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What Can Marketers Learn from Dating Sites?

Two of the most successful online dating sites — Perfectmatch.com and Eharmony.com — have found that matching the deep personalities of their members (rather than simple demographics and product presentation) leads to more relevant introductions and therefore, to more conversions, er, I mean long term relationships. It seems to work. According to a Harris Interactive study, Eharmony.com accounts for 2% of all U.S. marriages.

If our personalities reveal the underlying drivers of choice, whether for a life partner or a particular brand, why then are marketers under-employing this crucial piece of the targeting puzzle?

Three Pillars of Relevance

Targeted marketing relies on three pillars of relevance: “who”, “when” and “why.” The “who” and the “when” dimensions are somewhat addressed, since behavioral targeting and search marketing allow us to discern interest and intent and act accordingly. Search marketing in particular allows us to hypothesize reasonably on the readiness of the searcher to convert, yet average conversion rates on search advertising are still only about 4%. The “who” and the “when” are variable by their nature, whereas the “why,” because it is rooted in the consumer’s belief system, tends to stay constant.

Don’t forget the “why.” Without understanding the “why” or the underlying motivations of customers, targeted marketing will remain an imperfect science. As marketers, we must focus on understanding the drivers of consumer choice. Then we must use that understanding to raise relevance (on all three dimensions) and, therefore, the level of engagement.

Why the “Why”

Around 70% of marketing communications are still essentially “batch and blast” in nature. In other words, despite all that we know about customers or prospects, their current context or their declared intent, many marketers are still sending the digital equivalent of “current resident” messages. Marketers continue to rely on conventional methods such as behavioral, or demographic approaches that don’t reveal enough about the drivers of choice to enable us to determine how and when to present our goods or services. They also don’t reveal how various target constituents might best relate to and engage with a specific message. Understanding the “why” piece helps marketers to personalize the communication stream effectively, touching something deeper in the consumer and creating a more meaningful bond.

Effective personalization

There are five critical elements that must be in place to support effective personalization initiatives:

1.      Rich consumer insights (specifically the “why”) to drive implicit or explicit personalization

2.      The ability to scale those insights across the customer and prospect base

3.      A marketing/listening platform that allows you to gain progressively deeper insights into your consumers at every point of interaction

4.      Multi-channel, multi-touch and multi-level creative approaches (entirely informed by point no. 1) to cut through the clutter and drive engagement

5.      The ability to measure and optimize accurately every campaign and every program

6.      An efficient, template-driven engine to efficiently create and deliver personalized communications in real-time

If these elements aren’t integral to our personalized marketing campaigns, then it will be too costly, complicated and time-consuming to be of use.

And from here?

Achieving the degree of meaningful personalization that will help marketers improve their customers’ brand experience takes extensive analysis and insight development. Creating personality profiles (a more informed version of personas) that include the underlying personality types of our target audiences, allows marketers to “sense” their customers at a whole new level. This knowledge helps us identify which groups are likely to be the most profitable and use this greater understanding about their individual “hot buttons” to create messaging specifically crafted to appeal to their personality type. For example, a retailer can determine how it positions itself with each segment (or whether it should even bother), how often, using what channel and with what message it should communicate.

The goal is simple and the outcome can be dramatic. Can you hear the wedding bells? The process leading to personalization helps marketers see who their best customers are, how they behave and how they can be approached as individuals. As with the search for a life partner, the most successful outcomes depend on mutual understanding of what each party is seeking. Marketers cannot create this value exchange if they don’t fully understand what their customers value.

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