Twenty-some-odd years ago, an unknown data entry person working for an unknown company somewhere in this great land of ours mis-typed my name into a database as “Bobo McCarthy.”

I am assuming it was an accident.

Hey, mistakes happen. But with mailing lists, those mistakes have a way of sticking around.

For years, I would receive occasional direct mail solicitations from different companies addressed to “Bobo McCarthy.” Believe it or not, I even received a telemarketing call asking for “Bobo McCarthy.” Talk about following the script.

The point of all this is that while personalization is generally a good thing – and the technology today is pretty impressive – there are more than a few pitfalls to worry about.

And those pitfalls can hurt you more than you might think.

My situation aside, how often have you had your name misspelled? Does it bother you? They say that people love to see their name in print, but if the name is misspelled – and it gets repeated over and over again – what kind of reaction should we expect?

The same goes for gender prefixes. How many times do you think someone named Pat or Chris has been given the wrong gender in their mailings?

I think personalization is overrated. I think it’s more important when you are communicating with your customers and prospects – people with whom you already have relationship.

But for first time contacts, I don’t think it’s critical. I don’t think people are fooled by it and I don’t think it is worth the extra cost.

Don’t misunderstand me. Having a contact name helps you to get your mail piece delivered to the right person – and that is vital – but dressing up your package to make it look “personal” is often a waste of time and money.

Believe me … your prospects could care less about your ability to personalize. They are more interest in what you have to offer – and that’s where you should be spending your time and money.


Written by Bob McCarthy

This article may be reprinted without permission as long as the article includes the following credit: Bob McCarthy is a freelance copywriter and consultant specializing in direct marketing and lead generation. His website is He can be reached at 508-473-8643 or by email at

About Bob McCarthy

Bob McCarthy is a direct response consultant and copywriter with a focus on direct mail, email and digital marketing. Bob works with B2B, B2C and Non-Profit clients. You can download his free ebook, "Making Snail Mail Work: 13 Lessons in Direct Mail Strategy."