Marketing personalization, also known as personalized marketing or one-to-one marketing, is the practice of using data to deliver brand messages targeted to an individual prospect. This method differs from traditional marketing, which mostly relied on casting a wide net to earn a small number of customers. With billboards, cold calls, mailings, and more, traditional marketing emphasized quantity of messages over their relevance. Later, analytics became more sophisticated and data on individual prospects grew. Today, marketers take advantage of both to deliver prospects the most relevant message at the ideal time.
Why personalized marketing?
If you’re a traditional marketing mind, you may wonder why businesses are out with the old and in with the new. In plain terms, it started with consumers, who, after years of bombardment with irrelevant marketing messages, began tuning out.
They hung up on the telemarketer, they flipped the channel as meaningless ads permeated their lives: in cars, offices, even homes. Soon, they couldn’t escape the feeling that businesses didn’t really want to help solve their problems. Businesses wanted to make money, even if it meant interrupting a family dinner or the Super Bowl. That perception lingers today. Research shows that 63% of consumers are highly annoyed with the way brands continue to blast generic advertising messages repeatedly.
What customers want, instead, is marketing personalization. According to an Epsilon survey of 1,000 consumers aged 18-64:
- 80% say they are more likely to do business with a company if it offers personalized experiences.
- 90% claim they find personalization appealing.
More than half of consumers even say they’re willing to hand over their personal information, so long as you use it to benefit them. So, how do you use it to benefit them?
Marketing personalization strategies
It’s not easy to determine the benefits your customers are seeking at any moment. The reason, primarily, is that those specific benefits vary from situation to situation, business to business. However, there are three common strategies that every brand can build of off of to ensure they create a strong personalized marketing plan:
- Know their needs. Every customer expects you to know their needs. When they punch a long-tail query into your search bar, they expect content that answers it. If they’re shopping in a brick-and-mortar location of yours, they probably want details on a product. At every touchpoint throughout the funnel, ask yourself, “What does the customer want here? What are they looking for?” Or, even better, ask them. Surveys and user testing are an easy way to discover these answers.
- Remember who they are and what they’ve done, on any channel or device. On the list of things that frustrates consumers, siloed communication is near the top. If they’ve coordinated a date and time for a demo of your product via phone, and the next day, they get an email aiming for a demo sign-up, that’s a bad user experience. Not only is it annoying, but it has the potential to confuse the prospect. He or she may think: “Did something go wrong? Was my demo canceled? Are they trying to reschedule?” Or, another example: They download an ebook, and later that week, get an email attempting to get them to download that same ebook. Again, this is bad user experience.
Advertising personalization strategy should span every device and channel, and your CRM should reflect anything you’ve learned about your prospect along the way. Avoid scenarios like those above, and instead, aim to know exactly what your prospects have done, the kind of messaging they’ve responded to, the type of content they like, their communication preferences, and more.
- Anticipate their future needs. If you have the advantage of knowing their personal details and browsing behavior, you have the power to predict what’s coming next. Think of when you book a flight somewhere. Airlines don’t stop after selling you a ticket. They ask if you want travel insurance; they ask if you want to book a hotel room; they ask if you’ll need to rent a car, etc. They know you’re traveling, and they also know the experience is more than just flying. The same goes for your product or service. What add-ons might they need? What upgraded versions might they consider? And this extends before and after the buying stage, too.
If you know they read a lot of your content on social media marketing, send them more content about social media marketing. Send them blog posts, podcasts, ebooks, and tip sheets. If they’ve already bought your product, make them aware of newer versions, bug fixes, use cases that help them take advantage of its full potential. Successful personalization in the funnel is like playing chess. You have to think several moves ahead.
Benefits of personalized marketing
The preceding are strategies, and when you start perfecting them, tweaking them with more data, your customers start to see the following benefits, which apply to all businesses:
- They get relevant content. Consumers don’t hate advertising; they hate bad advertising. They hate irrelevant brand messaging. Since personalized content is based on past behavior, it’s more likely the consumer will respond favorably to its message.
