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By Pica9 on October 11, 2017

How to Use Local Marketing Automation to Create Personalized Print Campaigns

Personalization in marketing leads to an average sales lift of 19 percent. As brands work to create customized digital customer experiences, there’s also an opportunity for them to create more relevant and personal experiences for customers in their print advertising.

An upcoming Pica9 survey of marketing leaders at multi-location brands, who provide marketing support to large networks of local affiliates, reveals that adopting technology to support better local print execution is a top priority for CMOs.

In fact, the ability to customize print templates is the most desired feature for local marketing — according to 96 percent of the respondents. Industry-leading enterprise brands are 15 times more likely than their competitors to select Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)-based local marketing automation (LMA) tools to improve efficiency in creating, localizing, and measuring marketing communications for print and digital channels. Today’s best LMA software enables both local marketers and head office to leverage more print personalization.

But how do enterprise brands enable this kind of local print personalization without giving up brand standards or design quality? The obvious answer for today's savviest CMOs is marketing technology — it's how they achieve that outcome that's the real story.

The Difference Between Customized and Personalized Print Marketing

Personalization in print is a common tactic that marketers use to achieve higher response rates from local customers. Personalized print assets can come in many forms – like a mailer or package sent to a local customer that uniquely presents their name or references to their purchase history or preferences. Personalization is all about tailoring the marketing content you put in front of someone based on what you know about that person - that's why "personal" is built right into it! Marketers who are doing personalization use as much data as they can get about an individual to set up a really bespoke message just for that person, and no one else (or at least seem like that).

Customization in multi-location print marketing should really be viewed differently from personalization and it's important for brand marketers to keep in mind because it can also have a great impact on results. Customization is marketer-centric; it's about allowing the marketer to tailor what they want to sell and how they want to sell it vs. just picking up on the customer-centric messaging of personalization. Local store owners might want to customize marketing templates to feature local storefront photography or new, seasonally-targeted offers that are only accepted at their store.

Both personalization and customization have an impact on the local customer. For example, local dealership marketers can customize direct mailers to reflect models in-stock, providing a relevant and timely offer to their local audience.

Meanwhile, personalization allows the local dealer to showcase new models of older vehicles previously purchased by a specific customer, tailoring the asset directly to an individual and what they've shown interest in previously. Both customization and personalization of printed collateral can make a big difference, and the two can be combined for even greater effect. In this piece we focus on the benefits of personalization in print marketing, but check out previous articles to learn how customized assets can work as well.

To learn more about print marketing's role and multi-location brands and who are executing print in an effective way, we recommend the following resources from the Pica9 blog archives:


Understanding Barriers to Personalized Print at Multi-Location Brands

93 percent of multi-location brands anticipate their local networks will expand over the next few years, and believe an improved customer experience (CX) is key to that growth. Personalized print is one important means of delivering the type of relevant, quality experience that builds a loyal customer base. In fact, 94 percent of organizations believe personalization in marketing is “critical to current and future success” for their brand.

While the vast majority of multi-location brand managers know why personalized customer experiences are important, today they are still facing major barriers to implementation. 81 percent of distributed enterprises struggle with a lack of local marketer expertise as a key challenge when it comes to delivering consistently excellent customer communications. 38 percent report that customer data which is fragmented across different tools and systems is also holding them back.

Enabling local affiliates to create personalized print can be done in many ways, but is more scaleable and streamlined with an LMA tool. It also requires accurate customer data, or at a minimum, tools that make it easy for local affiliates to apply their customer knowledge to personalizing print.

LMA solutions provide brands and local marketers with the ability to personalize print assets at scale. For multi-location brands being able to personalize print on the local level is a priority that especially comes into play when you have hundreds or thousands of local affiliates asking for help to do it.

This is so common, in fact, that most brands find they need to spend more time and effort helping these local marketers use personalization than actually presenting the finished product to the end consumer.

How to Use Local Marketing Automation to Create Personalized Print

Local marketers rarely have the time or expertise necessary to deal with any kind of graphic design project, and they certainly don't have the skills to deal with custom data integrations for the purpose of personalized print marketing.

However, leading SaaS LMA solutions make it possible for brand management teams to support high-quality print designs and accurate data in local print execution. For brand marketers using a dedicated platform like CampaignDrive, the process of print personalization involves five key steps that take a normal, static print piece and turn it into a custom-tailored personal message with a local marketer's individual touch as well. The steps required to convert an existing ad layout into a personalized print asset in CampaignDrive are detailed below:

1. Select the Right Design for Personalization

Before converting a master layout file into a personalized print file in CampaignDrive, brand managers have to choose the right print asset for personalization. This often comes down to finding something that is already centered on the customer instead of your brand's products or services. It won't do much good to personalize something that just talks about how great your brand is — whatever benefit the personalization gives is lost by being overly product-focused. The right design for local personalization will already be prepared with content built around the customer.

