I look forward to looking in the mailbox every afternoon. What will I find today? A holiday letter from my favorite aunt? The latest issue of Cosmopolitan? A great example of digital print personalization on direct mail piece? (I know the last one is me being a direct marketing nerd) But what did I find today? “To Cathy Crone… OR CURRENT RESIDENT!”


Ok, for the local new pizza restaurant, that could work – give me a free pizza, you can call me anything you’d like! But for more specialized offers and expensive products or services, I am appalled as a marketer to see so many “big” players still using this tactic! I receive biweekly mailings from a national telecommunications company that consistently addresses the piece with my ex-husbands name! But hey, let’s put a catch-all on it, too, and address it to “or current resident,” because who really cares who is living there! If you want me to do business with you, you have to at least know my name! The dollars they spend in mailing me twice per month could be cut in half by simply properly targeting their marketing campaigns and utilizing the myriad of tools now available to mailers. There is NCOA, modeling, list-cleansing services and other ways to get your customized and personalized message across to your prospects. It is a proven fact that personalization can increase response by 30-50% (according to a Direct Marketing Association Study).  So why are so many resisting the opportunity to benefit from this increased ROI? I reached out to my coworker Leslie Bell, who works in Customer Intelligence and sees this all too often with new clients, for some additional perspective.

“I too have fallen prey to numerous solicitations from the same telecommunications company that A) does not address me by name and B) offers services I already have or discounts that hinge on a service I’ve previously cancelled. The frustration I experienced lies in knowing that this company has made little to no effort to know me as an individual consumer. Like Cathy pointed out, certain businesses can take advantage of a blanket, ambiguous mailing and experience some success. The new restaurant on the corner can introduce themselves to the surrounding neighborhood with a “Current Resident” mailing and they are given a free pass. Why? Well, they are offering a one-time service. If you decide to patronize the establishment and are dissatisfied with your experience, you most likely will not return. If you are pleased with your visit, they have just made a new customer. Nothing more than a one-time investment is required of you. Also, if the business is new to the area, you probably don’t expect them to know your name or know much about your spending habits.  However, when any form of commitment is being asked – especially from a company that has a previous relationship with the consumer – we, as individuals expect more. 

"In today’s market, the company must earn my business. And seemingly minor details such as knowing my name make a difference. The personal touch goes a long way, and every company should rest assured that a competitor, somewhere, will take the extra steps to add that personal touch and earn the consumer’s support. I recently read an article in Direct Marketing News that stated ‘Hyper-personalized marketing takes into consideration consumers' very different needs and preferences, and creates highly meaningful, effective communication that sparks connections and influences behavior.’ Not all consumers are created equal. Your needs as a telecommunications customer may be very different than mine, though the industries’ offerings are the same. Embracing that fact alone can drive up sales for any given company.

“To answer the question of why so many resist the opportunity to increase their ROI when it comes to marketing, I believe it may be as simple as a lack of knowledge. There may be a plethora of reasons as to why this lack of knowledge exists for various companies, but in the end, we in CI see more shock and awe on the faces of our clients when we reveal all the marketing tools at our disposal. I personally believe there exists a significant misunderstanding and/or incomplete understanding of Direct Marketing among the general public as well as many companies, overall.”

Personalization is always a nice touch, but not having it can also break your relationship with a customer. Simple steps to keep clean data and gather requisite information about your mailing population can lead to your message being read.  Rest assured, the title page will not say “Current Resident.”