Q&A: Karin Stroh, VP of marketing, XMPie
Customization is like motherhood and apple pie for direct marketers – hard to be against it. But you have to know how to do it, says Karin Stroh, VP of marketing at XMPie. The unit of Xerox Corp. provides software that marries databases and creative programs to craft customized CRM pieces. She spoke to Direct Marketing News about the fine points of personalization.
Direct Marketing News (DMN): Why is it important to customize your communications?
Karin Stroh (XMPie): In today's age with a lot of different communications, it's literally 3,000 messages a day and maybe 54 get noticed and four are remembered. In order to break though the clutter, you need to have your communications be more personal.
More and more people are looking to be communicated to in a way they want to be communicated to and the message they want to be communicated to them. They don't want the basic message that is sent to everybody.
DMN: Do some marketers still have to be convinced that customization is worth the effort?
Stroh: I don't think they have to be convinced that it's worth the trouble. I think they have to understand how to do it.
A lot of direct marketers feel they can send out a cross-media campaign and you personalize it and that will be effective enough. It's not. They have to start by thinking of the strategy first and what they want to achieve. Personalization is a tool, it's not the strategy.
Just having an increased response rate is not a strategy. What are you trying to achieve? What do you want your customer to do and is it meeting your business objectives?
DMN: What are some steps they should make sure to take?
Stroh: If you send a personalized piece you want to have the correct information for the correct recipient. When a database is received from a customer, it has to be looked at very well. You have to really understand how to make sure the database is clean and effective before you get started.
The next element is, you have to have a strategy and know what you want to achieve. What type of call to action do you want and what type of offer do you want to make? This is going back to the direct marketing basics.
And then the creative has to be compelling. Because in a nanosecond, that person is going to click open that e-mail and they're either going to be interested or they're going to close it and delete it. So the creative has to be effective, and it has to be eye-catching and it has to be relevant to the person that's receiving it.
DMN: Can too much customization get in the way of the message?
Stroh: I don't think you can ever get too much personalization, it's just the way you use it. You could have a piece where it has the name all over the place and it kind of gets mundane and overwhelming.
As you learn more and more about the customer you get new information and you can use that information to tailor that communication, so you're not using that information over and over again.
You certainly should use personalization in a very subtle way, tailored to the person and tailored to what your objectives are for the piece.