Personalized URL Case Study: Virginia Tech
This case study demonstrates more detail on how an alumni foundation used data in its files to drive the creative in its VDP campaigns. As it shows, data segments are "in there." When marketers think creatively about how to talk to each segment in the database, this communication gets more personal, and from there, marketers can expect better returns.
To personalize its annual appeal, the alumni foundation at Virginia Tech used four data points. It was looking for an innovative fall appeal campaign and decided to build the campaign around a reunion event. The idea was to use graduating class data to target alumni who were celebrating milestone anniversaries — including alumni who were previous donors and alumni who had never given to the university. I was part of a mail production team that helped the foundation devise a direct mail campaign that featured a yearbook-themed VDP piece, coupled with versioned landing pages.
The 9" x 12" direct mail package showcased a yearbook-themed VDP brochure. The recipient's name and class year appeared on the yearbook cover — a provocative personal image that was revealed before opening through a full-size picture window on the envelope.
The interior of the piece featured many creative elements tied to the individual's name, giving history, year of graduation from Virginia Tech and specific school. For example, the graduation year triggered such "remember when" information as class officers, top five movies and yearbook-style imagery. Other variable copy and photos were driven by past gift designations and based on the school of interest (science, arts or business).
A personalized appeal reflected each recipient's giving history and invited the recipient to join his or her graduating class in making a donation to the school. A traditional letter, reply device and reply envelope were included with the brochure.
To boost the potential donor's giving choices, the campaign merged direct mail with online options. The reply card in the direct mail featured a link that directed the recipient to a distinct landing page on Virginia Tech's website. The landing page carried the yearbook and graduating class theme and made it easy for alumni to click through to the school's online giving form.
Each data point was treated differently in the package:
- Graduating class data: The year of graduation guided the yearbook creative theme with imagery, headings and text relevant to the graduating class. Knowing the year of graduation gave the school an opportunity to position the appeal based on the different concerns and desires of recent vs. older graduates.
- Gift designation data: For those who had given before, the most recent gift designation determined which fundraising update they received in the brochure.
- Donor history data: Messaging was different for those who had given before and those who had not.
- Recipient's name data: The personal nature of yearbooks invited the use of recipients' names wherever possible within the themed brochure, further evoking a connection to the university and inspiring gifts.
- The self-mailer went out to 23,500 alumni, composed of previous donors as well as those who had never given before. All came from the reunion classes who graduated in the years ending in 4's and 9's.
- Results were very promising. With a significant reduction in package cost, the response rate was 8 percent higher and revenue increased by 5.3 percent over the previous year.
Cindy Kilgore is manager of creative development at EU Services, a full-service direct marketing production facility in Rockville, Md. She can be reached at (800) 230-3362 or firstname.lastname@example.org.