Direct Mail Personalization – letters, PURLs, variable data printing

Personalization is one of the main reasons why direct mail is so effective in generating results.  Personalization has improved over the years as technology has improved.  This includes the use of variable data printing (digital printing) personalized landing pages (PURLs).

Personalization gets their attention

One of the major advantages of direct mail marketing is the ability to get personal. People respond when they believe you’re communicating with them one on one.

With today’s technology, adding personalization to your mailings is easier and more affordable than ever.

But getting personal is more than just the technology.  You also need to develop messages that connect with your audience.

When you know about your target audience, you can create mailers that address issues that are important to that audience.Then you’ll see the real power of personalization.

Direct mail should be one-to-one

I’m Bob McCarthy.  Over the years, I’ve watched technology change the way we personalize our mailings. I remember when laser printing was big news and we could finally send real one-to-one personalized letters to people.

Today, personalization has reached new heights with PURLs and VDP graphic personalization – and the real news is that much of this can be done at little or no additional cost.

Of course, personalization is only as good as the data you have.

Let me show you some of the options.


Standard personalization

In direct mail, you always need some level of personalization just to get your mailer to the target audience.

(Okay, Resident/Occupant mailings aren’t very personalized – so let’s just stick with mailings in which you are using real names.)

When you personalize a mailing you have a number of options – and they all impact your cost.

Let’s assume you are using a letter mailer – with an outer envelope, a one-page letter and a reply card.  You have the abiility to personalize the envelope, the letter and/or the reply card.

Generally, the more pieces you personalize, the more expensive it will be (although there are ways to personalize multiple pieces at one time.)

So what can you afford to personalize?

  • Obviously, you need to personalize the outer envelope if only to get it delivered.  But you can actually personalize an inside element but have it show through a window envelope.
  • Personalizing a letter is a good thing, but you want to make sure looks like it was individually typed – not simply a generic letter with inserted personalized data.
  • Personalizing the reply card is helpful because it saves the respondents time from filling it out on their own.  And it  ensures more accuracy when you get it back.

But here, we are only talking about the address block.  You can take personalization to another level.

Develop a personal connection

It’s one thing to be able to insert the name and address in your letter, but what if you can actually insert something that make an even deeper connection.

This depends entirely on how much data you have about that person.

When writing to an individual in a certain industry, talk about that industry. If they have a certain job title, or if they drive certain car, or own a certain pet, or belong to a certain club – use that information to make a personal connection.

Try to find ways to adapt your sales message to the needs and interests of your target audience.

Personalized landing pages (PURLs)

In direct mail today, we routinely use landing pages to provide our readers with another way to respond to our mailings.

In addition to the reply card, the phone and the fax, we are now giving people a web address (a URL) to go and get what we’re offering.  Landing pages make response easier for the respondent and more efficient for us because we can automate the entire process.

Personalized landing pages (Personalized URLs) take the generic landing page one step further.

When your prospects arrived at their PURL, their contact information is already pre-populated so they don’t have to fill in any additional information.  Moreover, the message is very specific to the individual.

That’s because separate landing pages are created for each individual in the original mailing.  So if you had a mailing of 5,000, you also created 5,000 landing pages.  This may sound a bit overwhelming, but technology makes it reasonably easy.

PURLs have a high curiosity factor.  People cannot resist typing in their personalized URL if only to see where it takes them.  Once they get there, though, your PURL still has the challenge of getting them to convert to a lead – in much the same way as a generic landing page.

Variable Data Printing (VDP)

Technology has dramatically changed the printing industry.

In the old days with so-called offset printing, printers would need to create plates before running the press.  This would create a fairly large set up fee making it necessary for you to print a certain minimum quantity.

Today, with so-called print on demand, there is no set up time required.  You provide the artwork and the printer can print to the exact quantity you want – just one piece if needed.

At the same time, printers can also integrate your contact data and other personal into the printing.  So you can make each piece unqiue to the individual you are reaching.

One grocery store used VDP to create personalized flyers for each of its frequent shoppers.  Using purchase history data from the current customers, the store was able to create flyers that included each customer’s favorite product categories.

Another application for VDP included the use of the person’s name in the photograph or artwork of the mailer.  For example, a postcard might have a photo of a blue sky with clouds that spell out the name of the recipient.  This is a highly creative approach that can get the attention of your targe audience.

Get started or learn more

So what’s your next step?  If you’re close to making a move, we’d love to talk.  Call Bob McCarthy at 508-473-8643 or send him an email at

If you’re not there yet, let’s stay in touch.  Please join our mailing list and get all of our updates and articles.

Of course, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to call.

If you’d like to discuss an upcoming campaign – or if you’re looking for ways to improve an existing mailing program – call us and let’s schedule an introductory call.