Personalization - What's In a Name? (869 words)
by John DeMartino
Personalization in direct mail has certainly come a long way from its humble beginnings—a recipient's name and address printed on a letter. With the advances in data collection and printing technology, it has evolved into a more sophisticated animal.
Personalization is not limited to keeping in contact with your current customers; it can also be used to sell prospects or fulfill requests from inquirers. Following are examples of how three companies—Mobil, Whirlpool and Crown Mercedes—used personalization in their direct marketing campaigns. Each addresses a different aspect of how personalization can enhance marketing efforts.
Selling and Upselling
Mobil's "Corner By Corner" direct mail campaign had several goals, says Jill Davis, marketing manager at World Color Direct, a division of World Color offering a full range of direct marketing services. The program was targeted not only to reach prospects, but also to reward customers.
Self-mailers from the participating Mobil stations were sent out featuring a sheet of coupons personalized using ZIP code demographics. Individual retailers chose specific station features, logos and a local map, which were imaged onto the printed piece.
The campaign's objective, says Davis, was to "create loyalty by giving customers cents-off coupons, upgrade existing customers to more value-added products, entice prospects to become Mobil customers and get existing customers to try new offerings."
The piece was printed on a web offset press and then imaged on both sides. Responses were tracked through an advanced barcode and database system. According to Davis, the program, "has been very successful to date, pulling double-digit response rates with existing customers and approximately 5-percent response from prospects."
In the past, when a customer would call Whirlpool's 800 number to request information on a specific product, a 208-page product catalog was sent. A caller wanting to know about a certain model of refrigerator had to leaf through the whole catalog to find what she was looking for.
To provide more specific product information in a timely manner, as well as gather information for future campaigns, Whirlpool just began its "A Job Well Done" campaign, says Tim Graves, vice president of new business development at ColorStream, a direct marketing subsidiary of Webcraft Technologies Inc.
Working together, Whirlpool, ColorStream and marketing firm CE Communications developed a program. First, call center representatives who field inbound calls ask inquirers specific questions about their interest in certain products and features.
Then, using this information and variable printing technology, Whirlpool sends each inquirer a 4-, 8-, or 12-page self-mailer, including a letter from the representative and his extension (in case of additional questions), a dealer locator highlighting nearby stores, product information with detailed descriptions and photography specific to consumer requests.
The call center fields calls six days a week; the personalized fulfillment packages are printed digitally using SmartPage technology and an IBM InfoColor 70 printer and mailed within 24 hours of the call.
One question marketers would love to answer is when a customer is planning to buy. There are a few instances when marketers do know the answer to this question, such as in the lease of an automobile. Crown Mercedes, an automobile dealer in Columbus, OH, wanted to reach customers as they began thinking about leasing another car.
"The project was to try and stimulate growth in the re-leasing market as well as hold on to market share," says Bill Black, director of marketing for Kreber Graphics, a company offering turn-key solutions in the creation and printing of marketing materials. The mailing was printed digitally using SmartSeries software and an Indigo digital printer.
The campaign reached customers as their leases approached expiration. Crown sent customers a self-mailer picturing the exact model of the car they leased. Other personalized elements included the customer's lease expiration date and the original salesperson's name and phone number. Mailings were sent 90 days and 60 days prior to lease expiration.
As these examples illustrate, personalizing your mail beyond name and address by using customer information, demographics and variable printing can help you mail smarter, boost response and make more money!
For more information: World Color Direct, Jill Davis, (800) 927-0777; ColorStream, Tim Graves, (781) 293-9546; Kreber Graphics, William Black, (614) 228-3501, ext. 6292.
Personalization is not just for major mailers anymore. Electronic printing systems have extended this capability to non-traditional direct mailers.
More data provides greater opportunities for personalization. Because you have the most information about your existing clients, you can exercise personalization best in cross-selling, retention and win-back programs. However, even campaigns to prospects can make use of personalization. If you can fine-tune your list selections, you can vary offers, graphics or copy to target specific needs and/or buying habits.
Technology now extends personalization to fax and Internet distribution. Depending on the application, mail, fax and e-mail may be used independently or in combination to produce the desired results. Focus on building the campaign you need and finding a vendor that facilitates the composition and delivery of the message.
John DeMartino is the director of marketing at Access Communication Systems, which uses sheet-fed laser printers (with spot color), combined with a powerful page composition program, to build customized mail packages. For more information, call DeMartino at (516) 752-3333, ext. 1250.