How to Get Rich Results from Direct Marketing by Mining Your Data for Hidden Gems

Personalized communications add value and power to your marketing efforts by allowing you to form an emotional connection with your audience (and do it without creeping them out).

Tue Jun 09 14:24:00 EDT 2015

Personalized communications add value and power to your marketing efforts by allowing you to form an emotional connection with your audience (and do it without creeping them out). With personalized and relevant communications, your audience will pay closer attention to your message. That’s why well-executed, personalized campaigns have been proven to deliver wondrous returns on investment. But the key challenge many organizations face is figuring out how to integrate the mounds of data they have into campaign creative that will really WOW the recipient and deliver the ultimate consumer experience.

Many direct marketers now focus on personalization, but few are doing it well. Why? If IT and marketing aren’t working closely together, the creative department may not fully understand the full potential of a personalized approach. Or it could be that the marketing data isn’t being kept in a central location, leaving them wondering where to even begin. No matter where you stand in the spectrum, it’s important to know that you have to start somewhere!

Mine Your Mailing List for Gems

The first and most obvious way to personalize communications is with a recipient’s name. You’ve undoubtedly seen this done – for example, writing a name in the snow or on a valet’s welcome sign are two classic examples of how some brands have utilized personalization technologies.

It’d be a shame to stop here, though. You have an entire mailing list at your creative disposal! There’s lots more information you can integrate into your communications.

Address Information Drives Personalization Too

Simple street address information is a great place to start if you’re looking to bring a little more relevance to your direct marketing efforts.

Hotels have gotten very creative at utilizing a target’s destination to make their communications more relevant and enticing. For instance, I’ve seen samples where a hotel chain uses imagery to reflect a destination city’s environment and culture – using flowers you’d only see in Tampa, perhaps, or highlighting a Colorado mountain view you’d not see if you lived in the Great Plains.

Some brands now use variable data maps to make their marketing efforts more personal.  You can use location data to guide targets to the store nearest them, for instance, or you might show several store locations within a certain radius.

The list of variable mapping service providers has grown tremendously over the last decade. If you’re interested in exploring this option, I suggest you start with your current variable data software provider to see if they might already have a solution to fit your need.

Other Personal Data You Might Already Have Too

Do you have an online newsletter or, perhaps, promote your services via webinar or white papers? Asking prospects to respond to a brief survey (as many companies do) can help you segment list members into certain groups. This can provide excellent data you can use to cater your communications to the individual.

There’s lot of data available showing how to use information you find to tailor your communications. Identifying gender and age are good questions that can enable you to speak to particular needs. Additionally, in the non-profit world, it’s not uncommon to also gather information on the income and education levels of donors. A little research would show them that people with higher education levels prefer more copy than others with less schooling, who might be more motivated by design elements. With all this information easily available, wouldn’t you like to use it to enhance the effectiveness of your marketing?

There are a couple ways you can go about learning what works best for your audience. A/B testing offers and creative can provide insights into how your specific audience responds to messaging and offers. Additionally, you can easily find all sorts of online research and case studies analyzing how various elements affect response. For example, here's an article that looks at the differences between males and females and how they react to marketing. Women react more to emotional imagery, while men are more likely to respond to humor. Other good resources include the Direct Marketing Association,, or Target Marketing.

How do you personalize your business creative?  We’d love to hear your ideas in the comments.

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