The Importance of Data in Direct Mail Marketing

Author: Alan Sherman, VP of Marketing Strategy

Quite often, when we work with clients in direct mail marketing, creative development is the first focus. But, just as in any marketing channel, who we target is just as important, if not more so for driving increased direct mail response and a successful direct mail campaign. For a full-service direct marketing company like Nahan, using data in direct mail marketing is a crucial component of an integrated success chain that includes strategy, data, creative and production execution.

Direct mail provides more data points to target against than any other marketing channel. The typical national data compiler manages over three thousand data points per person.*  Combine a multi-sourced wealth of data with sophisticated predictive analytics, and we can precisely rank prospects based on their propensity to respond (or other desired outcomes).

Let us take a look at typical data used by various direct mail industry clients. In the interest of time and space, what follows is not an exhaustive list.

Financial Services and Insurance – Credit Data

For financial and insurance clients, we see widespread use of credit bureau prescreened data – both in terms of trigger (credit or insurance inquiries by consumers) and broad market (often dictated by credit score and other data points) campaigns.

As a direct marketing service provider, Nahan partners with credit data agents, which can provide unique sources of value. Credit data agents typically receive and maintain real-time data from all 3 main credit bureaus, providing a comprehensive picture of all credit behavior across bureaus. More data across all 3 bureaus means more net qualified names, typically 15-20% more, and improved credit decisioning.

It also means more flexibility in terms of FCRA regulations, allowing for counts to be more easily run before actually pulling a file. Typically, when one pulls a complete prescreened credit file, one is obligated to make everyone on that list a firm offer of credit. Credit data agents have more flexibility in this regard. Custom models can make use of both credit and non-credit data for increased predictive power.

While credit data is usually the go-to data source for most financial and insurance acquisition mailers, it can often be supplemented by Invitation to Apply (ITA) data, which is primarily driven by a lifecycle event – such as college graduation, marriage, having children and buying a home. While ITA prospects are typically not as responsive, it is less expensive, and can be tested and paired with credit data as an effective supplemental data source.

Multiple Industries – Modeled Compiled Data

Compiled data is just that – data compiled from multiple sources and then linked to individuals and households. It’s typically used in travel, healthcare, retail, telecom, and auto direct mail.  There are a number of medium and large-sized data compilers that we partner with to provide the best data for our clients. Compiled data typically includes demographic, psychographic, and attitudinal data. 

Demographic data includes data elements like age, gender, income, occupation, and more.

Psychographic data is focused upon people’s interests and hobbies, often obtained via surveys, donations, and specialty lists.

Attitudinal data reflects attitudes and belief systems, typically from surveys and donations made to non-profits.

Compiled data is best paired with predictive analytics to identify the data elements that will give the greatest response.

Catalogers, Non-Profits, E-tailors and Others – Cooperative (Co-op) Data

Co-op data is customer purchase data collected from thousands of co-op members and maintained in a database. Typically, a member marketer must provide their customer data on a regular basis to join and participate. Co-op members include companies from the catalog, retail, etail, continuity, non-profit, publishers, finance, insurance, and business-to-business industries. Some co-ops focus on non-profit donation behavior specifically.

Co-ops collect over 1500 data elements for a given household and cover 190MM U.S. consumers. The depth and granularity of the data can vary by co-op. Given that customer behavior is often the most predictive of future behavior, this data is very powerful in its ability to predict the future response and purchasing.

Using marketer-provided customer purchase data, the co-ops use predictive models to find prospects elsewhere in the database with similar product and purchase behavior. Co-op data has long been a go-to data source for catalogers, replacing many of the more expensive specialty, “vertical” lists that exist, such as magazine subscriber files.

Business-to-Business (B2B) Data

B2B direct mail data used to come from two main data sources – Data Axle (formerly InfoGroup) and Dun & Bradstreet. They are still major players providing excellent data. Both, along with a continual flow of new players, now offer much more than the traditional data points like annual sales, number of employees, SIC code, and NAIC Code. Data points such as B2B buying behavior, public filings and linked consumer information all provide additional targeting insights. Because people change jobs much more frequently than they change addresses, B2B data is more challenging and labor intensive to maintain and keep up to date, resulting in a higher cost.

