What Makes “Personalized” Mailings Feel Personal?

If you think that using data — by itself — makes a mailing feel personal, think again. How many times have you received a direct mail piece or email that used your name or “personalized” images, but was irrelevant to you? Probably more often than you’d like to admit.

Say you are a golf fanatic, and you receive a sporting goods catalog personalized with your name on the front cover, plastered with an image of the latest softball gear? Or you receive an incentive to bring your car in for a tune-up six months after your car was due?

As a marketer, you don’t want to make the same mistake. That starts with understanding that, by itself, data doesn’t make a mailing relevant or compelling. Data is just that — data. It is merely a piece of information that can be used well or used poorly. (Or it can be downright wrong.) This is why personalization and relevance are different.

Personalization is simply using data to create unique pieces for every individual in a database, whether those pieces are relevant to those recipients or not. Relevance is the attribute that makes the recipient feel that the communication is meaningful to them and is worth being picked up, opened, and read.

A mailing doesn’t even have to be personalized to be relevant. For example, when you send a mailing to all inactive customers with, “Please come back! We miss you!” along with a 25% discount, that’s creating relevance even if everyone in that mailing receives the same piece. Likewise, if you market different insurance plans to households with children than you do retirees, you are increasing the chances that the recipient will see the communication as relevant even if you don’t do any personalization at all.

So before personalizing any mailing, ask yourself, “Why am I choosing the variables I am? How am I going to use them effectively? Do I need to add any other variables to improve my targeting efforts?” You don’t want to run the risk of sending a personalized mailing without it actually being personal.

Need help making sure your data results in mailings that are truly personal? Just ask — we’d love to help.