A Creative’s Guide to Personalized Database Marketing

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March 11, 2010

Highly-personalized marketing with relevant messaging, images and offers dramatically increases response rates… everyone agrees on this now, right? I mean, we’ve all read the case studies and white papers that prove it.

So why isn’t everyone doing it? For one, creating a highly personalized marketing piece requires a creative staff brave enough to reach into the cold, sterile world of databases, segmentation, and matrices, and then blend the two together. This is a serious feat of right brain/left brain, inspiration/intel, balance that can be difficult to achieve. But, as the research shows, double-digit response rates are attainable….

So I cornered several of our clients that create and produce highly personalized marketing campaigns and asked them for the top things they’d tell creatives about creating relevant, database-driven communications.

Here are their top five suggestions, ready for you to share with your design and marketing creatives:

1) Intimately know the data fields, segmentation and models available to you.

Get a sample of your marketing database, and review all the options available to you. A good database could include information about their purchase history, preferences, and demographics; all info you can use to make your piece more relevant. Even simple databases can be segmented to create versioned messages and images; try region, number of employees and industry.

2) Make sure your design works for both “Matt” and “Madeleine”

When adding variable fields to your designs, it’s important to know just how long – or short – the text may be that pulls in for each field. Ask your database team for a report of the longest and shortest entries for each variable field, and then proof your designs with these extremes included.

3) Go beyond the name game

Splashing your recipient’s name across your creative can capture their attention, and can be done very creatively and effectively. But some of the most effective personalized communications include hundreds or thousands of variables. If you have a strong database, some internal expertise, and a good partner, it’s time to test an intensely-variable piece.

4) Know your workflow

Sooner, rather than later, call the Variable Data Printeremail service provider or direct mail marketer of your choice : ), and grill them on the process your creative will go through to be produced. Chances are, there are choices you’ll make that could negatively or positively affect the resulting pieces. Special Note: Make sure to ask them the best file formats for their workflow!

5) Start simple.

As you can tell, there’s a reason personalized marketing isn’t used by all of your competitors: it’s hard. But, it’s a lot easier once you’ve done it a few times. So start by working a couple of variables into place before advancing to that dynamic, 1,000-variable piece you’ve been dreaming of. Starting simple will also ensure your process and hardware is correct and will prevent a server meltdown (ask me about that story sometime).

Haven’t read one of those reports about personalized marketing improving response rates? Let me recommend this case study  Want to know more or add something to the list? Use the handy comment tool below.

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