Designing for an Audience of One

How do you show a top-recruiting prospect your firm cares about him or her as an individual? One word: personalization. Luckily, it’s not that hard to do.

Named one of 2017’s Hottest Print Trends, personalization was everywhere at this year’s HOW Design Live Conference. It showed up in presentations, case studies and even the conference handbooks. Of the 3,000 handbooks printed for the conference, each had an individualized cover quote. Knowing the book was one-of-a-kind made it feel more valuable, and less likely to be discarded.

The message of just-for-you materials

Increasingly, colleges and universities are embracing personalized materials as a powerful tool to connect with potential students. Personalization has equal application to the law firm recruiting world. After all, many recruiting campaigns are focused on the prospect as an individual. Materials that appear custom-designed are an easy yet high-impact way to reinforce that message.

Personalization through variable data printing

One simple way to personalize printed materials is through variable data printing (VDP). VDP is a form of digital printing, including on-demand printing, that uses software to assign information from a spreadsheet or database to a printed piece.

Originally associated with direct mail (where it was used to change names, addresses and salutations), VDP has come of age. Today, it lets you alter both text and images, either for groups of addresses (such as all students at a particular law school) or for individual recipients. 

VDP begins with a basic design, including static elements and variable fields. At its simplest, it changes names and salutations to produce, for example, social invitations greeting each student personally. A more sophisticated level of VDP changes text and images for groups of addresses. This could be used to provide school-specific profiles and contact information for alumni who have worked at your firm. Finally, full variability printing will alter text and images for each individual address. As the recruiting season gets into full swing, full variability would let you create materials targeted to each top prospect’s desired office and practice area.

Why bother?

Personalized materials make people feel special. Seeing his or her name on a well-designed printed piece triggers an emotional response that makes the recruit feel good about your firm. That initial positive association sets the stage for a successful recruiting relationship. As one HOW conference exhibitor put it, “When sending a welcome piece, be sure you are speaking to an audience of one.”


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