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October 22, 2013

Get Personal with Your Customers

"In a climate where companies send mass, generic emails to entire mailing lists on a regular basis," writes Malcolm Duckett, "consumers have become deadened by indiscriminate email campaigns." Duckett believes that "a targeted approach is the only real way to avoid damaging your company's relationship with customers and to build brand loyalty." ["Intelligent email marketing should be personalised and targeted," Fourth Source, 7 May 2013] Janet Kyle Altman, of Kaufman, Rossin & Co., basically says the same thing, but in a different way. She writes, "Your target is not 'everyone'." ["To Market Successfully, Your Customer Can't Be 'Everyone'," Business News Daily, 27 September 2013] It's obvious that you can't personalize your marketing efforts if you know little to nothing about the consumer you wish to reach. Richard Ting asserts that "brands are missing out by not fully understanding who their customers are. Let's face it: the signal-to-noise ratio is still fairly low among brands." ["The Customer Profile: Your Brand's Secret Weapon," HBR Blog Network, 11 March 2013]

Orangedudes-target-customer-600pxAngela Wells calls the "getting to know your customer" approach Business-to-People (B2P) marketing. "B2P Marketing," she writes, "is the recognition that businesses aren't actually buying what you're trying to sell. Individual decision makers — people — are making the decisions for their companies, not impersonal disengaged companies as a whole." ["Forget About B2B And B2C - Technology Enables B2P (Business To People) Marketing," Marketing Tools: CRM, 28 June 2013] Whether your desired customer is sitting behind a desk at a business or on the couch in their home, doesn't really matter. Wells is correct that individual decisions are what you are trying to influence. Duckett insists that "saying the right thing at the right time to the right person" is getting easier thanks to technology. He writes, "The new generation of cloud-based marketing automation tools out there can help make this quick, simple and effective." He recommends a four-step approach for getting to know customers better.

"Step 1 – Create a profile: Clearly identify and classify visitors by monitoring and remembering their behaviour. There are tools that let marketers automatically record visitors’ individual behaviours as part of a 'customer history' record.

"Step 2 – Target: The marketer can set up simple targeting 'rules' (one by one as needed) so, for example, a rule might say 'target people who have looked at brand A more than 15 times', 'target visitors who have been visiting for 2 months but have not purchased' or 'target visitors who have purchased but not for 3 months'. Then the marketer will communicate to the system what content they want to try on each segment (this might include a set of email variants or even content to show in the visitor’s web page or triggers to your telesales team).

'Step 3 – See what works: Gathering this data on which content delivers the best results from this target segment (and the control group) is useful to marketers that then need to look at conversion rates, number of sale and, basket size to make their decision.

"Step 4 – Repeat and love the engagement: Keep the process going, each time building into the targeting the additional behavioural information harvested from the visitors. Your system should also include functions to ensure customers aren't repeatedly contacted with the same message or offer. This is important; otherwise customers will get wise and exploit the brand. For example, they will come to understand that if they abandon a basket one day, they will receive a discount the next – or will get frustrated when continually offered a deal they are not interested in, for example, a product they already purchased elsewhere."

Duckett concludes, "By engaging the visitor at every stage, marketers can ensure that customers are not disappointed by their experience of the brand, either by confusing content or unnecessary adverts. The end goal is that the visitor's experience will be easy, engaging and ultimately provide the visitor and the brand with exactly what they want." As I've noted in previous posts, it's easy for online customers to jump on or off the path to purchase. That's why I agree with Duckett that consumers must encounter a good experience at every stage or touchpoint along their journey.

Ting believes that many companies don't get to know their customers better because the data they collect about them is siloed. "Combined," he writes, "this information would be enough to create the ultimate 360-degree customer profile, which would allow enhanced targeting and personalization." The different types of siloes into which data is gathered include:

  • "What they're saying — social CRM. What are your consumers saying about your products and services in social media? Are your consumers' brand sentiments shifting from positive to negative or vice versa?

  • "What they're buying — purchase history. What is the last product a consumer purchased from you? How often does he buy from you? What are her favorite products? Are people making more or fewer purchases?

  • "What they're doing — brand interaction history. Are they using your mobile apps? How often are they using them? Are they visiting your website? Are they spending more or less time with your brand?

  • "What they're liking — social interest graph. What interests do they share on social media channels, and who is in the network of people who share similar interests?"

He cautions, "It may seem simple to combine these discrete data sets into one holistic customer profile, but there are major technology obstacles brands need to get past." Integrating data is never as straight forward as people think it will be. Ting insists that a customer's lifetime value will increase "by better engaging them over the long term and with purpose. ... To surgically cut through the noise, advertisers need to develop richer customer profiles. It's not the sexiest of topics in advertising, but it's one that will ultimately allow brands to target and personalize the experiences and messages that consumers deserve." Altman concludes, "No matter what product you sell or service you deliver, more targeted marketing gives you a better return. Targeting a specific audience gets you in front of them more often, with messages that touch them emotionally. If you try to be everything to everyone, your message becomes vague and less impactful."

Wells agrees. "With the rise of social media and engagement," she writes, "it has become increasingly obvious that we are all targeting people – those people who make the decisions whether or not to purchase what you are trying to sell. These people we are targeting are consuming media like never before, across a range of social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and so much more." It should be pretty obvious by now that none of the recommendations offered by these pundits can be achieved without the right kind of technology. The secret is to get personal with your customers without creeping them out. It's a fine line that companies must walk when making personalized offers. The right technology and a good marketing department or firm will help you walk that line.

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