Data Explained – Part 2

15th September 2016

In part one of Data Explained, we discussed what data actually is and how you can use it to send direct mail to the people who are likely to be interested in your product or service.

In part 2 you’ll see what data looks like and how you can use it to drive your direct mail campaigns.

What does data look like?

Data may sound complicated and hard to imagine, but the simplest way to think about data is as a list of personal details written down on a page.

In order to use a list of details in a direct mail campaign it needs to be entered into a computer; depending on where you get your data from it may already be in an electronic format, if not you can type information into your computer using a spreadsheet.

If you are a business user you probably use Microsoft Excel, but there are many free spreadsheet applications available on the internet such as Open Office and Google Sheets which are just as effective.

In a spreadsheet, all of the details for each individual person are held in a single row with the individual details about that person being held in separate columns.

You can see that details such as name and address are broken down into smaller details: name becomes title, forename, and surname, and the address is broken down into more than one column with important address details such as town and postcode having their own columns.

The first row in the spreadsheet holds the names of the details and is known as the header; this row is used by other programs and online services to work out what type of data you have.

Data Formats

When saving your data you have a wide choice of data formats, a data format is simply how the computer holds your information. A lot of direct mail applications, such as Hello Market, can read Microsoft Excel files, but the best format to use is CSV, this is a universal format that can be used by almost every program that needs to read data.

Using Personal Data to Drive Direct Mail

Each piece of information you hold about a person gives you the potential to speak to that person as an individual; data allows you to inform someone about something that they need, or would like, presented in a way that appeals to them personally.

That sounds quite abstract so let’s think about how this applies to Direct Mail.

In non-personalised direct mail all that changes on a mail item is the name and address in the address carrier, and maybe the salutation; every recipient receives exactly the same printed piece, the same headlines, the same images, the same content.

Hello Market is a fully featured online direct mail service which allows you to go several steps further and use your data to personalise your mailing items for each recipient using: data drop-ins, switching copy, and switching images.

Data Drop Ins

With Hello Market you can insert the contents of a data field anywhere on your mail piece in any font, in any colour, at any size; we call these data drop-ins.

This means that you can grab a recipient’s attention by placing their name in a headline with a large, bold, colourful font on the front of your communication.

With data drop ins, depending on your data, you can pepper your copy with personalised information the recipient will recognise and appreciate, for example, you may mention their last purchase and suggest another related purchase:

“John, we hope you’re enjoying your new Sony TV, we just wanted to let you know we’re having a huge sale on right now and for a limited time you can get the Sony Surround Sound Bar at half price!”

“Amber, we hope you’re enjoying your new IPad, we just wanted to let you know we’re having a huge sale on right now and for a limited time you can get the Apple TV Connector at half price!”

“Kieran, we hope you’re enjoying your new Tom Tom Sat Nav, we just wanted to let you know we’re having a huge sale on right now and for a limited time you can get the Tom Tom Easy Dashboard Mount at half price!”

To achieve this you would have two fields in your data, one would hold the previous purchase value and the other would hold the potential purchase value

Switching Copy

Sometimes data drop ins are not enough to personalise the copy, you may have certain paragraphs you want to change, or different versions of the whole copy, that are designed to speak to different types of people, for this you can use switching copy.

Switching copy uses values in your data to decide which text to show the recipient; somebody interested in holidays to Tenerife can receive copy about Tenerife and somebody interested in Corfu can receive relevant copy about Corfu; the switching copy can still be populated with data drop-ins to provide seamless personalised text.

To achieve this you would need a field in your data for each individual indicating which text they should receive.

Hello Market lets you switch as many text boxes as you like using one field or by using a different field for each text box

Switching Images

Imagery is powerful and people will often view an image and make a decision before even reading your copy, it is important that people see images that relate to them; an older couple interested in a relaxing cruise don’t want to see images of young people on a snowboarding holiday and vice versa.

Hello Market allows you associate images with values in your data allowing you to send mail pieces populated with relevant targeted imagery; in this case you would need a field indicating which image each individual should receive.

Hello Market lets you switch as many image boxes as you like using one field or by using a different field for each image box.


Once you know what data looks like it’s easy to create a file on your computer to power a direct mail campaign; using a service such as Hello Market you can use your targeted data insights to send recipients personalised mailings which will have a large impact on response.

Next Time…

In part 3 of “Data Explained” I’ll show you where and how you can collect customer data in order to power your data drop-ins and switching text and imagery which will impress your customers and grab their attention, increasing your response rates.