Get It Right

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Want to drive up response rates? Personalize your offer. It will increase costs, but the end result will be worth it, or so some say. A study released last week by the International School of Management in Dortmund, Germany, found the response rates of fully personalized direct mailings are three times higher than that of conventional mailings. At this month's Chicago Direct Marketing Days & Expo, printers said they were pushing personalization techniques to help their clients boost their numbers, especially in the face of a slowing economy and postage increases from the U.S. Postal Service. Given the fact that the Postal Rate Commission just recommended raising the submitted rates for Bound Printed Matter and Certified Mail to bring in an additional $83 million this year, any way to get higher response rates would be appreciated.

All that's fine and dandy - if you're using the right information when you customize your mailings. Take, for instance, a campaign that came across my desk the other day touting a printing company's personalization capabilities. The piece was customized throughout, using my name and my company's name, even knowing that I work for a newspaper in the direct marketing industry. "It's not who we are that is of interest to DM News readers, but what we are doing, and what it could mean to their business." Yes, a standard pitch for a story, but taken a step further by being written expressly to me in the actual mailer instead of an accompanying letter. "Today, the process of mass print reproduction is giving way to mass customization, made possible by electronic imaging. We now have the flexibility to pull select content into print formats, on the fly, based on data intelligence."

Intelligence? Unfortunately, two problems cropped up. One, my name was misspelled every time it was used, and, two, the company used information from an old list. How do I know? The design included an image of a day planner and scheduled fictional appointments for me, including a call to the company for more information. Nice touch, but it also included meetings with two former staff members, one of whom hasn't worked here in more than a year. You're not going to get the response you're looking for with misspelled names and bad data. In fact, you'd be better off just calling me "Occupant."

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