Personalizing Personalization

Personalizing content has been dumbed down to first and last name. What once was revolutionary in direct marketing in the 1990s is now a given. In fact, in a study completed by Economist Intelligence Unit, 81% of consumers stated that they receive more marketing messages that include their name today than they did five years ago. However, this same study also states that 70% of those consumers feel that the attempts at personalization are superficial.

While the message may use your first name more than your mother ever did, there’s no real modicum of personalization to be found in the content, the offer, or even the desire the consumer may or may not have to interact with your brand (by whatever channel you’re trying to reach them). No one can ever take away from me the first time I visited on my birthday and saw the latest Google Image was created in celebration of me. I was let down a little when I realized that the entire globe wasn’t celebrating my birthday, but all in all, a fantastic use of personalization that I will never forget.

What makes that simple use of personalization so much cooler and more commemorative than other attempts at it? It was all about me. Personalization wasn’t the key—I was. I was being celebrated on a day that deserves celebration. I was going to complete a task I do every day—search on Google—and low and behold one of the few companies to make its mark in history by becoming a verb chose to recognize me. 

This is inherently where personalization misses the mark. Rather than focusing on the person we’re sending to, we are too focused on ourselves with only the appearance of caring about the recipient’s name. The reality is, that person couldn’t care less if you know his name—that’s the easy part. What he really wants to know is that you are considerate of his buying habits, communication preferences, hobbies, and, more important, what he needs most from your brand. So in a word, the difference is relevance.

Relevance has proven to have three times the impact of personalization alone—but relevance is incredibly difficult. For your communications to be relevant, you have to have a well-maintained database, a team dedicated to customer experience across multiple channels, and a strategy in place to maximize that data and those channels. Relevance is where the real work begins—ensuring that each message is not only personal, but also contains the content and offers the end consumer wants, when they want it, and through the channel of their preference.

However, it’s not realistic to expect that marketers can manage the thousands of versions that result from the requirement for relevance. Let’s look at some numbers: You’re getting ready to execute a campaign across 10 channels and you have 100,000 targets on your list and eight unique offers. You’re going to try to reach your audience through targeted ads, remarketing, email offers, direct mail, and social, just to name a few. To send a relevant message to each individual person across every channel, you would essentially have to create and manage a minimum of 80 offers to achieve personalization. To make it relevant you would have to create 100,000 versions, use past purchase history based on offers most likely to prompt a response, add in their personal preferences for products most likely to buy, and time the offer for when they will be most receptive.  

To think that any one marketing person or team could create this kind of relevance without the right technologies in place and the right DNA to track, analyze, and correct when needed is impractical. This DNA is the new breed of marketers—marketing technologists, as they say. Getting a great technologist on your marketing team is a definite step in the right direction, but, ultimately, it all depends on data. Acquiring and maintaining relevant data directly related to consumer marketing is difficult. Add to that a layer of regulation and a local brand representative, and it becomes close to impossible to effectively enable your local market and communicate to the end consumer with relevance.

Furthermore, you won’t effectively capture the necessary data from local communities without enabling your local representatives to collect and input data and, to a certain extent, execute their own marketing. They’re invested in the communities and help to build grassroots marketing that will make a real impact on the growth of your brand if you make it about the consumer and not about her name. So how can you personalize personalization? Make the content relevant. Get rid of quick-and-easy messaging, partner with industry experts, enable your local brand representatives, and give your consumers something that is truly personal.

Amanda Elam is marketing director at EarthIntegrate

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