One thing that an organization may want to try is the introduction of variable data into the newsletter to see if this can breathe life into an underperforming asset. You may have heard the phrase, variable data, but what does it really mean? Variable data printing is a form of digital printing in which elements such as text, graphics and images may be changed from one printed piece to the next, without stopping or slowing down the printing process and using information from a database. It’s more than adding a name or address, it’s a personalization process that enhances communication.
The biggest overall use of personalization within member based associations is the ability to vary communications dependent on the primary reason why a member belongs to an association. Members often join associations for reasons that vary from networking, education, government advocacy and/or access to group benefits. Some other uses are:
- Using personalization in communications based on a members previous use of association resources
- The use of variable print to increase member interaction at member events (i.e. personalized networking cards, name badges, or event registration forms)
- Using personalized url’s (purl’s) to pre-populate member surveys which will increase participation
- Using variable data when requesting a member’s participation in legislative call to actions and legislative communications (i.e. printing the name and contact information of the appropriate Congressman for the recipient)
- Using variable data when sending out dues renewal information (the previous year’s payment history can be communicated)
- Using personalization to vary printed communications between long time members, reconnecting with past members who have dropped off and prospective members
Introducing a full variable data newsletter to your entire database may seem overwhelming and, at first glance, more costly than a conventional newsletter. A suggestion would be to test the introduction of the variable data. One way to do this would be to print half of the newsletters as a static version and the other half as a personalized newsletter. Adding varying levels of personalization is also a way that one can test the waters of personalization versus response rates. If you feel your organization lacks the necessary data to add personalization to its direct mail efforts, doing a test mailing is one of the best ways to kick start your efforts.