Mike Rowan, President, Founder @KPItarget
Remember the days when marketers used to talk about personalization as an interesting approach that could improve conversions? These days, personalized marketing is no longer optional. We’d argue that it has become mandatory.
Why? Because people and businesses have been put through the ringer this year. And while you technically have a greater chance of reaching people on digital channels — thanks to the captive audience that the pandemic created — the collective patience is paper thin.
Just because more people are on their screens doesn’t mean they’ll be more receptive to your company’s communications. In fact, we’d argue that the opposite is closer to the truth. Inauthentic messaging can tick off today’s consumer faster than a golden arches mis-fire.
Consider that customer expectations for personalized communications were elevated before the pandemic. Personalization isn’t just appreciated, it’s expected. Now think about how drastically needs, wants and priorities have shifted over the past six months. If your messaging is still on autopilot, chances are you’ve already alienated your audience.
We’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating: Do. Your. Homework. Don’t just rely on last year’s data to determine what you think your customers want. Things have changed. And now is not the time to start guessing.
So how are you supposed to learn about your customers’ shifting priorities? Ask them! Beyond creating messaging that connects, finding out what your customers really want and need may be the best way for your business to effectively adjust your offerings — and keep your doors open.
We’re not saying to inundate your customers with lengthy or impersonal surveys. Instead, consider asking a few personalized questions with multiple choice answers via email, or start a dialogue via social media channels. And don’t forget step two: Pay off their responses with personalized communications.
You’ve done your persona work … right? Now is an excellent time to revisit those personas, and update them accordingly. The best way to do this is via conversations with existing customers. These types of interviews can be invaluable, so they’re worth a little effort on your end — and maybe even an incentive for your customers. Why not throw in a tempting discount or gift card for their time?
You wouldn’t speak to your three-year-old the same way you’d talk to your Aunt Gladys, right? So why would you talk to everyone who interacts with your brand in the same way, about the same things, at the same time? In today’s environment, it’s crucial to lean into audience data to make sure you’re communicating to the right people, at the right time, about the right things.
One of the easiest ways to personalize your communications is to segment your audience. Be it for paid search ads or marketing emails, fine tuning your messaging, tone and content for specific audiences is an incredibly effective way to connect on an authentic level — not to mention, it pays dividends. According to HubSpot’s Email Marketing Strategy in 2020 report, marketers who use segmented campaigns note as much as a 760% increase in revenue.
Already segmenting? Great. This is an excellent time to reconsider your segments. Chances are your market has shifted in some form or other due to the current disruption. Have your offerings changed? This may also affect who, exactly, you’re targeting — and how. Re-evaluate your segmentation to make sure it’s still relevant, and update as needed.
Now is not the time for a hard sell or a tone-deaf approach to the current state of affairs. And while messaging that truly connects will always be built around these two goals (empathy and value), they’ve never been more critical than right now.
Before putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), put yourself in your target audience’s shoes and ask: What are they dealing with, and how can my business help? Again, don’t guess. To resonate, empathy must always be authentic.
Let’s be clear, personalization needs to go well beyond inserting your prospect’s first name in your marketing email. If you really want to cut through the noise in over-saturated inboxes, you need to be human. That means be real, be empathetic and communicate in a conversational tone about things that your audience actually cares about.
How can your brand help in these baffling times? How can you provide value, solve a problem or meet a need in this moment? If you can speak to your audience via the channel that they prefer, about something that really matters to them and in a way that resonates, you’ll avoid the dreaded delete button.
While personalization is not without its challenges, it provides an authentic avenue to truly connect with your audience. If you’re willing to put in the effort to truly know and understand your audience, your efforts will be rewarded with higher engagement and long-term loyalty.
First, however, you must collect the data upon which your personalization will be built. First-party data is a start. Collect and organize basic information about the behaviors and preferences of customers, website visitors and social media followers with the help of a customer data platform (CDP) that uses pixels for tracking purposes.
But don’t stop there. As mentioned earlier, the best way to get a handle on who your audience is, how their needs have changed and how they prefer to be interacted with is through direct conversations via interviews or quick-response feedback.
If there’s one truth we can all hang out hat on during this time, it’s that everything is changing constantly — for your customers, for your prospects, and likely for your business. While the ever-shifting landscape can be a major challenge, it also presents a valuable opportunity to reassess your brand’s communication strategies.
Unless you’re living under a rock, the current situation has already forced your business to reconsider its messaging. Why not take this opportunity to go deeper with personalized messaging that truly connects? If you can pull it off, you’ll be rewarded with an audience that sticks with you long after face masks have become a thing of the past.
If you’d like to chat about personalization in your marketing campaigns, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.