The Effectiveness of Variable Data in Your Marketing Campaigns

Recognizing that audiences respond well to personalized appeals, marketers have increased their use of variable data in print marketing. Think about the unsolicited offers you get in the mail, for example. (Credit card companies in particular have used this technique for many years.) I bet a good chunk of them feature variable data.

There’s a good explanation for this trend: variable data works.

Effective campaigns go beyond merely naming the target by name; rather, they include variable data in a wide range of fields. For example, one piece of direct mail I recently received from an HVAC company included climate data about my township juxtaposed with information about the company’s service calls in 2012. (Unfortunately, this impressive use of variable data wasn’t accompanied by good design, and I suspect only a very small percentage of the mailing’s recipients actually opened it.)

A few months ago I wrote about leveraging the power of variable data in print publications, pointing out how it enables you “to fine-tune the customization of your publications according to your target audience.” Mamu Media’s branded and custom publications are ideally suited for this technique. Our digital production process makes it very easy to swap content in or out to meet the needs of our clients and their audiences.

Since I published that post, several Mamu Media clients have used variable data strategies in their publications to great effect. Through this technique, they’ve been able to deepen connections with their audiences, resulting in new relationships.

Several of our clients have opted to create separate client and prospect versions of their publications by incorporating a unique letter for each version inside the front cover and running a call to action or a new business incentive ad on the back page. The only extra work for our clients involves tagging each contact as “client” or “prospect” on the mailing list spreadsheet. Mamu Media manages all the other aspects of the variable data campaign.

To test our theory that combining variable data with good design yields effective marketing results, we conducted an informal study of one client’s experience with two issues of our publication. Here are the results:

March/April 2013 issue

  • same message for clients and prospects

  • 652 pieces mailed (437 to prospects)

  • 8 new prospect connections

May/June 2013 issue

  • different messages for clients and prospects

  • 725 pieces mailed (447 to prospects)

  • 22 new prospect connections

This is, of course, a nonscientific study that by itself doesn’t prove that using variable data guarantees success in your marketing effort. But it does indicate a potential positive correlation between the two—and such a correlation is, in fact, sustained by other numbers. An article for MultichannelMerchant.com, for example, offered this insight on variable data use in print marketing:

Assuming all other factors are equal—offer, timing, audience, form factor—returns for a fully variable job range from two times to fifteen times the rate of return for a static job, says Nicky Milner, vice president of program management for printer Transcontinental.

Our client was clearly pleased with the results of its first two variable data efforts with us, because the company increased those efforts for its July/August 2013 issue. Featuring a letter personalized with each target’s first name and (on the back page) an ad detailing a very lucrative offer for new clients, this issue (which is currently in transit to its recipients) has an excellent chance of leading to even more prospect connections.

Although our client wishes to remain anonymous here, the company is open to discussing its results. Have any questions about this client’s variable data efforts? Want to learn more about variable data in general—or about how it can work for your organization in particular? We want to hear from you!


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