Is Personalization Helping Customers or Scaring Them?

Published on in Marketing Automation

Olle Jarenfors

Olle Jarenfors
Marketing Manager
+ 46 8 534 815 67

With all the tools and tactics that are available today; personalization has become a term that is commonplace for the modern B2B marketer. But still there is a hectic debate going on as to what level of personalization is appropriate. What types of personalization is helping our customers and leads them forward in their buying journey?

Why the hype about personalization?

Remember back in 2007 when the first retargeting ads started to appear? After looking at the website of your favourite shoe retailer ads started showing up all over your social media channels. Some people felt it was intrusive, some found it helpful. Today, we can do so much more with personalization technology; real-time adaption, customized web content, programmatic advertising, retargeting, proximity marketing, and behaviorally triggered communication to name a few.

And it’s not just what we as marketers have the ability to do - it’s what these capabilities result in. With the right level of personalization we are able to communicate with much more impact to both existing and prospective customers. Heike Young (Salesforce Marketing Cloud) says “increased personalization is linked directly with more successful marketing campaigns.”

In a case described by David Myers (Marketo) a famous hotel chain set up a personalization website solution and experienced huge results - within one month. Visitors spent an average of 217% more time on the company's website. Overall, visitors who engaged through the personalized content on the website showed a 10x lift in revenue conversion as compared to the average site visitor. “Personalizing content improves our marketing metrics and bottom line” says Myers.

So, done in the right way for your specific needs and your specific buyers; personalization can generate great improvements to your marketing returns. The question is what is the right level of personalization for your business?

Where to start with personalization

There seems to be a general consensus amongst marketers today that we need to collect as much data as possible about our customers, leads and anonymous visitors. That is all well and good but, to quote Chris Howard, VP of Digital Strategy and Design at Calamos, “Marketers must be in the business of doing more than just having data”. We must show our followers that we’re actually paying attention. If we have the ability to understand what challenges a lead might have or what the person’s interest might be - we need to do everything we can to share that information or deliver that solution.

Easier said than done? Well, using personalization tactics and solutions can be as big of a project as you like redesigning your entire website and reorganising your lead nurturing setups. But you can also start small and gear up over time as you see what works for you:

1. Don’t make things too complicated in the start

Essentially, personalization rests upon a structured segmentation of your visitors and contacts based on different criteria. A common mistake when getting started is to be overly ambitious in segmenting your database. Start small. Set a few different types of wide personas or perspectives and create messaging that works for them. Then, as you learn more about your personas you can start dividing your database into smaller and smaller segments with unique messages for each.

“Make imperfect decisions based on imperfect data, learn from it, and keep going.”
- Chris Howard, VP of Digital Strategy at Calamos

2. Don’t go for the super high-tech solutions first - start with the basics: Email.

If you’re at the very beginning of your personalization journey you might feel tempted to start with some of the more high-tech solutions like retargeting advertising or customized website content, because high-tech is fun and exciting. And it carries with it a promise of a big change. But, fun or not, one the best things to start personalizing is your email communication.

For most companies, email is still the biggest and most important medium to communicate with leads in all phases of their buying journey. It is also the medium in which you can make the quickest improvements to your engagement if you start moving away from general, one-size-fits-all type of messaging to smaller and specific segments or personas.

Think about different ways of categorising your contacts other than demographics or business titles. Maybe you have data on what your leads likely are interested in or what challenges they might have based on behaviors on your website. Matching your message to the context of their activities and trying to deliver even more value to your leads is a powerful way of improving engagement.

3. Don’t be creepy

As I mentioned in the beginning; some might feel that personalization can be intrusive. That is not just a thing of the past. A study by Ipsos (2015) found that a 68% of smartphone users are concerned about having their online activity tracked in order for advertisers to serve them more targeted ads.

I feel that the answer to this is quite simple: Don’t be creepy, don’t overdo it. In all your personalization activities; figure out if and how it adds value to the end user. If it doesn’t: don’t do it - it’s going to be creepy. In the end, it’s all about creating a better user experience for your visitors and providing relevant information to the right people at the right time.

“Nearly all consumers are concerned with how we utilize their data for personalization. What we give buyers in exchange for providing more and more information has to have a significant benefit to the individual who sees it.”
- Dan Stasiewski, Hubspot

The goal is to make a lead or a visitor feel welcome so use personalization only where it helps them. If it only helps you to potentially sell more, without clearly adding value to the leads current needs; don’t do it - it’s going to feel intrusive. Give your buyers what they want to see - and you’ll be rewarded for it.

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