How to Create Influential Variable Data Direct Mail

The real power in direct mail is sending the right offer to the right person. In order to do this effectively, you need to be using variable data direct mail for offers and images, not just names.

variable data direct mail

The real power in direct mail is sending the right offer to the right person. In order to do this effectively, you need to be using variable data direct mail for offers and images, not just names.

“Dear Summer” does not grab me. What draws me in are offers that I want. So if you send me direct mail, send me offers for fishing, camping, reading and, of course, the normal household requirements. Yet, every day I get mail that is not appropriate for me, such as offers for baby gear (my kids are adults now).

When direct mail is sent to someone who is not interested in it, it’s basically junk mail and is thrown in the trash. So how can you prevent that from happening with your mail? Use your list wisely.

  • Step 1: Your Data — You need to make sure that your data files are correct. This means not only checking to see if addresses are correct, but that you have all of the purchase history and any other relevant information up to date. You can’t use bad data.
  • Step 2: Your Offers — Now you will need to decide what your offers are going to be. You can have as many offers as you want, just be sure you send one offer per person.
  • Step 3: Your Copy/Messaging — You will need to create your copy/messaging to highlight your offer and raise interest. Compelling and relevant copy drives response. Take the time to write yours. Remember to stay away from acronyms and keep your word choice simple and concise.
  • Step 4: Your List — Now you are ready to target people in your list based on your offers. Select people into groups for which offer best matches them. You can code them and use that offer code for them to respond. This will with analyzing your results later.
  • Step 5: Your Images — Now that you have your offers and your data segmented you are ready to select the variable images to match each offer. The image should help convey your message without words. It should also grab attention. You will want at least one image per offer and depending on your design you may need more than one.
  • Step 6: Your Design — You will need to decide what your design will be no matter whether it is a postcard, self-mailer or booklet you will want to create a layout that has static elements across all versions and areas where your variable copy, offers and images will drop in.
  • Step 7: Your QC — Variable data requires extensive quality control. You should sample each version with multiple people to make sure that everything is working correctly. We have also found that once everything is good then create batch pdf merged files rather than printing direct to the printer. This helps maintain your quality through the run and prevents any hiccups in large file transmission across a network.
  • Step 8: Your Results — Since you coded your offers you will know who responded and what they responded to. This allows you to plan future mail campaigns based on what worked and what did not.

Obviously variable data is not the be all and end all of direct mail marketing, but it can really help you to save money by only sending pieces to people who are interested in it. You will also see a response increase when you send the right offer to the right person. Another benefit is that people look forward to getting mail that they like. So when you have a track record of sending offers they want, they will take the time to read your next mailer to see what great offer they can get now. Are you ready to get started?

Author: Summer Gould

A blog about Direct Mail Marketing, tips, tricks and what not to do.Summer Gould is President of Eye/Comm Inc. Summer has spent her 27 year career helping clients achieve better marketing results. She has served as a panel speaker for the Association of Marketing Service Providers conferences. She is active in several industry organizations and she is a board member for Printing Industries Association San Diego, as well as a board member for Mailing Systems Management Association of San Diego. You can find her at Eye/Comm Inc’s website:, email:, on LinkedIn, or on Twitter @sumgould.

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