’s an afterthought. Please give her the bad news and let me enjoy those free lattes.

- Coffee King in Seattle


Dear Coffee King,
Long live the Queen. Your coworker wins the lattes because that little P.S. is traditionally the most-read area in a letter. The headline is bigger, the sidebar is more prominent, but 80% of readers look at the P.S. Even people who just skim a letter will read the P.S. That is why it’s so important to make it work as hard as possible. For example, use the P.S. to restate your offer and the expiration date so you can drive your reader into action. That way, even if the reader only skims, they’ll know why to respond now and how to do it.

That’s all for this time. But the Direct Mail Doctor will be back soon, ready to answer more direct marketing questions.


Topics: Direct Marketing

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