Yesterday, I received a personalized postcard from our veterinarian. But it was another one of those examples of well-intentioned personalization that went somewhat wrong. It reminds us that if your client is going to make the additional investment in a personalized mailing, make sure they get it right.  

The postcard was cute. It said, “You know that your pet is perfect. We just provide a second opinion.” There was a picture of an orange Tabby, with our cat’s name, Socks, underneath. There was also an invitation to make Socks’ next appointment. I stood there and stared at for while, not contemplating when to take Socks to the vet, but whether this attempt at personalization actually felt more personal to me or not.

Let’s look at my questions:

If they know my cat’s name, why didn’t they use my name in the copy? “Heidi, you know your pet is perfect.” Not that this would have made a difference. I get tired of seeing my name in large bold font when nothing else is relevant to me, so maybe it’s better that they didn’t. But it was a question.

Next, and more importantly, if they know my cat’s name, they should also know that she’s a Tuxedo cat (black-and-white), not a Tabby. Seeing a picture of a large Tabby with the name “Socks” underneath didn’t feel personal. It actually made me feel a bit uncomfortable. “That’s not my cat. Why does that strange, unfamiliar cat have my cat’s name on it?”

Let’s also go back to that cute message: “You know your pet is perfect.” They know I have a cat. Why didn’t they say, “You know your cat is perfect”?  

Finally, and what may have stuck out to me the most, is that we have two cats, Socks and Cuddles. They are both Tuxedos. They are sisters. They go into the vet at the same time.  So, does the vet only care about one cat and not the other? What’s up with that? (No, I didn’t receive two mailers—just the one.)

I love our veterinarian, so this isn’t to beat up on them. It’s a reminder that personalization is a critical tool in a marketing arsenal, but it has to be used well. Seeing a postcard with “We know your cat is perfect!” with a picture of a Tuxedo cat over the name “Socks” would certainly have drawn me in. As it was, I kept staring at that orange Tabby and thinking, “I don’t have an orange Tabby cat” and “What about our other cat?” I was so thrown off that I completely missed the CTA until later.

This isn’t just an intellectual exercise in picking apart a mailing. Spotting these things is critical for your print shop’s business, too. You are encouraging your clients to make an additional investment in personalized mailings. These mailings cost more, but they drive better results. So if the client’s conceptualization is poor and the results fall short of expectations, where will the client lay the blame? On the personalized piece? On you? When it comes to your long-term business and client relationships, awkward or ineffective personalization can be worse than none at all.

Encourage personalized communications, but make sure they are done right.