Results Suffer from Static

IT HAS become commonly accepted that adding variable data to a direct marketing program significantly increases response rates. However, a true control group has often been missing from the evidence cited. Results are typically compared to previous mailings or industry averages, not a static mailing with the same design and message.

Alerus Financial, a North Dakota-based banking institution, decided to include very systematic testing as part of its first application of variable data in a program designed to obtain new loan customers. The company wanted to compare variable data marketing to static methods and establish a baseline for its future marketing efforts.

[ The Proposition ]

With interest rates rising, Alerus noticed a decline in the number of credit card debt consolidation loan applications that it was receiving. For several years, the company had discussed offering pre-approved customer loans to a targeted group of customers and prospects, but it had yet to put the plan into action.

Alerus’ marketing manager had been talking with nDialogue, a direct marketing firm, about the option of doing a variable data campaign with a personalized URL and tracking. To enable a comparison of the results from a variable data vs. static mailing, nDialogue recommended dividing the pool of 7,500 prospects (provided by the financial firm) in half, choosing the names at random.

[ The Solution ]

The first piece sent was a variable data self-mailer that contained a personalized URL (PURL) for each recipient. People who didn’t respond to the initial offer were then sent a print-on-demand postcard with a different set of PURLs. nDialogue tracked phone calls, visits to each landing page, submitted contact forms and click-throughs.

The target audience was segmented via age demographics into three ranges—25-35, 36-45 and 46-55 year olds. The creative team at nDialogue created personalized messaging and images designed to appeal to the core needs of each group. At his or her personalized URL, a respondent discovered more information on the credit card loan consolidation offer, was able to submit an auto-populated contact form, and use an interactive calculator on the page to estimate their monthly loan payment.

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