Personalization: Good, Bad and Just Plain Ugly
Dialogue with your donors, clients or prospects begins with good data; we all know that one tenet of direct mail—garbage in and out. When we go to the mailbox, a treasure trove of information on fun, as well as vital information, awaits us. Some good, some bad and at most, lame or even useless. Why can’t a mailer spell my name correctly? Or worse, why did I get two or three complete direct mail kits from one nonprofit when a simple one name per household suggestion to the mailhouse would have done the trick?
Direct mail personalization has evolved a long way beyond the dot matrix printers and greenbar chesire labels (remember?) to inkjet and now laser personalization. Data can now be printed in colors of your choice. Variable data has also grown very popular. Now my name and address can be misspelled wrong in color and better yet, on both sides of an oversized postcard. Where are the checks and balances on a data segmentation file? Sometimes I am just amazed. Most times, I am just frustrated that the nonprofit mailer did not get a reasonable sample set of their data file to review for accuracy before the mailing even was mailed out.
I am not at all inclined to open, review or respond to two or even three complete direct mail kits from a nonprofit with three different spellings of my name. One name per household address would have sufficed and done the trick. I am sure some print production/development director thought he or she covered all of their bases with the basic instructions on insertion order, envelope codes and what not. Yet, why did they waste postage money on the same address to me… three times? It is sometimes just baffling. The outer envelope had two colors, the letter was both impactful and engaging, the response envelope was bright yellow and the response device to return with my big check was easily disengaged from the letter. What was the problem? Why did they spell my name three different ways when the address was the same?
Data Control Is Possible
The current trend leans towards even more personalization in our direct mailings, espcecially within the nonprofit sectors. The facts remain that out of the 25 to 30 direct mail solicitations that I receive daily, the average amount of spelling errors and multiple piece mailings from significantly sized nonprofits is probably a very sad 10 percent or more.
Personalization is supposed to be about accurate data. An organization that bills me for something I had purchased usually has my name and address correctly aligned, with my part and order number complete. Considering that I am also on a wide variety of magazine subscriptions, as well as nonprofit rented lists, my name and its spelling is widely bantered about in the list rental worlds. I am still confused how my seed names used in my past client mailings get forwarded to my home as legitimate names. How could one not recognize “Travis Bickel” as Robert D eNiro from “Taxi Driver
Seeing one’s name and address in print spelled correctly and shown in different areas of the solicitation heightens the response rate of any direct mail marketing solicitation. The thing about personalization in these kinds of solicitations is that it best works when it is done correctly and all names, donor amounts, date of solicitations, as well what appeal worked best, is accurate to both the donor and to the nonprofit organization.
A recent study by the Rochester Institute of Technology reviewed and analyzed 250 direct mail marketing advertising agencies that utilized multiple areas of personalization in their client solicitations. They found only the most experienced ad agencies with complete access to their pro-bono/nonprofit client data that were also using multiple variable texts, as well as numeric and graphic elements, in their client mailings were the most successful direct mail marketing campaigns. I just wish that there were both data and address checks on my data fields for all of the nonprofit mailing lists, where my name and address appears correctly and with only one kit.