- They’re reminded of recent browsing history. Remarketing is creepier in theory than in practice. Data has shown that, up to a point, the more you remarket your products, the more likely your prospects are to buy them. The reality is, people are distracted even when they’re buying. Their boss will walk in; they’ll get phone calls. Maybe they realized, at checkout, that they didn’t have the funds they thought. Whatever the reason, remarketing is a good way to combat it. When done right, it’s not annoying or creepy — it’s simply a reminder that says: “Hey, don’t forget, you were looking at this earlier. Maybe you’re ready to buy it now.”
- They receive valuable suggestions. Consumers don’t just benefit from reminders of products they’ve already seen, but of new ones they may not have realized exist. These could be add-ons, upgraded versions, or related content. Once you’ve anticipated your prospects’ needs, the next step is showing them what they need before they need it, with emails, ads, blog posts, etc.
- They get information when they need it. Content relevance is crucial, but delivering it at the right time is even more so. Don’t just think “what?” Think “when” too.
On a broad scale, this could be blog posts optimized for popular keyword search terms throughout each stage of the marketing funnel. On a more granular level, it may look like a chat module that allows your business to respond to customer issues immediately. The sooner you make yourself available, the better, research has found. According to a study on lead response time, the chance of converting a lead is 100x greater if contacted within five minutes. The more data you gather, and the deeper you dig, the more you’ll discover what your leads are looking for when they make contact. And once you’ve done that, you can serve them what they need the moment they need it.
The tools for personalization
The biggest challenge of personalization is scaling it. Obviously, you can’t manually create an email for every customer. You can’t manually create an ad for every prospect. But, you have to maintain that appearance, and that requires the right tools. For starters, here’s what you’ll need:
- Analytics platform: Analytics platforms aid in the collection of data, which every marketer relies on to create personalized campaigns. As opposed to the self-reported data like name and email address — the “who you are” data — the data collected by most analytics platforms is behavioral. It’s the “what you do” data, which can be even more valuable than the former. Platforms like Google Analytics, Heap Analytics, and Crazy Egg are popular in this category.
- Data management platform: Data management platforms hold audience and campaign data from sources involved in programmatic ad buying. For marketers, it’s a one-stop location where they can manage user data to create targeted user segments for digital advertising campaigns.
That user data could be, for example, age, household income, browsing habits, purchasing behavior, demographics, location, device, and more. Then, the DMP can analyze the performance of those segments and assist in the optimization of future campaigns.
- Customer relationship management software (CRM): Your CRM is the hub of customer information. Anything you learn about a prospect from lead capture forms, sales calls, or third party data providers should be logged here. When connected with the rest of your marketing stack, it will allow your other tools (like a landing page platform) to feed it prospect information, and, in turn, it can feed that information to an email marketing platform, which will help personalize your emails even further.
- Landing page platform: Without a solution, it all falls apart. This is your best way to capture prospect data today, so without it, you can kiss personalization goodbye. It’s also the best tool you have to move customers to the next stage of the funnel.
Unlike regular web pages, landing pages are designed to drive prospect action — to get them to sign up, download, buy, etc. They accomplish this with a 1:1 conversion ratio, message match, a lead capture form, and several other use cases for personalization. And because every landing page needs to match the ad it comes from to maximize personalization, scaling landing page creation with manual coding dries up far too many resources. Landing page platforms like Instapage help you create and manage these pages in a fraction of the time and cost it would to take otherwise.
- Email marketing platform: Today, email marketing platforms are a staple of every marketing technology stack, as the channel reigns supreme as the number one most profitable for businesses. That’s not surprising, considering email address is a piece of information easily offered up by prospects. Through this channel is how most people prefer to be contacted. And according to recent research, getting emails opened comes down to personalizing it.
