Panelist: Personalization, Variable Data Spur Response Rates

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NEW YORK -- Customization, personalization and variable data are the three most important components of a direct marketing campaign, according to a panelist yesterday at the DM Days New York Conference & Expo.

Anna Chagnon, CEO of Cambridge, MA-based Bitstream Inc., made that point in a workshop called "The Value of Customization in Today's Marketing."

"Talk to your customer as if you know them," Ms. Chagnon said.

She recommended appealing to customers by showing them that you care enough to consider their personal preferences.

"The more you customize, the more your response rates go up," Ms. Chagnon said.

She said coupons and deals are great ways to track the response rate of a direct mail campaign. Not only do these tactics appeal to customers, but they also make it easier to see how well a campaign is working.

Ms. Chagnon detailed a campaign that her company conducted. Bitstream was targeting three types of people: customers, partners and potential customers. The offers for each were different. So Bitstream needed personalized print pieces for each.

In addition, Bitstream had data on each of its customers, partners and potential customers. This required customizing each mail piece. Bitstream used PageFlex software that it created.

"Data and variable rules are evaluated to populate the template with unique content for each recipient in the database," Ms. Chagnon said.

This works in an if-then manner. For example, if the customer is a woman, then the background should be red. If the customer is a man, then make the background blue.

Ms. Chagnon urged attendees to think carefully about what data to collect, be creative with the data collected, proof components carefully and test.

It could get much more complex, using many variables and customization.

"It involves much more effort, but was worth it in the end," she said.

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