The Case for Personalization

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Jon Ferrara, Nimble
Jon Ferrara, Nimble

How personalized does marketing really need to be?

Let's face it: We live in a noisy, distracting world and complex digital footprints add to the din. These multichannel footprints, however, are assets; you can see your prospects or customers in rich detail using all the information available across social platforms, and then create comprehensive profiles of those prospects and customers. In fact, what makes those profiles so rich is that they're no longer built exclusively from in-person contacts, but are enhanced virtually, as well.

Today we have an overabundance of data that allows us not only to meticulously profile our contacts, but also to segment them, so we can speak in a voice that resonates with them as individuals and generate interest in our brand, product, or service. In many ways this abundant information, combined with today's marketing tools, allow us to customize messages and content to capture the interest of a greater number of prospects and customers more quickly than ever before.

Indeed, with the right tools you can create a profile in a matter of moments that tells you just about everything you need to know to help create a genuine connection with a prospect or customer.

The fact is, you'll make much better use of your marketing dollars by speaking in an authentic and relevant way to prospects and customers—and it's not hard to do. When customers and prospects self-describe and reveal their true selves, either intentionally or through their social media interactions, it's that much easier to develop content that tightly meshes with their needs. This concept applies not only to automated marketing like emails and drip campaigns, but also to customizing other kinds of content, such as webinars, eBooks, or webpages to a segment of your user base, or to a vertical market you hope to tap into.

It may seem counterintuitive, but I think that businesses pay a higher cost not to personalize and engage in authentic and relevant ways. If messages are obviously boilerplate and not showing context, the result is a kind of “emotional unsubscribe” that drives a wedge between your contacts and the marketing message you've invested in. The key is to know your network.

Get real

Here's an example from my own experience of how personalization would have made all the difference:

Several years ago I set up an endowment at my alma mater to honor my uncle, who was a role model and inspiration to me and who had also attended my college. Recently, as part of a telephone fundraising campaign, somebody called and asked me to donate money to the college. The appeal fell flat since the marketer obviously had no idea of who I was in terms of past donations and, consequently, how to communicate with me. All that would have been required in this instance was basic information about my donation history and a brief update about how my endowment had helped others. The caller would have had my attention and I would have been much more likely to participate.

Plenty of tools allow you to walk in the digital footprint of customers and prospects—and, as a result, use marketing to engage, nurture, and serve instead of just push products or services, or request donations, as with my alma mater. I feel strongly that people want to help other people achieve their dreams. Our nature is to be of service; it makes life more satisfying. Consequently, prospects and customers are more likely to respond and engage when communications and interactions are personalized and relevant.

The age-old challenge of expectations versus reality is still essential to scaling a personalized message. If customer expectations are lower than reality, there's delight. If they're higher, there's disappointment. It's hard to argue that a thoughtful, personal approach to any marketing effort would lead to a negative outcome.

Take my advice: Find powerful tools to help you cut through the noise and clutter, hone your messages, and find ways to reach every nook and cranny of your network with customized content. You'll see the benefits.

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Jon Ferrara, Nimble

An entrepreneur at heart, Ferrara has more than 20 years experience in customer relationship management (CRM) and sales force automation. Ferrara, who studied computer science at California State University-Northridge, translated that pursuit into cofounding Goldmine CRM in 1989 with a college friend and helping blossom it into a successful venture; he managed the day-to-day operations for 11 years before FrontRange acquired it. Ferrara then managed investments and advised a variety of ventures, including a number of start-ups, as CEO of Casentino Partners. In 2009 Ferrara—an evangelist who believes that nurturing business relationships is a crucial pillar of sales and service—founded Nimble.com and serves as CEO.

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