Bad habits are hard to break — especially when they’re widely held and rarely named. The “personalization” brands practice often leaves much to be desired. While tailored messages to prospects can be effective in building relationships, they can just as easily fall flat and disappear into the avalanche of email in the average inbox.
This is a habit worth breaking. Don’t settle for the bare-bones method of putting a customer’s first name on top of a generic sales email. Don’t only use segmentation to group customers into broad demographic categories, like sending all 20- to 30-year-olds a “hip” message about the hardships of being a Millennial. These techniques are obvious to customers, who are likely to ignore the messages, or worse tune out your brand altogether.
Instead, use your customer data to tailor messages to individuals. In this article, we’ll look at some easy ways you can make sure your digital marketing hits home with customers and enhances your overall marketing personalization strategy.
Balance Subtle And Overt Personalization
It’s not hard to see how popular understanding of personalization went awry; there are two kinds of personalization, and their value to consumers is very different. Overt personalization is probably what first comes to mind when you think of personalization; it’s taking that personal data point, like a person’s name or recently purchased product, and using it to create a connection.
Subtle personalization, on the other hand, looks at the customer’s data attributes, such as the device or channel the person usually shops on, and tweaks the message’s content or creative based on that. Overt and subtle personalization tactics complement each other for a holistic approach to executing a personalized marketing strategy that builds loyal, profitable relationships with your customers.
For example, a hotel chain might use overt personalization to note the fact that Sarah has traveled to Seattle each of the past three years, and offer her deals to stay in the city. Subtle personalization might take the fact that Sarah lives in Florida and feature a picture of palm trees with holiday lights on them when it sends her an annual happy holidays message.
Consider How You Deliver Your Message And What It’s Saying
What you say and how you say it are equally important in a personalization strategy. Beyond personalizing just the “what” — the message you’re expressing to an individual — spend time considering how the message is presented and personalizing different elements to have the biggest effect on your audience. This includes animation, narrative style and things like onscreen text, imagery and video.
Consider these questions about your marketing messages and how they are delivered and presented: Do your messages have interactive elements, or are they static? Why did you choose a particular text style or illustration? What are your animations telling your customers?
Continuing the previous example, after Sarah books the hotel in Seattle, the company could send a personalized follow-up email highlighting the hotel’s spa, but is this message relevant to her? If Sarah is traveling with her children, the hotel’s email could use a font resembling children’s handwriting and include a calendar of its kid-friendly events. The hotel is showing that it understands and appreciates Sarah’s needs and preferences. This type of personalization focuses on Sarah’s intent, and not just on her identity.
In the end, you want your messages to be relatable and valuable to your customers. Paying attention to the how and the what is the only way to ensure that happens.
Build Customer Relationships With Each Interaction
The ultimate goal of any marketing strategy is to develop and keep longtime loyal customers. Therefore, it’s important to think of each personalized message you send as a step in the journey toward forming a relationship with the customer. No message is a one-off; they are all part of a larger strategy, so every interaction has to make use of multiple data layers.
Layers like the customer’s demographics, where they are in the customer lifecycle, their individual traits and even their browsing history and preferred devices can be used to paint a detailed picture of each person. Look at this picture like a Venn diagram, where each customer’s characteristics overlap, and determine what messages the customer gets, why and how. This will allow for thoughtful communications that allow a consumer to achieve a goal with your brand, rather than simply buy a product.
Going back to Sarah, booking the hotel room in Seattle is the intended conversion event, but it’s not the end. If the hotel fails to send follow-up emails with useful information, that’s a lost opportunity.
Not only that, each message is an opportunity to get to know more about each customer. If Sarah has read the emails and booked her travel through a cell phone, future messages to her need to be optimized for that device, telling her to “tap here” or “swipe there” for the next piece of content. If Sarah is a college student, an email at the beginning of summer with travel deals may be in order.
Marketers have made a lot of strides in personalization, but there are areas ripe for improvement. Use your personalization capabilities in ways that are valuable for your customers and your company. The first step in the process is simply recognizing the opportunity for improvement.
Guy Atzmon is vice president of creative at SundaySky. He joined the company at the end of 2008 to form and lead the in-house creative studio, direct data-driven personalized videos for the world’s leading brands and advertisers, and establish the company’s domain expertise of dynamic videos. Guy graduated with honors from the computer arts department of the School of Visual Arts in New York, where he earned accolades for his thesis project short film.