Consumers say they’re more likely to respond well to an email if it looks like it’s made for them. Dynamic content can accomplish this, as can segmenting, or sending emails based on behavioral triggers, say, after an ebook is downloaded or your pricing page is viewed. And it doesn’t even have to be that complicated. Using simple data like name and birthday, you can send a gimmick-free birthday email to prospects on your mailing list. It sounds simple and maybe even useless without a CTA, but more and more, customers appreciate brands who treat them like the people they are over the money they have.
Using a tag management software like Google Tag Manager allows you to add, delete, update all your tags from one place. It also means your page load times won’t get bogged down by tag after tag, as the code for GTM need only be added to the back-end of web pages once.
- Demand-side platform: Demand-side platforms work with supply-side platforms and exchanges to deliver your ads to prospects most likely to click them. The process is called programmatic advertising, and it’s done primarily in real-time. You specify who you want to reach with your ads and how much you’re willing to spend. Then, a bidding war takes place between you and all the other advertisers trying to reach the same audience. A prospect lands on a page, and before that page loads fully, algorithms determine which ad to display to them. These algorithms take things like browsing history, time of day, and IP address into account. Whoever has bid highest for the impression when all’s collected wins the placement. Their ad is published when the visitor’s page loads fully.
Personalized marketing examples
“Personalization” gets used a lot in blog posts, reports — too much, maybe. It’s become a buzzword with muddled meaning. Some hear it and think name in subject line. Others think it more to do with algorithms so powerful they identify expecting mothers from buying behavior. Really, the best personalization lands somewhere between the two. Here are some great examples to use for inspiration:
Video may seem like a medium that’s hard to personalize, but with some effort, it’s possible. Take, for example, this video created for HubSpot Academy Sales Professor, Kyle Jepsen:
“This particular brand could have just superimposed each recipient’s name onto the whiteboard in this video and kept the same script for each one,” said Amanda Zantal Wiener in a company blog post. “But it didn’t stop there — Cole, the gentleman speaking in the video, not only addressed Kyle by his first name but also referred to his specific colleagues and the conversations he had with them.”
When creating any form of internet advertising, personalization is paramount. Internet users respond to relevance and trust. Anything outside of that won’t earn conversions.
To establish relevance and trust through personalization, every campaign’s ad and landing page must match. That means headline, imagery, logos, and brand colors. Together, these reinforce your brand identity and assure visitors that they’re in the right place while delivering what was promised in the advertisement.
Here’s a great example of message match from Search Engine Land:
Today, businesses can work marketing magic with email. Messages via this channel are non-invasive, they’re easily consumable, and they’re also highly customizable. Using dynamic content, email subscribers can receive offers uniquely tailored to their demographics, psychographics, firmographics and behavior. Here’s a great example of dynamic content from Sephora, which has this particular campaign set to deliver one email if the recipient has spent more than $200, and another if they don’t:
While it was once one-way photo and text-blasting to followers, social media has become highly personalized. Likely, you’re familiar with Facebook’s “trending” bar, which is tailored to the behavior of prospects. Its Meta Pixel is also one of the most powerful retargeting tools in marketing. Implanting it on the back-end of a web page allows marketers to target people on Facebook who didn’t convert.
Other examples of increasing personalization are Snapchat’s geofilters and games, Twitter accounts dedicated to individualized customer support, and recently, Instagram’s newest emoji slider feature, which allows account holders to poll their followers. In that poll (pictured below), the emoji can be slid from left to right to indicate how strongly a user agrees or disagrees. That information can then be used for more personalized content in the future. Here’s an example of an Instagram poll by Junon Jewelry:
Start implementing your own personalized marketing
McKinsey research shows personalization reduces acquisition costs as much as 50%, lifts revenues by 5-15%, and increases the efficiency of marketing spend by 10-30%. On the flipside:
- Irrelevant content generates 83% lower response rates in the average marketing campaign.
- Lack of personalization and trust cost businesses $756 billion last year.
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