Is Data Scaring You Off of Variable Data Marketing?

In theory, personalized direct response marketing is a marketer’s dream. Bob gets a personalized mailer based on his individual needs. Mary gets a personalized mailer based on her individual needs. Sue gets a personalized mailer based on her individual needs. The increased relevance of the marketing pieces makes Bob, Mary and Sue more likely to respond, and when they do, they are statistically more likely to spend more money.

Aren’t all marketers looking for ways to increase the number of responses and boost the dollars generated from each? Variable data printing (VDP), or 1:1 print personalization, has been promising this since its inception more than a decade ago. So why hasn’t VDP taken the marketing world by storm? The reason is simple. Not every marketer thinks they have the kind of detailed information that allows them to produce the fancy applications we hear about at seminars and read about in the print media. This makes it too easy to write off 1:1 personalization altogether, saying, “It would be nice, but we just aren’t set up for it.”

Creating Relevant Data

The good news is that, as the VDP market has grown, one of the lessons we have learned is that the amount of data you have isn’t as important as how that data is used. The power of 1:1 personalization is all about relevance, and you can create relevance even with limited information, if you use it creatively. One way to create relevance from a basic list is to do prospecting before sending out the actual promotion. Say you are a manufacturer of outdoor sporting equipment. You purchase an undifferentiated mailing list of 100,000 names. Then, instead of sending the same mailer to each person and running the risk that the information will be irrelevant to a high percentage of recipients, you could send out a pre-mailer, in which you ask recipients to provide you with more information about themselves in exchange for the chance to win some kind of prize.

Recipients could respond by mail, email or your Web site. They can provide their names and addresses along with their individual areas of interest, such as camping, hunting, fishing or biking, and the details of the type of activity they prefer.

Reaping the Benefits

Now, instead of an undifferentiated list of 100,000 names, you have a pre-qualified list of, say, 45,000 outdoor enthusiasts, who are interested in communicating with your company. Therefore, instead of sending out 100,000 mailers, half of which might be irrelevant to the people who receive them, you can send out mailers promoting fly rods to fly fishermen, high-altitude camping equipment to mountain climbers and white water rafting supplies to extreme kayakers. Suddenly, even though you started out with an undifferentiated list of names, you have a detailed database of highly pre-qualified prospects.

This is one of the most overlooked applications for VDP, and yet, it is one that allows any marketer of any size to get into the market. Even if you have not previously captured customer data, it allows you to quickly ramp up to a point where you can do far more personalized and sophisticated applications after the first round of prospecting.