When marketers talk about producing “personalized printing” or 1:1 printing, they are talking about printing that communicates with a customer in a way that static direct mail cannot. By definition, this approach is based on knowing something about each customer, even if it’s just name and address.

When done correctly, however, 1:1 printing is more than just “personalizing” a document. After all, you can personalize something well or you can personalize it badly.

There is an industry pundit who is fond of telling the story of receiving a personalized marketing pitch from a hotel in Las Vegas. The mailer was fully personalized based on the details of his recent visit. In personalizing the piece, however, the hotel assumed that the man stayed in the hotel alone because he was single. In fact, he was married, and his stay there had been tied to an industry event. When the mailer arrived, it featured a scantily clad woman on the front of the card, paired with a salacious invitation. Unfortunately for the marketer, the pundit’s wife collected the mail that day. Needless to say, the invitation never made it inside the house.

Personalization alone doesn’t create relationships or sell products. Relationships are developed by knowing your customers and sending relevant communications that pair your products with the needs of your customers in an appropriate and beneficial way.

Something as simple as a quick list append to identify marital status would have saved this hotel’s mailing. There are other pieces of demographic information that can help improve, not just the “personal” nature of a mailing, but its relevance, as well. What additional pieces of data might help improve your next personalized mailing?