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12 Steps to Direct Mail Sucess: Step 8

May 06, 2010

You’ve probably begun to notice a recurring theme on the path to direct mail success: Cultivate an emotional connection.  Speak to your prospects. 

Marketing giant Seth Godin has said that “People don’t believe what you tell them. They rarely believe what you show them. They often believe what their friends tell them. They always believe what they tell themselves.”

How do you cultivate an emotional connection, speak to your prospects, and get them to tell themselves your message?  Personalization.

Ford’s success story

In their December 2009 issue, Deliver magazine profiled a number of companies that have seen big success with personalized direct mail marketing.  One was Ford Motor Co.  Initially, the auto maker was using only basic personalization – its customers’ names and the vehicles that they owned – to create mailers promoting its extended service contracts.  But response rates wouldn’t budge above 2.5%.

In order to make its mailers more personal, Ford’s first step was to aggregate customer data from all of its various sources.  Armed with data on vehicle type, length of ownership, address, age, income and gender, Ford “got to know” its recipients well enough to design mail pieces that really spoke to them.

“By combining the different sets of data and looking really hard at how we could connect the data with the messaging, we were able to build messages that speak to the reasons why having an extended service contract is important to different customers,” marketer Jeff Sierra told Deliver.

Ford tested its new strategy by mailing 20,000 pieces to F-150 truck owners whose warranties were near expiration.   The company tested two different mail formats: one was a black-and-white letter, and the other was a full-color self-mailer.  Each format had two versions: one with the same kind of basic personalization the company had been using (such as the customer’s name) and the other with more personalized content and a more targeted message based on the data the company aggregated. 

Despite the fact that the test ran over one of the most difficult periods in history for U.S. carmakers, the more personalized mailers still generated a 5.7% increase in response rates and a 35.7% increase in sales penetration.

How might you implement personalization in your mailer?  Consider another example, first of a mailer before personalization:


Dear Friend,
We’d like to say “thanks” for being a Yum’s customer.  As an appreciation of your loyalty, we’ll give you 10% off your next purchase.  See you soon!


If you have a relatively modest amount of data on your customers, you could personalize the mailer like so:


Dear Sam,
Can you believe that you’ve been shopping at Yum’s since August of 1999?  We want to thank you.  As an appreciation of your loyalty, we’ll give you 10% off your next cookie purchase.  See you soon!


The personalized mailer includes the recipient’s name, the date that he first became a customer and the last product that he ordered – three easy ways to make the recipient feel like you are really speaking to him.

Personalize with Click2Mail

Through a technology known as variable data printing, Click2Mail can personalize your mailer for your recipients.  It works a lot like “mail merge” – you tell us where you want the recipient’s “Name” or “Birthday” or “Appointment Date” (or any other personalized information) to appear.  We’ll pull that information from your data file and print it on the mailer for each individual recipient.  It’s that easy!

Of course, the personalization is only as good as your data.  Ideally, you’ll have kept detailed data on your customers that you can pull together into a personalized mail campaign.  Click2Mail can help, too.  Our mailing lists offer a wealth of information that you can use, first, to target particular recipients and second, to personalize your mailers.

Craft your marketing message so that it resonates so well with your target prospects they’ll think they thought of the idea themselves.  A targeted list that allows you to get to know your prospects is your first step.  Personalizing your message for each individual recipient is your second.  That, as we like to say, is smart marketing.