Once the asset is chosen, designers and brand managers should work together to determine the elements of the layout that should be personalized at the local level. This could include things such as placeholder content, body content, hero images, and customer contact information. By understanding which aspects of the future template are meant to be edited or personalized, you'll find you can achieve greater efficiency during the template creation and testing stages.

2. Convert Your Design Into a Template

By importing an InDesign (INDD) file or manually building the template in the system, graphic designers will have a customizable template ready to go in CampaignDrive. This allows local marketers to quickly select and build out their projects from pre-prepared templates, whenever they need them.

Once the composition and default content have been associated with one another, designers can then begin to assign assets and content blocks to the template that will allow for easy modification down the road. Rules should be set in place to dictate which content blocks and assets can be modified according to user role. Brand managers have the ability to edit any content field, while local affiliates will be limited to editing just the parts they should, like the customer's contact information or certain product photos.

easily distributed digital and print campaigns case study

3. Select Tokens for Automatic Personalization

Based on the template you have now and the data that's available in your customer database, the third step involves configuring the tokens or form fields that will be used for automatic personalization. Your options here aren’t limited by technology, just by the design and what information is contained in your dataset. Some form fields that could be selected which reflect common ways to personalize print marketing include:

  • Customer Name
  • Gendered Pronouns
  • Location
  • Most Recent Product Purchased
  • QR Codes or Personalized URLs by Location
  • Localized Offers


These kinds of personalization settings can include both text content and, in certain cases, visual content as well. Brands should set up these "tokens" for local marketers to use.

Adding settings on the template that will add personalized data and where, requires setting specific rules for variable data. Brand managers or graphic designers will need to adjust settings in the selected form fields to reflect the variable data needed for automatic personalization. You may choose to associate variable data options such as the customer’s name or the year that a customer first became a client during this step.

At this stage, you’ve officially created a print template that is ready for personalization. Next comes the really unique part of personalization: connecting to that customer database.

4. Connect the Database

To personalize local print marketing at scale, it’s absolutely essential to add the right data into your marketing materials. The last thing you want is to try to send a customer a birthday greeting that's six months too early (or too late, depending on your perspective!). To avoid this, you have to make sure the data sources you add to your system, like your local customers’ contact information, purchase histories, or other insights for personalization, is as clean as possible.

Fortunately, adding data into tools like CampaignDrive doesn't have to be a pain. You can typically upload your data in a standard format like a comma-separated values (CSV) file or create new data directly within the system. CampaignDrive also offers a range of integration options that make it easy to connect other applications to feed the right data into the tool from almost anywhere.

This fourth stage doesn’t require any modifications to the template to add data, since CampaignDrive templates are connected to a structured content database. This means that brands can have key business data flowing into CampaignDrive that is merged into their templates automatically.

5. Test Data and Design Integrity

If you’ve ever received a brand email newsletter addressed to Dear <<firstname>>, you know how personalization mistakes feel to the customer. It often feels more insincere and unprofessional than if the brand hadn’t attempted to personalize and had just sent a generic email in the first place.

Testing is crucial after template creation and data integration are complete to understand how the personalization rules perform in a live environment. Preview the completed design by trying as broad a sampling of the important differences in the dataset as possible. For instance, if there are two languages, test the shortest, longest, and middle-sized pieces content in both of them.

Using the longest and shortest data records is a smart way to approach testing, because these outliers could reveal if aspects of the template's design need to be adjusted to accommodate the range of content that will be used. LMA makes it easy to implement these changes to design rules once you identify issues, allowing you to ensure everything works as intended.

For more insights into the CampaignDrive workflow as a leading example of SaaS local marketing automation, we recommend 3 DAM Tips You Can Steal to Streamline Your Campaign Creation.

Automating Personalized Print for Local Marketing Impact

While personalized print marketing at multi-location brands is possible without an all-in-one local marketing automation tool, it’s certainly not easy. Trying to piece together a workflow using multiple tools can result in confusion, inefficient processes, and data quality issues. For busy local affiliates who lack technical and marketing backgrounds, when it's difficult to do personalized print projects it's more likely that they'll never be executed at all.

By selecting a solution that will act as an end-to-end option for local marketing execution support, brand managers can scale their resources to support quality personalized print executions at the local level.

To learn how brands like The Melting Pot, Marriott and Polaris use local marketing automation software to support best-of-class print customer experiences across their local networks, check out the free Pica9 eBook The Local Marketing Playbook: The Templates, Campaigns and Tools That Help Multi-Location Brands Become Local Marketing Champions Download the Local Marketing Playbook

Published by Pica9 October 11, 2017