Personalize your direct mail for greater resultsAndy Riddlevariable data printing (VDP), targeted buyers, electronic print files You have a chance to go where 98 percent of people go daily. While you're there, you have the ability to greet each homeowner personally. If it's an offer you cannot refuse, catch a ride on the next U.S. mail truck. Bring along some made-to-order direct mail pieces designed for the individuals you're targeting. Add tailored images, customized information and even a unique Web address to let them know you care. Then keep this little secret: The thousands of personalized messages that just landed in mailboxes everywhere were mass produced. In a world where technology can bring an oxymoron to life, "mass produced, unique messages" can be a reality. The trick is variable data printing (VDP), a process that organizes information about your targeted buyers and prints individualized information digitally, along with sales messages and images that are pertinent to that potential customer. There are no set-up fees, no change orders and no extra runs. How it works VDP technology links databases, electronic print files (including text, graphics and photographs) and digital printers. Information in the database determines exactly which text and images will be pulled. Because each unique combination is transferred to paper digitally, rather than on standard presses, sales pieces can be printed quickly and with minimal cost over static pieces. For a letter related to the amount owed on a current mortgage, for example, VDP software might pull the homeowner name, address, remaining loan amount and an image of a similarly-sized home in a comparable price range. Those items are then digitally printed on the letter along with standard text and images that go to all recipients. Whether the job is 500 or 500,000, the information and images can vary with each mail piece. Personal contact sells In studies by InfoTrend/CAP Ventures, VDP users reported 36 percent increases in response rates, 24.5 percent in average orders, 47.6 percent in repeat orders, 31.6 percent in overall profit and 33.9 percent in response time. The difference is in personalized and relevant content. The average U.S. consumer is exposed to 5,980 marketing messages every day. They notice 52 of the messages and read or actually pay attention to only four. By enticing recipients with content and images that relate directly to them and proposing solutions that are relevant to their situations, you have a better chance of being among the four memorable messages. But it's important to make sure you have your facts straight. Different list providers have their stronger, more accurate areas of expertise, and you'll need to the find one that delivers well in the categories you're pulling. For example, if you are using variable images of houses based on square footage, you need to make absolutely sure your list provider is providing you with the most accurate square footage data possible. The same example applies for age. If you are targeting seniors with a reverse mortgage offer, the last thing you want to do is send a mail piece to a 40-year-old with an image of a 70-year-old. PURLs of wisdom A popular technique used alongside VDP is the creation of PURLs, or personalized URLs (Web addresses) that take consumers to a Web site designed for them. VDP technology allows the PURL to be printed on the correspondence along with other data variables just by inserting the recipients name as part of a longer Web address. Most people say they would prefer to follow up on a direct mail piece over the Internet, so right away, your piece has garnered a greater response than an 800 number as your only response channel might achieve. When the prospective borrower gets to the Web site, they find information tailored for their demographic. Whether they choose to request more information, browses around the site or leaves it immediately, Web tracking will measure their activity and alert you to follow up. While using this type of interactive technology comes naturally to generation Yers, the youngest of mortgage holders, the skill is also easy for generation Xers and has been acquired by baby-boomers. Recent studies have found that even older generations are embracing the Internet more frequently. In a California study, for example, 58 percent of adults ages 55 and older reported using the Internet in 2008, compared with 42 percent in 2000. This data shows that direct mailers should not ignore the opportunity to use PURLs when promoting reverse mortgages. As with any other product, PURLs and personalized content can boost the value of the piece by providing more ways to measure response and follow up with even slightly interested recipients. At what cost? Jumping into the mailboxes of a targeted group of consumers with relevant products and personalized information probably isn't as expensive as you think. First of all, we're talking "targeted." You're printing and mailing fewer pieces than if you were simply blanketing a large area. Second, digital printing doesn't come with the set-up charges (or the time constraints) of traditional printing methods. In the end, your total campaign expense may end up only slightly higher per piece when compared to static direct mail. And when the result is engaged consumers, higher response rates and better tracking mechanisms, you'll soon be depositing your own personalized messages in the nearest bank. Making the switch to VDP When you're shopping for a digital VDP direct mail campaign with PURLs, consider the following: •Look for someone who specializes in digital variable data printing, including concept, design, printing and mailing. •Find the vendor with the most accurate mailing lists available based on the specific data select used to match the images. Ask how their list is compiled to start the conversation. •Search out a provider who can manage the creation, oversight and follow up for PURLs. Andy Riddle is president and CEO of Influence Direct LLC. He may be reached at (866) 634-7771 or e-mail [email protected].