On the face of it, the very thought of print being as interactive as variable online marketing efforts seems ridiculous.

The vast data piles gathered up by Google, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook are the stuff of legend.

Just think about how customized each interaction you have with Google truly is. When I ask Google “where is the nearest pizza joint?” this is what I see.

Papa Giuseppes port creditAnd unless you happen to be passing through Port Credit as you type the same question your result is going to be completely different.

Google maps automatically shows us options that are close to our location.

And have you noticed that when you visit an online store  – like Canadian Tire or Home Depot for example –  they often ask for a postal code? That’s so they can suggest locations that are close by, along with offers customized to those locations.  It’s a pervasive part of our online experience. So much so that if it didn’t happen, we’d wonder what the heck was going on.

So can print mimic this level of customization? It sure can. Customer information can drive variable data print campaigns that speak more directly to clients by switching out text and images in response to the data you already have as well as trigger events.

Type “yoga” into Google and you’re likely served up ads for Lululemon.  With variable data printing if you buy a car from Ford the dealership can send you mail that is customized by the options you purchased on the vehicle or anniversary notes on purchase dates etc. Variable data printing is bringing the print experience closer to the targeted online experience than you might think. 

And when you, as a marketer or fundraiser, use this kind of customization your audience is more likely to:

  • listen
  • be engaged
  • respond to your call to action.

So where do you start?

You need to start collecting customer data. And the more you get the better.  Beyond Names and Addresses, you should also be creating a database of their history. This can include:

  • what they bought
  • when they bought
  • value or how much they donated
  • how often they buy or donate

Without data you won’t be able to use this channel effectively.

Sending out the same generic mailing to thousands, or hundreds of thousands, of recipients without customizing the messaging based on individual profiles is just a shot in the dark. So use the latest print technology to really target your audience and you will be much more likely to reach your marketing or fundraising goal.