In my opinion, a Variable Data piece can be one of the most powerful tools in a marketer’s toolbox. In a recent survey conducted by InfoTrends, 61% of marketers indicated that today’s marketing should be “relevant and personal” with the message being targeted “one to one” or “one to few”.
Variable data marketing allows you to create a truly “personalized” connection between the message or offer and the prospect. That personal connection that variable data provides can almost guarantee that the message will be received and considered carefully. To me, having your message or offer “carefully considered” is more than half the battle and really is the only thing a marketer can really control. Once an offer or message is received from a particular prospect, it is almost totally in their hands, whether they follow through and buy a particular product or service.
So, how exactly can a variable data piece provide a “personal connection”? Well, it depends on a variety of factors such as marketing goals, what you know about your prospects, the product itself, competition, etc. There is no one or right way to go about it, which I know has disappointed all of you, who just want to press the “magic’ marketing button and have their marketing done and be effective and efficient.
I can make one suggestion though. Take the piece that is being developed and look at it from your personal point of view. Honestly look at it and see if it connects to you on a personal level; if it does, give to a person in accounting and let them see if it connects to them on a personal level; and if it does, let the janitor take a look and see if it connects to him on a personal level, and if it does, you have a good chance that you have succeeded. If it doesn’t, you have not created an effective “personalized” piece.
Now, I am being a little facetious, but I think you get the point. Personal means personal and it will take more than having a full name in the salutation field to draw people into the piece and have them make a personal connection with the message or offer. Here are some things to consider that could help you be successful in creating a true personalized piece.
In my previous posting, I used an example of spelling someone’s name on a beach as a poor example of Variable Data Printing (VDP). In truth, I was probably a little harsh. There was a time when all it took to make a personal connection with your prospect was to mention their name in a piece. It certainly got their attention. I know when I first saw my name on the side of a racing car, it got my attention and made me look over the piece very carefully; getting full exposure of the marketer’s message.
There was an element of surprise in seeing my name on a random piece that got my attention, which after seeing my name on pieces over time is no longer there. It is not that the technique itself is bad, but it needs to be executed in ways that are clever and in conjunction with something with more substance to make it effective again.
One Size Does Not Fit All
I do not know how many letters I received where the personalization of a particular piece is having my name in the salutation field (often put as a full name field or spelled wrong) with the body of the letter being the same message sent to thousands of other people. However, what if you knew a little bit about me and the others that you were mailing to and changed certain sections of the piece to messages that radiated with me and others like me? Can you see how that has a better chance of making a personal connection? The best part is that with today’s technology and a little effort, it can be successfully executed.
For example, I worked with a client that had a database with two radically different perspectives that they were trying to reach. Seven or eight years ago, the best suggestion I could give would be to create two different pieces and have two separate mailings. However, having two separate mailings increased printing, mailing, and postage costs, but in my opinion, that would be a better alternative than having only one message that would miss the mark on half the audience.
Today, we would recommend creating an “interactive” piece, where we would use elements that were universal to both groups and create sections that could be swapped out according to the preferences of the individuals. This way, you would be presenting messages that have a better chance of connecting with the different prospects while still having the cost advantages of a single mailing.
It is not just text or verbiage that can be swapped in and out of variable data pieces. Images can be changed in pieces as well. Often the right image can have a tremendous impact on making that personal connection. The cliché “a picture tells a thousand words’ did not become a cliché for no reason.
A simple, effective example is a neighborhood health club that was trying to attract new members. Let’s say that in the area was a 55-community as well as neighborhood of young families. Yes, we would probably recommend some verbiage changes, but in addition, for the pieces that were going to 55-community, we would suggest using pictures of older individuals working out and swapping out images of maybe a young mother working out with her child in the day care in the background for the pieces going to young families. There is no question that seeing images of people like themselves in the piece would resonate better and make them more comfortable about considering going to that place.
Some things to consider in using variable data more effectively in your marketing pieces:
- Add the element of surprise to your personalization to grab the prospect’s attention and draw them into the piece.
- Create “interactive” pieces that swap verbiage and images in and out of pieces according to the characteristics of your prospects.
- Give thought to how to use personalization to enhance your message to your audience. Don’t do things for the sake of doing them.
Creating effective variable data pieces is not easy. It takes an upfront commitment to having a strong database and being willing to create a variety of elements for your pieces. That means a cost of time and treasure. I have been there. For most small businesses, it is hard enough to create one piece, much less two or three that would connect with the various elements of your audience.
However, I can tell you that the effort will be worth it. Effective Variable Data Pieces that create a personal connection will really make your marketing more effective and get better results. In my next piece, I will discuss the biggest reason why variable data pieces are difficult to be pulled off effectively.
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