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Personalization--a potent DM acquisitions tool.

Imagine for a moment that you publish a newsletter for widget retailers. Now step into the shoes of one of your subscribers, in a highly competitive market, where the average store can't get more than $9.95 per unit.

An envelope arrives in the mail with a headline that says, "There's a retailer near you in Michigan who's getting $19.95 for ordinary, run-of-the-mill widgets, just like yours. And she's selling more of them! Warning! She's a dangerous competitor. Look inside to see how she does it--and whether she has plans to open stores in Ypsilanti!"

The odds are pretty high you'll open that envelope--in a hurry! There's a threat. It's immediate. It's right in your hometown. And there's a promise of a solution.

It's all done with personalization.

Information available simply in the name and address fields

Although it sounds like the sender knows a lot about you, this kind of personalization can be done with just the information in the name and address fields. However, if marketers know more about prospects, like their SIC codes, personalization can be even more targeted--and more effective.

Let's look at a few of the possibilities.

* If you're marketing a safety newsletter, and you know your prospects' SIC codes, you could send them personalized sample issues with a different set of articles for each industrial sector.

* A newsletter about HRD issues could use government data on EEOC violations by SIC code to produce a series of different personalized buckslips that discuss the most common EEOC pitfalls in each industry.

* An alternative health newsletter could run a personalized headline on the outer envelope that says, "There's a cure for diabetes. It costs just pennies a pill. And it's sitting on the shelf of your drugstore in Kankakee. You just need to know what to ask for."

Personalized direct mail packages can boost your response rates, help you market mature products, and penetrate more deeply into your marketplace. But newsletter publishers have yet to take full advantage of the selling power personalization offers.

Ways to use personalization

You can use personalization to create:

* Riveting headlines on the outer envelope,

* Personal letters with information customized for each recipient, based on his or her geographic locations,

* Sample issues with articles that vary by market segment,

* Buckslips and lift notes that speak to the specific interests of each market segment.

Data is the first thing you need to create powerful personalized DM acquisition packages. In addition to names and addresses, you can overlay SIC codes and demographic data onto the files. Adding customer information to the files can help you create personalized packages that target cross-marketing opportunities more effectively.

Then, you have to figure out how to work the data into your creative approach so that it ties in with customer needs, wishes, and worries.

The technical aspects

But equally important, you must work together with your lettershop, right from the start of creative development, to make sure they can produce your package, and make it come out looking the way you envisioned it.

It's best to work with a lettershop that has a lot of experience with personalization. If you're using extensive personalization throughout the package, and you'll be mailing large numbers, you should consider using an inline printer, because inline offers more personalizing flexibility and lower prices for bigger runs.

Here are just a few production considerations to keep in mind:

* If there is more than one personalized piece, the lettershop will have to match them correctly. Ask them how they do this, and what their error rate is. You might be able to cut the cost of matching by having the lettershop image several pieces on a single sheet, cut them apart, and fold them one inside the other, so they form one unit that's inserted together.

* Shops with newer equipment can personalize with many typefaces and in numerous colors. But always find out ahead of time what they can--and cannot--do. Some shops, for example, can personalize anywhere on both sides of a sheet. Others are limited to a fourth band on only one side of the sheet.

* Your personalization has to match the type that you set ahead of time. If your 11 pt. courier type is slightly different from the lettershop's, your personalization will stand out from the rest of the type, making it unconvincing.

The best way to handle this: Have the lettershop image the entire first page of the letter. For the remaining, non-personalized pages, have them set the type, and get your designer to scan it into the graphics file. That way it's sure to match. For other components of a mailing, image complete blocks of text.

* Whenever you have a variable field, like a name or city name, you have to be aware of length differences. Let's say a personalized headline says:
 62 Other Widget Stores in Utah got advance alerts of new sales trends
 that helped them increase profits 14.5% last year. Now you can get
 these alerts, too.

This all fits nicely into six lines, right? But what happens when the state name is Mississippi, and there are 10,235 stores? Suddenly, we have more lines--that may not fit into the space.

Should the lettershop truncate state names over six letters long? Do you want to move them to extra words down a line when a line is too long to fit the space? You have to figure this out with them in advance.

I've used heavy personalization to sell all kinds of products. One package, which I designed to look like an official car title, brought in more than $2 million in profits. (You can see it at

But I'm just working on my first personalized package for a newsletter publisher. The elevator is now on the ground floor. I hope you'll join me for the ride.

David R. Yale, Direct Marketer is a freelance creative consultant and copywriter based in Bayside, N.Y. A permanent member of the WDMI/NY Creative Hall of Fame, he has served as a senior copywriter at Publishers Clearing House, and as VP of marketing at Marketing & Publishing Associates, a financial newsletter publisher. His clients include Forbes, Lombardi Publishing Corporation, and Oxbridge Communications. You can see his online portfolio at e-mail him at, or call him at 718-225-8248.
COPYRIGHT 2004 The Newsletter on Newsletters LLC
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2004, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Promotion
Author:Yale, David R.
Publication:The Newsletter on Newsletters
Date:Aug 6, 2004
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