Personalization is a valuable tool in direct mail. People are much more inclined to read something addressed to them by name than to “Dear Friend” or the ever-popular and heart-warming, “Occupant.”
However, personalization is about much more than the address line or salutation on your mailing. Just repeating someone’s name randomly throughout your copy doesn’t really fool anybody. Addressing a topic your audience is interested in, or helping them solve a problem is much more personal.
Of course this means knowing—and understanding—the people on your mailing list. It means truly grasping what they consider important or interesting, and offering something that’s of value to them.
There are times when businesses and organizations can go too far with personal information. Just because you have information about someone doesn’t mean you should use it indiscriminately. Here’s an example.
Let’s say you offer financial services to people who have gotten themselves into financial trouble. And let’s assume you have access to credit information about a potential client. You don’t want to open your letter to a client by saying, “Dear Betty, your credit rating of 435 tells me that you could really use our help . . .”
It may be true that Betty has a 435 credit rating but she’s not likely to be happy that you know. That’s supposed to be private information and Betty will feel you’ve been snooping in her private affairs. That kind of “personalization” won’t make Betty trust you—it makes her distrustful. It’s perfectly appropriate to invite Betty to a seminar about managing money or reducing debt. But it’s not OK to lead with the fact that you know her credit score.
Effective personalization isn’t about revealing that you know personal details. It’s about recognizing interests and offering something of related value (of value to the prospect, not you).
Use personal information you have to help formulate a message that enables others to take control of their circumstances—and respects their privacy. Direct mail means you’re talking to someone directly. That’s a personal touch and a privilege. Just don’t get too personal.