Direct Marketing: Tips for Effective Data Use

Last year, a UK mail order clothing brand Boden fought off stiff competition from bigger brands to win the coveted Marketing Week Engage award for a direct mail campaign with a difference: Boden designed a personal catalogue, featuring a fold-out spread that was unique to each customer. Integrated across multiple platforms, the “Lose Story” campaign delivered a good return on investment, including a near 30% uplift in response.

Encompassing multiple media channels, direct marketing offers an opportunity to open up a dialogue by delivering personalised, timely and relevant messages. By calling for a response it is uniquely placed to deliver bottom line results.

At the heart of the Boden campaign was, of course, data - and lots of it. Data used in the right way to target consumers with relevant direct marketing is an invaluable tool. Transactional and contact data, purchase history, demographics and lifestyle information can all be used to create a high-impact campaign that generates results - and keeps the Finance department happy.

So here are some tips to help you get the most from your customer data:


They are the most valuable asset your business has so invest in collecting key information that will enhance your offer. Make sure to keep the right balance between “too much” and “too little” data: name, address and purchase histories often suffice, and can be enriched over time through third party information.


Failure to adhere to data protection regulations carries significant risks, including substantial fines, negative media coverage, damage to the brand and ultimately lost customers. Avoid this by treating personal data with the sensitivity it deserves: capture the correct permissions and respect your customers' preferences.


Always capture any changes your customer provides and review data quality regularly. Free data audits are common practice among data agencies, and can provide valuable insight into areas in need of attention. Clean, accurate databases improve productivity and lower the cost of communicating with your client base, and it doesn't have to cost a fortune: simply capturing mail returns is a great way to ensure quality of name and address information.


Perhaps as important as keeping your data clean is ensuring it is kept in a uniform format. This may sound a little OCD, but consider this: what is the main purpose of your customer database? Generating actionable consumer behaviour insights is no doubt high on the list for most customer-centric organisations. The only way to achieve this is by finding patterns and extracting the essence from a sea of data, which is impossible if it lacks consistency.


Add demographic or lifestyle data to your customer files, then use this data to segment customers into more targeted groups with similar characteristics. Don't forget that the legwork has already been done - agencies like Data Ireland have invested heavily in predictive geodemographic models that can enrich your customer data without the need for costly data collection exercises. The Boden catalogue is the ultimate example of a personalised campaign - but even simple geographic or demographic references in creative copy can have a big impact, and digital printing technology enables almost every element of your mailing to be customised to your target.