The key to good one-to-one marketing via the postal system or post card sign-ups is linking the outbound campaign data with the inbound data captures.
This will be just a brief post because many of the techniques and strategies used in post card or "snail mail" marketing are similar to e-mail marketing discussed in a previous post.
There are many players in the print fulfillment area, but all are not equal. The key to good one-to-one marketing via the postal system or post card sign-ups is linking the outbound campaign data with the inbound data captures. Control groups and test groups with personalized content are still very valid forms of narrowing down your target mailing and optimizing your offers. For obvious reasons, it will take a lot longer to get feedback on these control groups, but it's still possible.
What is key here is making sure that your mailings and content have unique campaign identifiers and customer identifiers. Having this level of personalized content on a printed piece is not cheap, but it's getting cheaper. This proven method of marketing has caused many full-service print shops to get very good at personalizing printed material.
The next item to watch out for is the return data. Redeemable coupons are a great way to capture behavior and link it back to clean data. Where this gets tricky is when you have campaigns to acquire new customers. Free giveaway campaigns (sign up and get a free tote bag) are really tough to get clean data from. Many who sign up during these giveaways give false information in order to get the free gift. You would be lucky if you get 10% accurate data from these and even some of those may be existing customers that need to be de-duped.
Transcribing this data into electronic data is better left to mail shops that have some pretty good OCR software and established processes that pre-validate contact information before the data is committed to your database. When you do commit them, be sure that they're associated with a unique campaign ID. These campaigns can span many days, weeks or even months, but if they're associated with the tote giveaway for the purpose of new customer data capture, they should have the same ID. Just be sure to include acquisition date. Day of the week and time of the year data may have a significant correlation to purchasing behavior.
In your database, it's always wise to separate this inbound data and classify it as prospect data. Then you send e-mail campaigns specifically for converting these prospects into customers. If you get bounces or they start to fall out of your communication strategy, you should commit the records to your database roll off schedule and purge them.