With advances in digital printing, variable data and content has had a dramatic impact on direct mail response rates in recent years. But what some marketers may not realize is that this shift to integrating data and variable content also has an effect on direct mail design, which—for better or worse—has a say in the success of a direct mail campaign.
How Variable Data & Content Increases Response Rates
Personalized mail using variable data allows for more targeted messages and increases a marketer’s ability to have a relevant one-on-one conversation with consumers. This data can be used in a multitude of ways, such as crafting messaging around geographic locations to offer more precise products and prices. Another way data can drive messaging is to acknowledge major lifestyle changes (like a new car or baby) that could not only act as a trigger mailing, but could alter the tone and direction of the creative. Having this kind of data and allowing it to inform design and copy leads to a more personalized piece that consumers are more likely to interact with and is much more likely to hold their interest to the point where a marketer can make the big “ask.”
But with all the benefits of variable data and content, there is also a dark side where it can cause more harm than good. I prefer the bright, shiny side of variable content, where design and messaging work together to increase response rates. This is why I’ve compiled my top five tips for using variable data and content in direct mail design:
- Don’t change too many elements. Having an overload of variable on a direct mail piece can hold things up from an asset standpoint and can slow down production. It’s best to develop a solid matrix with variable testing and keep in mind that variable data and content should serve a purpose; if it won’t make the messaging more targeted, is it worth including?
- Define optimal variable information. Since you’re following Tip #1 and not changing too many elements, decide which ones will pack the biggest punch when it comes to making your messaging targeted. For instance, would variable geographic imaging capture the eye of a prospect more than a personalized headline?
- Don’t get too personal. “A baby changes everything,” is relatable, “A three-month old baby girl changes everything,” is stalker territory. Take a step back from time to time to make sure content is specific enough to warrant a response, but general enough so that you’re not overstepping your bounds and marching into Big Brother territory.
- Test smart. The best practice is to change one element at a time so you can pinpoint exactly which variable field is working for you and which changes aren’t. It’s also important to preform each test in the appropriate quantity so that responses can be substantiated.
- Make sure variable fields are big enough. You’d be surprised at how long names of recipients and cities can be. Always consider the maximum size for a variable element (like a person’s name), otherwise text and images can run into each other and change the piece from personalized to sloppy. Take a step back and make sure that variable fields work for small text amounts as well as large and that everything is working together in a cohesive, visually appealing way.
If you’re still fuzzy on how to incorporate variable data and content into your direct mail pieces, or if you don’t know what data will pack the biggest punch, contact me or your IWCO Direct Account Executive; we’ll help you stay on the bright side.
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