When marketers first experiment with 1:1 print marketing, one of the mistakes that they often make is trying to do essentially the same print marketing programs they were doing before-just personalized. The result is often a disaster. The campaign is overly expensive, and the return on investment isn't what they had hoped.

What are they doing wrong? Simply put: There are few instances in which you want to personalize a mailing to your entire database.

Good personalization starts with a good data cut. There is no question that on a per-piece basis 1:1 print marketing is more expensive than traditional marketing. So you don't want to throw this investment away on elements of your database that aren't likely to provide a good return.

Examples include:
--When a convenience store chain paired with a soft drink manufacturer to promote a new sports drink, it personalized the mailing based on information from its loyalty program. But instead of personalizing to every member, it sent mailers only to those fitting a specific demographic.

--When a nonprofit organization wanted to boost its donations, it personalized a mailing, not to its entire donor base, but only to those individuals who had donated over a certain amount during the past 12 months.When marketers start with a smart data cut, then combine it with effective personalization techniques, the results can be astounding. Using this combination, they are consistently able to make equivalent (if not lower) investments, while pulling in more revenues.

Here's how it works: By mailing to a smaller target audience (say, 25% of the original database), the print program can actually cost the same or less than a traditional mailing. But combined with the relevance and appeal created by personalization, each donor tends to donate (or spend) more on average.

Although this might sound like nothing more than fanciful marketing theory, case studies from around the industry reflect the reality of this practice over and over again. So, yes, VDP does cost more on a per-piece basis, but when you look at it from the perspective of return on investment (ROI), which is the overall campaign cost versus revenues taken in, these applications can actually cost less and bring in more.

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