Variable data projects are more expensive than traditional direct mail, so ignoring the basics can cost you. Disasters can be avoided if you keep your eye on three components that you're already familiar with in effective direct mail: data, testing and ROI.
Find Data Where It Hides
Where does a direct marketing manager begin in designing a VDP campaign — with the data or with the creative content?
Forest Wathen, prepress manager at EU Services, notes that with traditional direct mail, typically the creative drives the data. With VDP we're seeing a shift. "The question for direct marketing managers becomes, 'What can I do with what I have? What data can I segment or append to drive the creative content to improve responses?'"
Begin by segmenting your list by information that is almost certainly in your database: name, geographic location, customer or donor segment, acquisition date, and purchase history.
Data appending helps you build on what you have. The Helen Woodward Animal Center, a no-kill shelter that provides animal adoption for all types of pets in California, took data they had on their current donors and sent it out to be analyzed. The shelter was looking to identify unique characteristics among donors.
Now that they knew more about their own donors, Helen Woodward then used this information to find people like their current donors on new lists. Information from other sources was set up to match such donor demographics as average age, profession, education level, home and asset average, and contribution information.
From there, the animal center looked at lists with similar traits and identified some they would never have thought of using. They purchased three lists outside their normal scope. That meant fresh contacts not necessarily common to other animal organizations, which, in turn, reduced over-saturation.