Get Personal!

March 22, 2014

Sure, “spray and pray” can work, but it tends to waste money and resources in the process.

By Cynthia Drake

It turns out that being a bit more strategic and creative could have netted vastly better results.

A 2012 report from Caslon and Co., which analyzed 500 digital printing case studies, showed that “on average, across all major vertical markets and marketing applications, relevance can deliver more than four times the response of static, sameto- all-messaging.”

Here’s some further good news: As technology becomes better, faster, and cheaper, options for creating targeted marketing campaigns become limitless.

Personalization tactics include targeted messaging and customized images for print materials that are designed to communicate to customers on a highly personal level (for example, an auto dealership might feature in its custom marketing materials an image of a sports car for its younger customers and a mini-van for families).

Other campaign selections might include custom email messaging and personalized URLs (also known as PURLs) that include a customer’s name in the company’s website address. The featured content can also be tailored to that particular customer’s interests.

Several Michigan-based businesses that have created such highly relevant campaigns for their customers have been pleased with the results. We asked two of them to share their success stories and tips for creating successful campaigns.

Great Lakes Loons: Getting to know fans and selling more tickets

Three years into its franchise, the Great Lakes Loons, a Minor League Baseball team based in Midland, Mich., was interested in learning more about their fans’ experience at the ballpark. They were also looking to capitalize on local baseball fever by promoting mini-plan ticket packages, which included seats to eight hot-selling games throughout the season.

Chris Mundhenk, vice president of marketing and entertainment for the Great Lakes Loons, says the team management wanted to create a mailing campaign tied to a PURL that would lead people to an online survey. They decided to target fans who had already purchased single game tickets in the past and supplement that list with a larger audience of potential consumers in the mid-Michigan region.

Mundhenk says they chose an oversized postcard with a gloss finish for the mailer piece. “They felt substantial. They really stood out,” he says.

But what really stood out? Each postcard featured a custom headline, message, and a picture of a hot dog with each recipient’s name spelled out in mustard—a light-hearted gesture toward the fun experience of a summer evening at the ballpark.

The response was encouraging, says Mundhenk. Out of 16,000 recipients, nearly 2,000 people (about 10 percent) responded to the PURL. Ninety-six percent of those respondents completed the online survey. Mundhenk was able to measure the response rate based on audience segments: people who had already purchased Loons tickets (22 percent response rate) versus prospective buyers who hadn’t yet attended a game (6 percent).

These results support similar findings from the Caslon and Co. report, which found that the highest response rates for personalized data gathering campaigns to be 19.1 percent. Mundhenk says that ticket sales were also boosted as a result of the campaign.

“For us, it was really strong,” Mundhenk says. “We saw an uptick, and while we had a number of efforts that went into our package sales, including traditional sales efforts with our sales staff, we reached and exceeded our mini-plan number.”

Mundhenk says it’s important to stand out when it comes to communicating to customers.

“There’s so much clutter out there, and having just a generic piece that goes out, I just think it doesn’t resonate with people,” he says. “When you have a call to action that is crisp, you’re much more likely to give that some thoughtful consideration.”

Independent Bank: Building new relationships during branch consolidation

Meanwhile, at Independent Bank, headquartered in Ionia, Mich., employees were trying to break some tough news to some of their loyal customers: Ten of Independent Bank’s branches were closing, and its customers would have to continue banking at the next nearest office to them.

“Some customers were a little upset,” says Tricia Raquepaw, vice president and director of marketing for Independent Bank. “Whether it was due to convenience or personal ties with their current branch, it was not a message that was well-received.”

To make the best of the situation, the bank decided to create a communication campaign that would encourage customers to develop a relationship with their new branch and its staff. Raquepaw says the bank offered a welcome gift of a travel mug, as well as a discount on the bank’s CD rate, a box of free checks, and a chance to win $1,000.

To communicate with its customers, Independent Bank created a personalized oversized postcard for a 10,000-household mailing list with each recipient’s name spelled out in steam coming out of a coffee cup. Customers were asked to bring in the postcard in order to receive their welcome gifts.

“I predicted that we would get between a 5 and 10 percent response rate,” says Raquepaw, who initially placed an order for 2,000 mugs. She soon realized that she would have to place another order, when dozens of customers started flooding the branches daily to redeem their mugs.

“They absolutely loved the mailer. Customers couldn’t believe they were personalized with their names on them, and we even had several customers that wanted to keep the mailer because it was so neat,” she says. “Very rarely do I get responses on mail pieces, and I was getting several daily regarding this one.”

The bank opened several new CD savings accounts through the special offer and brought in nearly $100,000 in new money.

Raquepaw says that the real success of the campaign was bringing customers back into the branches, getting a personal tour of their new banking location, and forging new relationships. The personalized messaging and the complimentary welcome gifts were part of Independent Bank’s overall message that the customer’s loyalty is valued and important—even when times get tough.

Personalization can complement a company’s brand

While both Mundhenk and Raquepaw say personalized campaigns cost a bit more than traditional ones, they both agree the added expense is justified in the end because they see a better return on investment over when they launch a more generic campaign.

“The additional cost to personalize a piece in a creative way spoke volumes to customers,” says Raquepaw. “I truly feel that customers found this piece not only creative and personal, but that they felt that we truly did care about our customers and wanted to make sure they felt comfortable during this transition. I would easily say this piece was our most successful to date.”

Personalized campaigns can go the distance in helping to convey a company’s brand—particularly if the company wants to emphasize its customer service, commitment to quality, and one-on-one attention throughout its branding materials.

Mundhenk says creating a thoughtful, targeted campaign was one more way to deliver the Loons’ high-quality, fun-packed image.

“We have a high standard, and this represents our brand,” he says. “When someone gets something substantial like that, they open and feel it—it almost subliminally tells them that this is something that is really nice. They put some time and effort into it.”