If you’re investing in direct mail without using variable data printing (VDP), you are missing out on a huge opportunity. Repeatedly studies have shown the response rates to personalized direct mail pieces that use VDP are 300-600% higher than generic direct mail.

VDP is the process of using customer data to control what prints on the sheet. This can be as simple as customizing a letter with a name and address (think “mail merge” from days past) or as complex as custom images, graphics, and text that are personalized for an individual.

VDP is the key to personalized marketing. A little information about your customer base goes a long way in retention, getting noticed, increased engagement, increased response rates and communicating with customers about what they care about.

Demystifying variable data direct marketing

VDP works by importing a spreadsheet to create targeted marketing campaigns based on your customer data. We pull dynamically created headlines, addresses, names, images, graphics, or offers from the data file and then insert them onto a template based on the variable data before the printing process begins.
That is the technical side of the equation, but how can you use VDP in a direct mail campaign? There are countless ways to incorporate many data points, making the piece truly 1:1, or simply segmented by groups of customers who fit certain demographics and targeting the campaign more tightly.

Personalized marketing in practice

Following are several examples of how VDP can be used to increase the effectiveness of direct marketing. The blue words note variable data fields that would print differently for each customer.

Not-for-profit organizations can remind donors of their last contribution when asking for another. Additionally, they can show a donor what their donation provided and what the next level would provide.

Kim, thank you for your $100 contribution last year. We were able to provide 25 meals to individuals in the Spokane area. $150 would provide 40 meals. Can we count on you to provide 40 meals for our community next year?”
• Two side by side variable graphic images — 25 plates and 40 plates.

A financial institution can let customers know of additional offers or products based on an individual’s credit rating or history with their organization.

• “John, is it time for a new car? Your incredible credit score has earned you a rate of 1% on your next auto loan.”

Restaurants are known for social media posts showing beautifully plated meals. By sending a postcard to a customer who ordered that meal the last time they visited, a custom message will remind them of a great night out and encourage them to visit again.

• “Sarah, we’ve missed you! Our salmon special is on the menu next week. Give us a call to make a reservation.”
• The art would be variable, in this case, the plated salmon.

Any retail location can customize their messaging based on recent purchases made by their customer base. Offering an accessory or complementary product provides your customer incentive to come shop again!

• “Joe, how do you like your new snowblower? We thought you’d love these Snow-melting mats, on sale for $49.95 through the weekend. Bring in this card for an additional 10% off.”
• The art could be variable, in this case, the snow-melting mats, or simply the additional 10% discount.

Real Estate Agents can customize their newsletters and postcards with personal branding, photos, and text.

• Hi Dave. Check out these three homes for sale in your neighborhood. (Listings).
• The art would feature the MLS listing photo, address, and price of the homes and the Realtor’s photo and contact information.

What about a car dealer thanking a customer and asking for a referral?

• “Emily, thank you for your recent purchase of your new Audi e-tron GT. Refer a friend and if they purchase from us before December 31, we’ll award you $500.”
• If the dealership wants to take the personalization to the next level, a quick photo of the customer in their new vehicle could be included in this thank you/referral piece.

As you can see, the possibilities are endless. What data do you have about your target audience? If you’re just getting started, keep it simple, test and assess the results, and work toward a more personalized direct marketing strategy over time. By simply including your target audience’s first name, your direct mail could be 135% more effective.
If you do have customer data, use it! Not only do people expect a personalized experience from the companies they do business with, but they also enjoy it. Nearly 80% of consumers are more likely to do business with a company that offers personalized experiences.

Five quick steps to get started

Setting up a variable data printing project is easy, and we are here to help. The five-step process is simple:
1.  Compile your database including the variable field(s) you want to use
2.  Set up the text in your piece with placeholders for the variable data field(s). Simply use the header title from your database as the placeholder. You can have the variable text in the middle of a paragraph if you need it. Variable text can be any font, size, or color you’d like.
3.  If you’re using a variable image, use an empty box on your design as a placeholder. Send the images you are using in your database with a column for “image” and the image file names. Send the images as separate files (with names that correspond with the database labels).
4.  Set up your art and design the piece (We can help!)
5.  Package the InDesign file or send a PDF of your document to us. Include all the image art you used to create the design.

We take care of the rest!

The more comfortable you become with personalized marketing using VDP, the more you will see that it is a game changer. Connect with us today to get started.