Jim Dicso on February 14, 2017 at 11:34 am
Columnist Jim Dicso shares how brands can maximize their personalization efforts and build stronger, longer-lasting customer relationships.
Personalization in marketing has as many meanings as companies that employ it. The thing is, there are almost no wrong answers to the question, “What is personalization?” — provided that the effort is actually driving value for your customers and your company.
Take the example of a simple “happy birthday” email, one of the more common personalized messages around. Many would dismiss it as obvious and lacking value. If that email, however, consistently drives customer engagement and sales, then it is extremely valuable.
Personalization runs the gamut from one-off emails targeting specific events or dates to continuous campaigns that use multiple data points to deliver tailored customer experiences. However personalization is used, one thing is clear: Brands that aren’t maximizing their personalization efforts are in danger of falling behind in their marketing strategies.
Below are four tips for improving personalized marketing for your company, whether your strategy is just getting off the ground or slowly growing by starting to link contact spreadsheets to email programs.
1. Keep your personalization goals at the forefront As with any task, setting goals and sticking to them is the first step toward success. Here are a few goals to keep in mind while developing a personalized marketing approach:
- Personalization should help grab — and sustain — customer attention. For example, if a happy birthday email is the first action, follow it with an individualized piece of educating content for the customer or information about specific events the customer might be interested in. Every piece of content should be relevant and valuable, not just the first.
- Balance message content with delivery methods. In fact, the delivery channel should be a piece of the data that informs the relevancy of the message. This involves taking into account the education and functionality offered by every message, as well as the narration style, imagery and animations used. For instance, a “tap on screen” narration suits mobile content consumption, as opposed to “click the button” for a desktop delivery.
- Don’t call your efforts a strategy until they actually are one. Often brands commence with personalized experiences in a tactical way — with personal greetings or related product recommendations. Once you’re making use of many data points and delivering content through multiple touch points to help customers achieve a specific goal, then you have a strategy.
This, of course, is not personalization at all. It’s segmentation — aiming content at an entire segment of your customers. You’re not fooling anyone when you send a so-called personal email that has the recipient’s name at the top but is otherwise generically worded for people aged 18 to 48.
Sure, this broad strategy may land with the 5 percent of customers who may not notice a difference, but it can alienate the other 95 percent. It certainly won’t help you build the type of lasting relationships you’re hoping personalization will establish. Remember, there are no shortcuts to true personalization, and doing less can have the opposite effect to what you intended.
3. Aggregate data to make more effective content This is perhaps best illustrated with an example, so let’s look at that ubiquitous birthday greeting message. This type of single-hit message has taken its fair share of grief, but when used correctly, it can be valuable.
The message itself depends on a single point of data: the customer’s birthday. If the message just presents a birthday greeting, it’s a huge missed opportunity. The key is to aggregate several data points to deliver a message that is both personal and valuable to both brands and consumers.
For example, T. Rowe Price (disclosure: client) sends a birthday email to participants in its 529 college savings plans. This video-enabled personalized message does wish the beneficiary a happy birthday, but it also talks about contributing to the child’s college savings and includes details relevant to the child’s age, supporting a wider initiative of educating customers on how to save more money.
4. Never stop learning about, and from, your customers While it may seem like it’s been around forever, personalization is still in its infancy. The best, most effective ways to provide personalized content and experiences for customers are still being discovered, and trial and error is a perfectly legitimate way to make these discoveries.
Don’t get discouraged when initial personalization attempts don’t catch on as well as you had anticipated. Rather, treat these “failures” as what they are: valuable customer data points.
Customers are constantly giving you feedback about the kinds of communication they prefer. Use this data to make tweaks that lead to successful programs in the future.
The common thread that runs through all these tips is to pay attention to your customer interactions. What works, what doesn’t work and how they respond to personalized content are all valuable data that can help the next effort. Do this, and you’re on your way to building strong customer relationships for the long haul.