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When Is Personalization Creepy?

Mar 04, 2013


At Click2Mail, we believe that personalizing your mail is more than just a nice touch – it's a smart marketing strategy. With Mailing Online Classic, you can easily personalize your mail with information from your mailing list, integrating a customer name, salutation, account number, balance due, appointment date, or other details into your direct mail.


When done right, personalization can increase the impact of your mail piece. But when is personalization too much? Can you go too far and turn off your customers in prospects with a piece of mail that seems “creepy” rather than “customized”? In short, yes. 


The Power of Personalization

Personalization is rampant in the world of online marketing, where there's a wealth of data on customers that can be used to customize everything from the ads they see on Facebook to the deals they're offered on their favorite shopping sites. But personalization isn't just for the digital marketer. Whether it's online or in print, sending messages that are designed specifically for a certain customer can be a great strategy that boosts response rates. For example: 

*  A dentist sends biannual postcards reminding people that it's time to schedule a cleaning. 

*  A non-profit organization sends appeal letters to former donors that note the amount of money the person had given in the past. 

*  A plumber mails a “Welcome to the Neighborhood” flyer to new residents in the areas where he does business (he makes sure to include the recipient's name in the address space). 

*  An insurance agent sends out postcards inviting people to come in to discuss their insurance needs. Imagery on the postcards is tailored to the recipients (families with kids received cards with pictures of families, for example, while younger married couples without children received a different card).


What do all these personalized direct mail campaigns have in common? They all either used information that the recipient could reasonably expect the sender to have, or they were personalized in a subtle, non-invasive way. The dentist's patients expect his office to keep track of when they need to come in for a cleaning, and they probably appreciate receiving a friendly reminder. The insurance agent, on the other hand, personalized his mail in a less obvious way, so that the recipient may not have even realized that it was designed specifically for them. These businesses understood how to use the information they had about customers in a way that didn't seem like they were stalking the recipient. 


Personalization gets creepy when the recipient can't figure out how (or why) you know something about them. If you're contacting someone for the first time, and you send a piece of mail that indicates you know how many kids they have (or their ages), that they suffer from a particular health problem, or some other piece of “private” information they haven't shared with you, it may rub people the wrong way. Rather than considering your great offer, they're thinking about whether they can trust you. Now, that doesn't mean that you can't use customer information to target your mailing, but simply that you need to be careful about how you go about personalizing your direct mail. 


When personalizing direct mail, it's also critical that the information you have on recipients is current. Sometimes, making an assumption about what a particular type of customer wants can backfire if the recipient feels that they're being stereotyped. Get the personalization wrong, and you can permanently alienate an otherwise loyal customer. (To avoid that, use Click2Mail's Mailing List Services to get a high-quality, reliable mailing list.) 


Like any direct mail technique, you need to have a smart approach when it comes to personalization. Go too far, and you may not get the results you want. But used wisely, personalization is a powerful way to help your mailing resonate with recipients. 


Do you have questions about adding personalization to your direct mail campaign? Our customer support team is always happy to help you out so that you can create the most effective direct mail campaign for you. Drop us a line at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or give us a call at 866-665-2787. We're here Mon-Fri, 9AM to 8PM Eastern Time, and we're always eager to answer your questions.