When you are personalizing print or email communications, it’s important to remember there are real people on the end of the line. Good use of data can be very effective, but the poor use of data can make people uncomfortable. One marketer caused a stir, for example, when it targeted men with a personalized communication that used their names with “Jr.” added to the end to represent the son they might have some day . . . if they aren’t careful. Needless to say, plenty of recipients were uncomfortable with that approach! This is something many industry commentators call “the creepy factor.” So how can you personalize your content in a positive way without crossing the line? Here are three tips. 1. Protect private data. There is a difference between selling educational materials and selling refinancing offers. If you’re selling educational books to children, for example, you might want to know that your neighbor down the street bought a set of the same materials. But you probably don’t want a mortgage company outing you as a good candidate for a refinancing offer. 2. Make sure your data is current. Keep your data clean and current. One company was criticized for marketing to recipients as if they were one step from a retirement home when, in fact, many of them were not even retired. Use surveys to stay in touch with your customers and get to know them. If necessary, use third-party data houses to fill in critical details. 3. Be considerate. Use the data in a way that is respectful and considerate of the person receiving it. You may not want to let recipients know just how much you know about them upfront. Some marketers start with basic targeting and segmentation, then layer that communication with name personalization, rather than using highly personal details overtly. Remember that data is just data. When it comes to personalization, it’s what you do with that data that matters. Need help making sure that your use of data is a good one? Talk to us—we’re here to help.