Everyone is talking about personalization. In fact, more than 90% of marketers already acknowledge that personalization is important, so let’s just take that as a given.
What personalization actually looks like, however, is a little less clear. Will adding someone’s first name to an email give you the 15% revenue increase suggested by Gartner and countless other web experts? Probably not.
Personalization means listening—understanding what people want, making them feel central to the process and building a conversation around them.
For some companies, personalization comes relatively naturally. Shutterfly, for example, made an easy leap to displaying your photos on insulated water bottles and face masks. McDonalds had the data and the budget to know when you might need a Diet Coke. And since Amazon knows everything about you and everyone else, its product recommendations tend to be spot on.
A conversational email written as if I’m the only person in the world is likely to feel more personalized than something that happens to have my name on it.
But what if you’re not Amazon or a global quick-service brand—how can you personalize your prospects’ and customers’ interactions?
1. Talk to me. I’ve seen statistics that suggest using a person’s name in a subject line can get you a 6.2% higher open rate or increase conversions by anywhere from 25% to 760X. That may be true (give it a try!), but don’t just slug in my name and call it a day. People can see through that. In fact, I’d suggest that a conversational email written as if I’m the only person in the world is likely to feel more personalized than something that happens to have my name on it. (And if your list has incorrect spellings or odd capitalization, it’s a big turnoff. Call me “Aamy” and your attempts to win me over have backfired in a big way.)
2. Put me in a bucket. Your story about a wintry walk in cozy sheepskin-lined boots may be beautifully crafted, but it’s unlikely to connect if I’m in Tampa. Or if I’m vegan.
Fortunately, segmenting can get you most of the way toward personalization without being quite as finicky—a little dynamic content can go a long way. Carve up your audience by purchase history, geography, age, job, whatever. And use variables to include the time in their time zone, their nearest location, sales rep, etc. The better you can picture and relate to them, the more real the conversation will be.
3. Anticipate my go-withs. What are the blades that go with your metaphorical razor? If I’m buying a coffee maker, show me the pods. Is there a recycling version of my new trash can? Anthropologie and other wise retailers show me how to “complete the look” for anything I click.
It doesn’t all have to happen at once. Give me some time, then pop an email when I’m likely to run out of anything consumable. (Hopefully, you’re already doing that for the things still sitting in my cart.) If you can, let me subscribe and we’ll both benefit.
4. Help me decide. If I walked into your store or showroom, you’d start by asking what I was looking for. Take that approach online with a few quick questions to figure out what I like and what I need, then point me toward the right answer. Just make it fun, not an interrogation. Cosmetics and apparel brands have this down, but our team has done this for medical devices and insurance, and there’s no reason it can’t work for just about everything else.
5. Let me set the pace. For a service or solution with a long purchase cycle, particularly in the B2B space, marketing automation is the way to go. Give me a landing page with my name in the URL and the masthead, then automate your outreach to trigger new touches and information as I need it. You know the paths I’m likely to take. Don’t try to give me your full asset library at once—keep it relevant. Start me off with a video, drop in a brochure or a case study to follow up, and let sales know when I’m moving closer to yes.
6. If I’m a whale, go big. If you’re selling me a 190-foot yacht or trying to catch a busy executive’s eye, by all means—put in the extra time and money to personalize. Digitally print your direct mail to include my name in the teaser. Cut together individual videos for each recipient. Pick up the phone. Personalization decisions have to come down to ROI, so make sure your audience is tightly defined, your data is right and you know exactly what a big win is worth.
7. Ask me why I left. If you haven’t heard from me in a while, drop a line. Just don’t talk to me in the third person. Make it real. Make me feel missed. Get it right and I might be back.