direct mail personalization

Personalizing Direct Mail to Get More Sales

Direct mail is an extremely effective marketing tool, but you can increase the return with the addition of personalization. With its relatively low costs and powerful results, including personalization is a strategy anyone who is doing direct mail should consider taking advantage of. The options go far beyond just targeting with a name, creating a one-on-one experience that gets your business noticed.

How personalization works

Thanks to today’s technology, customizing direct mail to include what’s known as variable data is a relatively simple process. As long as you have the information in the appropriate format, it can be printed in designated locations on the card. This small touch gets the recipient’s attention, and with this first impression helps to build a customer relationship, prompting them to take action.

To get the data you need for personalization, you can use a pre-existing internal list or look to a database supplier and purchase one. If purchasing a list, be sure to check how often it’s updated. With the frequency of how often people move, a list that’s even a year old could be outdated. You want to maximize your ROI and sending it to incorrect people will take away from the impact.

As an added touch, you can also use a handwritten style font to get noticed. It’s been shown a handwritten envelope is 300% more likely to get opened compared to a printed envelope, so you don’t even need to apply the tactic to the entire piece to get a return.

direct mail results

How to use personalization

Personalization isn’t limited to only names. You can use demographic information to personalize a number of other variables.


You can use images that appeal directly to the recipient. For example, you can use family photos to target adults with children and use couple-focused images for partners without children to resonate with their day-to-day. You can also tailor them according to interests, such as travel destinations or pet preference.


If you can create a custom offer that speaks directly to someone’s need, you’re much more likely to make a sale. For example, for households with school-aged children, a local salon can send a mailer for back-to-school specials. You can also customize offers based on past purchase history, to let existing customers know about additional services or products you offer.


If there is a recurring sale that can be made with existing clients, you can personalize this information to include the date. Potential uses include appliances that require regular maintenance, car repair shops, and doctor’s offices.

direct mailWhat does it cost?

The cost depends on how much of the piece you’re going to be personalizing. Only personalizing the name will be less than a customized picture or handwritten note. Often, the cost associated with getting the necessary data to accurately personalize the campaign can be a good portion of the budget, which is why many try to take advantage of their internal lists.

But each of those details makes a big impact, so it could require some testing to determine where the perfect ratio of personalization to ROI is.

Here are a few key pieces that impact that cost of personalization:

  • Volume
  • Design
  • Postage rate, depending on the size of the piece
  • Paper type and weight
  • Personalization locations

Setting up a personalized component is more than traditional direct mail campaigns, but it’s well worth the effort. The extra planning and additional cost give you a targeted campaign that’s designed to be of interest, creating a significantly higher return than non-targeted mailers.

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