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
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
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
•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 firstname.lastname@example.org.