Marketing Personalization...Most of It Isn't
May 11, 2018
There is personalization and then there is good marketing personalization...
There is a lot of talk in the industry about personalizing the buyer experience and a lot of press is given to the subject of marketing personalization.
Levels of Personalization
- At the lowest level and for the vast majority of marketers, personalization means adding the person's name in the subject line, salutation, and / or body of the message, but not changing any other copy content. The theory being depending on your audience that people are more likely to respond positively, as in open your mail if you put their name on it, as in the subject line. At this point, I think most of the population is experienced and jaded enough not to get all excited when someone sends them an email w/ their name all over it. This is the lowest form of personalization and today may not have that much impact on the behavior of the viewer/reader.
- Then there is the personalization where based on what I'm looking at on your web store page (catalog) you offer me suggestions on what people who viewed this are also purchasing. Or, you send me an email that takes me to a page of products that have been personalized based on what I've viewed.
- The next level would be personalization based on a profile created by the viewer, such as a personal profile on an apparel site. Then the seller can present products to fill the needs and wants of the buyer based on those profiles. The problem with the self-created profiles is that you really don't know how true is the information supplied. People have a tendency, if not stretching the truth, to put a very positive or optimistic spin on their view of themselves. This is particularly true when it comes to apparel and things like sizing. One example, few people like to think of themselves as fat, so when apparel manufacturers oblige them by over sizing garments and labeling a shirt large (L) when it is truly an XXL can create real problems for the marketer who is selling shirts that are correctly sized. Another example would be under or overstating ones age.
- At the highest level would be the type of personalization that is based on purchasing history / behavior. Actual purchasing history / behavior vs. purchasing intent is much more accurate when it comes to personalization. Personalization done correctly at this level can be true 1 to 1 marketing, an old concept by today's standards, but the real kind of personalization.
Based on the review you gave xyz product, we know you are happy with the widget you bought last month, so here is a special offer to compliment that purchase is better personalization than hi, you bought dresses from us in the past and we're having a special sale just for you. Both are good, but the prior being stronger.
Personalization done wrong or carried to the extreme
Personalization when done wrong as in sending personal mail to someone who is dead is bad news. Guys also don't like to be called Ms., Mrs, or Miss. Women don't like being called Mr. So and So either.
Some personalization can be creepy such as seeing ads posted on the web, as you are surfing, for products you viewed on a sellers website earlier. I personally hate that type of personalization. One, I don't want to see ads just tailored for me based on goods I looked at on a site. And, two I don't want to see ads for the same product category over and over that I either looked at or bought everywhere I surf. In fact, it's one of the reason I use ad blockers.
So how do you use personalization so that it achieves the goals of building a relationship with your audience and selling more of your products/services without the downsides?
Ask yourself these questions before proceeding down the personalization road...
- Key, does the personalization really benefit the reader receiving the personalized information? If it does, then you should be using it.
- How should we be using personalization?
- Do we have the appropriate data to really personalize the content and offer presented to the viewer/reader?
- Do we have purchasing data?
- Do we have content viewing data?
- Do we have accurate personal data?
We've forgotten what real personalization is...
At the top of the pyramid of personalization which many of us have forgotten is personal selling with the sales executive that not only knows the client, but also their wants and needs.
Real personalization is a message from my consultant (sales executive) to me. That's why it's called personal selling. Personalization is when a sales associate gets out their customer rolodex and calls their customer to tell them that the dress they were looking for just arrived and when can you come in to try it on? Can't, how about we send it out to you?
I remember when I was buying a home and the banker actually came to my home with all the documents for me to sign. Now that's personal selling and personalization.
In most cases, in our quest to reduce operating cost and introduce digital efficiency, we've eliminated the person in personal selling, or personalized selling, or personalization. Yet, people continue to indicate that they want knowledgeable well trained salespeople to assist them.
One possible solution – taking personalization to the next level
Want to differentiate yourself from the Amazons of the world? Then, start personally communicating person to person with your customers and prospects. You don't need a physical presence to do so. You just need to do what my sales associates used to do when the store wasn't busy, and that's pick up the phone and dial, and today, text or email the message from Johnnie your personal rep.
Yes, there is a cost associated with adding humans to actively sell and service a customer. But unlike a store, you can have a person responsible for working with a lot more customers digitally than you ever could in a store. This method won't work for everyone, but it would sure work for upscale direct merchants.
The nice thing about this is that you can even have your reps work from home by providing them with direct access to customer data and your CRM system via the web.
Further reading on the use of personalization...
Dudley Stevenson, founder and CEO of DWS Associates, has over thirty-five years’ experience in consumer marketing, business-to-business marketing, and direct marketing, including developing, planning, and implementing go-to-market strategies. He's also the author of "Marketing Direct: Breaking Through The Clutter." Working with organizations ranging from start-ups to Fortune 100 companies, he and his team have helped clients such as IBM, Sony, Neiman Marcus, Arizona Highways, Marshall Field & Co., Mrs. Field’s, UNICEF, and Patagonia implement successful direct marketing programs. A longtime member of the Direct Marketing Association and the American Marketing Association, Stevenson is also a sought-after speaker. He’s given hundreds of presentations and workshops on marketing and direct marketing. His “Marketing Planning 101” workshop alone has reached more than 100,000 marketing and sales professionals.