The Role of Analytics

The performance of all data mentioned here can and should be enhanced by predictive analytics. We simply can’t leverage any of these types of data to their full potential without the use of modeling to prioritize prospects. While a predictive model adds to the cost, it usually pays for itself in the first direct mail campaign with the increased direct response it produces. Depending on the circumstances, the model can be re-used until market conditions change. Machine learning and artificial intelligence have sped up the modeling process, and in certain cases, such as co-op data or credit models, new models may be built with every direct marketing campaign.

Our Data Role

Nahan has deep and long-time relationships with many types of direct mail data providers and list brokers. We can determine which source is the right fit for our clients’ objectives. Typically at a lower cost than our clients can obtain on their own. Our expertise ensures the best possible data at the best possible price. For any questions about data, please feel free to reach out to me at alan.sherman@nahan.com.

*Source: WebFX

Bio: Alan Sherman is our Vice President of Marketing Strategy. Alan enhances Nahan’s current value proposition with strategy solutions that support new/existing client relationships. For clients, he leverages market, customer, and competitive intelligence to build achievable strategies for omnichannel marketing success. His marketing plan strategies include targeted data, predictive analytics, testing and creative that drive ongoing client performance improvement. In his spare time, Alan enjoys spending time with his family, traveling, going to concerts, watching sports (he’s a fan of the NY Giants, Boston Red Sox and Celtics) and walking the dog, even though it was just out.

What is Variable Data Printing? A Closer Look.

Author: Jon Legg, Data Processing Department Leader

In today’s data-driven marketing world, utilizing the power of your data can be the difference between a good marketing campaign and a great marketing campaign that produces a fantastic ROI. A question that we often get asked is “What is Variable Data Printing and how does it work?”

What is Variable Data Printing?

Variable Data Printing is using your customer’s data to change text, images, or other content from one piece of mail to the next.  Instead of printing one form 100,000 times you can instead print 100,000 highly individualized pieces.  And when we say highly personalized we are talking about more than just a salutation line that says “Dear John Doe.” 

At Nahan we have done a wide range of projects that utilize variable data printing.  The following four specific examples show what highly personalized could look like to you.

  1. One project had hundreds of mall locations and for each record, we used a field in the data to variably pull the closest mall to the consumer, a logo for that mall, hours of operation, and a mall directory. 
  2. Another project required us to uniquely link over 400,000 photographs so that each record imaged the correct photograph. 
  3. A third project involved providing each recipient with a personalized map that showed their house on a map, the nearest store, and a highlighted route between the two.
  4. Lastly, another project showcased a piece that changed all of its content based on the consumer.  Family of four?  All content showed family-friendly activities and all images changed to photos of families.  Single?  The entire piece changed to show photos of adults with more of a focus on entertainment and nightlife.

Variable data printing can do all of this and more. 

What is Variable Data Printing

As we like to say, “Where there is data, there is opportunity for customization.”

What Files Are Needed For a Variable Data Project?

At Nahan we can accept all types of files and work with you to get more out of your mail list.  Our preferred file format is a CSV file transmitted to our SFTP site.  We are also able to use API integrations to directly link with our customers to provide a more seamless transfer of data; both to Nahan and back to our customers.  This can include return files, reports, and much more.

How is Data Kept Safe?

In today’s digital landscape we can use data for just about anything, which makes that data extremely valuable.  Sadly, the bad guys know that as well and are constantly looking to get their hands on data.  But Nahan takes pride in keeping your data safe.  We are PCI compliant and are equipped to work with HIPAA data. We have lots of hands-on experience with both.  Beyond that our data processing team is literally in a locked room that requires two different forms of authentication just to get in! Given all the efforts that we put into data security, you can rest assured that not only will Nahan keep your data safe, but we will also put it to work for you! 

Working Together on a Strategy

As a company, we are not afraid of pushing the boundaries of what can be done with data.  We are constantly using the newest technology and then working to perfect it.  We also have a data processing team that is equally unafraid of pushing limits and seeing how much we can do with a simple mail list.  Let’s work together and see what we can get your next mailing to do for you! Contact us or visit our marketing services page to learn more.

Author: Jon Legg is a Department Leader at Nahan Printing and started with the company in 2015.  He currently oversees the Data Processing department as well as the PreMedia department.  This means that any files, whether art or data, all come through Jon’s teams.  When he isn’t at work Jon loves spending time with his wife and daughter, traveling (usually to Disney World), and working with our local theater company both on stage and as a Director.