Blog - 8 ways to improve personalization

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8 ways to improve personalization

A marketer’s perspective on how to improve personalization.

Steve Muran | October 23, 2015

What is personalization?

Looking at it through the consumer lens, it’s about engaging me in a way that’s relevant to my interests and needs. It’s understanding and anticipating what I want from your brand, and when. It’s allowing me to engage with your brand wherever and whenever I want. Janrain noted that 74% of online consumers get frustrated when a website’s content is irrelevant to their interests.

From a marketer's perspective, it’s about engaging the customer with the right message at the right time. It’s about having enough information to deliver a relevant, timely message. It’s about being able to act and react quickly to the customer's needs. And it’s about having the right processes, platforms, and tools to execute quickly.

Content is the key driver here. According to Demand Metric, 78% of CMOs see custom content as the future of marketing. If you’re not investing in content—creating it, curating it—then your marketing will fail to meet your customers’ needs.

8 ways to improve personalization

  1. Aim for 270, not 360. Let’s forget the notion that you need to know everything about your customer. You’ll spend way too much time and money to get there. That said, you do need to know the most important things about your customer. Aim for a 270-degree view: what the customer bought and where, basic profile stats, and what he or she is saying about you. The rest is gravy.

  2. Take care of your content. Your content should be snackable, fungible, and repeatable. Invest in it. Make sure you have the resources to create and grow your content, and the systems to manage it. Content is a key differentiator in our increasingly commoditized world.

  3. Have a plan, but be flexible. With the need for speed, you would think that planning is antiquated and unnecessary. Who needs a plan when I’m here engaging with my customer real-time via Twitter and Facebook?

    You do. Yes, your customer has more control over the message. But that doesn’t mean you can abdicate your responsibility. Have a plan, execute on that plan, and then shift messaging and re-focus as your customer changes.

  4. Be consistent, or learn how to fake it. If you’re going to message a customer through one channel, then make sure you’re doing it consistently across other channels the customer might use. Yes, you need to adhere to the form factors of mobility and social media. But you need to have visibility and accessibility into all your channels—and be able to define which messages go where.

  5. Technology is your friend. Don’t be afraid of technology—embrace it. According to Scott Brinker, the “marketing technology landscape has seen an average annual year-over-year growth of 170%, going from 100 companies four years ago, to over nearly 2000 this year (2015).”

    Get the right resources to help you build a plan, manage it, and engage with your IT team. You’re going to invest more in technology and you need to be driving the bus. Understand your requirements and have a technology plan.

  6. Process is a must—not a nice to have. I hear from a few of my marketing friends that process stifles creativity—the ability for the marketer to respond quickly to customers’ needs. The opposite is true. Having a clear process helps everyone across the organization understand the role they play and define a repeatable way to meet customer expectations. Invest in a campaign management process, a content management process, a campaign performance process… you get the picture.

  7. Be nimble, be quick, but don’t forget to be thoughtful. You need to be able to react to changing customer needs. You need to be able to engage with the customer when and where they want to engage with you. You need to have access to content to do this quickly. And your processes and systems should be nimble enough to be an enabler rather than a disruptor. But in your haste to act, don’t forget to be thoughtful. Think before you act. Understand the consequences and the risks. Then act.

  8. Understand your customer’s journey. Take the time to look at your customer from the outside-in. Understand your customer and how they want to engage with you across all your channels. Then, figure out what you can do to help them fulfill their journey. Know your capability gaps. Envision your ideal state, and have a roadmap to get there. Prioritize and execute.

Personalized content is an essential competitive differentiator. According to Gartner, 89% of companies believe that customer experience will be their primary basis for competition by 2016, versus 36 percent four years ago.

Personalization takes organizational commitment. It will require a strategy, a plan, and a roadmap. More important, you’ll need the fortitude and desire to change processes, roles, incentives, and more. Use these tips as a guide to improve your personalized content and have more relevant and meaningful conversations with your customers.

Steve Muran has 20+ years of marketing, operations, and technology leadership experience and is a leader in Slalom’s Seattle-based Customer Engagement Practice.


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