How to get started with data-driven direct marketing

By Isla Munro

5 minute Read


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How to get started with data-driven direct marketing

We all know that the start of any great direct mail campaign is data. An organisation's database is a wealth of opportunity and using it efficiently can really take your campaign up to the next level. Nathan Rose, Client Relationship Manager at DBS Data explains to us how to get the most out of your data.

Author: Nathan Rose, Client Relationship Manager at DBS Data

You have made an excellent decision to focus on direct marketing (DM). Right now it is one of the most productive and cost effective ways to connect with existing and new customers. In fact, some organisations are recording some of the highest response and conversion rates I have seen, in more than ten years I have spent working in the data-driven marketing industry.

In recent months we have seen a significant spike in the number of organisations choosing to invest in DM campaigns, notably charities so hard hit during the lockdown, as well as organisations serving the property sector, spurred on by the market’s response to reductions in stamp duty.

We all get excited by the creative aspects of  DM, after all it is the visual that starts to bring a campaign to life. Much emphasis is also placed upon finding the right print management agency to fulfil the mailing, and you will find yourself in safe hands with Dragonfly. However, the unsung and often forgotten element for those new to DM is the lifeblood of any campaign - data.

The old adage of ‘garbage in garbage out’ could have been coined for DM. Put simply, better quality data will deliver higher open rates and greater conversions. However, to the uninitiated data-driven marketing can be perceived at one end of the spectrum as a simple ‘mail merge’, whilst at the other a mysterious black art (it is true that to get good data you need a mix of art and science). But, essentially every good data-driven DM campaign begin with the same two questions:

  1. What do I want to gain from this campaign?
  2. What do I know about my customers that can help me achieve this result?

You may hold data that tells you the name, contact information and purchase history, but to truly know your customers you need to understand what motivates them to the triggers that will cause them to respond in the way you wish. Such information includes:

  • What are the age and genders of your customers?
  • Where are most of your customers located?
  • What is their home ownership status?
  • Do they live alone, as a couple or have dependents?
  • What is their average affluence?
  • What types of charities do they donate to?

Knowing more about your customers enables you to create a blueprint that can in turn be used to find look-a-likes that are likely to respond favourably to your mailing. Our team of data experts at DBS use our B2C Data Universe, dbsLifebase, which gives them access to more than 350 lifestyle, transactional and demographic data sources, for more than 35 million UK individuals, in 21 million households. We cleanse, verify, and enhance your data with the information we identify that you need to make the campaign a success. This includes updating names changed by marriage/partnership, suppressing records of the deceased, and ensuring correct address information. Did you know that as many as seven million people change their address every year in the UK? We then add new records to provide an enriched, expanded and highly targeted prospect database.      

Time is of the essence if you are wanting to turnaround a campaign quickly and steal a march on the competition, or take advantage of fast-moving market conditions. So, you may be surprised to learn that this vital piece of work is usually completed in less than five working days, from the initial exploratory call, through to the delivery of the new database.

Even if you have not had prior experience of purchasing data services you will undoubtedly be aware of the strict rules that have been in place since May 2018 regarding the use of personal data (the Data Protection Act, PECR and the EU GDPR). It is vitally important that you do your due diligence before selecting a company that you will share data with and that will provide you with data. Compliance and ethical practice are at the heart of everything we do at DBS, and we have been audited and are recognised by our trade body, the Data & Marketing Association (DMA).

If this all sounds great so far, you still maybe thinking “But how much does this all cost?” You will perhaps be pleasantly surprised that when you factor in the cost of the campaign – designing the creative pack, print and mailing costs – data represents a small percentage. It can also save money on wasted mailing, as you can be sure that every pack will land on the right doorstep. Of course, there are ways of getting costs even lower, through the use of what is known as Partially Addressed Mail. However, I would argue that the savings would look less attractive if you A+B tested two campaigns. 

My final piece of advice is that whilst data-driven marketing will deliver impressive results for isolated campaigns, to get the best possible returns it should become an intrinsic part of the marketing programme. The end of every campaign presents an opportunity to reflect and analyse in granular detail the open rates and conversions, and refine the process before going again.

Nathan Rose, Client Relationship Manager at DBS Data

Isla Munro image

About the author

Isla is an experienced Managing Director, marketeer and leader. Driven by creative data led solutions, she takes pride in providing the best direct marketing campaigns and strategies. As Dragonfly’s Managing Director, her goals include delivering growth not just for her clients, but her team too. Isla sits on the Royal Mail Strategic Mailing Partnership board and the DMA Scotland committee and has spoken at many industry events on topics including GDPR and direct marketing.

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