We Totally Understand Your Problem, %%FIRST_NAME%%: The Double-Edge Sword of Personalization
We’ve all met someone who’s creeped us out because they got too friendly too fast
If you’ve read his book or attended his training, you know that Dale Carnegie believes, “A person’s name is to that person, the sweetest, most important sound in any language.” It’s why we push ourselves to remember names when we network, and why we wrangle with technology to send out personalized email campaigns.
Technology is supposed to make it easier to personalize content for prospects. We’re dazzled by software claiming it can exponentially improve sales conversion rates by automated personalization based on what we know about prospects. The potential is such that 92% of marketers say they’re using personalization in some way.
Don’t you know who I am?
Customer data software company Segment surveyed 1,000 people to get a deeper understanding of consumer expectations about personalization. The irony is that while the public looks for ways to share less personal information because of growing data breaches, this survey and others indicate they’re disappointed by and want more personalization in physical and digital shopping experiences. This includes interactions with brand websites as well.
According to Forbes, customers who feel they’re receiving a personalized experience will make more impulse purchases, return fewer items, spend more overall, and return to shop again. MarTech reports a Frost & Sullivan prediction that by 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator.
Meanwhile, as we see studies and statistics telling us to jump on the personalization boat, there also are studies by respected organizations such as McKinsey which observe that consumers say the efforts by marketers to personalize their experience rarely or never feel truly personal.
A report by Accenture concludes this is mainly because personalized marketing can be invasive or “creepy.” Nearly a third of respondents (27%) said they had a brand experience that felt invasive, and many of these also said they were creeped out because the brand communicated information about them which they weren’t aware of sharing. The biggest personalization creep-out comes from geo targeting, where a consumer gets a mobile notification as they walk by a store.
Clearly, what consumers say they want and what marketers give them are out of sync.
It’s not who you know
There is a sweet-spot that marketers need to find. We’re strong believers that it’s not so much about how well you know prospects and customers, but more about how well you demonstrate that you understand their problem and what’s necessary to solve it.
Isn’t it fair to say that the longer you journey with someone, the better you know them and the more comfortable they are with sharing information with you?
Perhaps before you take the initiative of calling them by their first name and using information that could potentially weird them out, you should walk beside them and get them to open up to you by showing that you understand what prompted their search in the first place.
After all, that’s what you share in common. It’s not your product or solution. They may not even know it exists or how it works yet.
Blunting one side of the double-edged sword
Content is and will continue to be what powers the engine of inbound marketing. Content doesn’t have to be personalized, but it must be relevant. Use marketing personas to be precise on who you want to talk to and learn what drives them. You also need customer journey maps, so you’ll know what content people should see at each stage of the buyer’s journey.
Ultimately, they will reach a point where they should encounter a landing page that reflects everything you’ve discovered about them as you traveled with them. The reward for their conversion should be more insight, perspective, or education about the problem they’re trying to solve. Weigh the value of “I know your name” against “I understand your problem.”
Mapping the customer journey gives you insights which are just as important as personal information. You’re able to prepare the environment so the next step is more inviting and engaging than the last.
Getting to know someone helps you understand their expectations. Conversing with them along their journey helps you predict and influence their behavior. And all of it can be done without stepping over any “creepy” personalization lines.
Each step of the customer journey – awareness, consideration, and conversion – requires content that satisfies their need to feel as if they’re making the discovery. Relevancy, in this case, is the only personalization needed. Because maybe we’ve got the whole personalization thing a bit mixed up, anyway.
Customization vs. personalization
Thanks to Amazon, we don’t have to search for a nail-it-on-the-head example of personalization. This eCommerce website is the embodiment of it. You are automatically shown pages that are generated in real-time based on your past behavior and they’re meant to anticipate your needs. The customer does little or nothing.
Customization, on the other hand, occurs when a prospect (or a customer) purposely chooses between options to make their experience more personal. In the case of content, they may not personalize it per se, but they will choose it based on how relevant it is to their journey as they progress from validating the problem to finding the best solution.
Confuse these two efforts at the peril of losing your prospects. Content doesn’t have to be personalized, but it absolutely must be customized. Customization simply means making sure you deliver the right content and message at the right time to the appropriate visitor – keeping in mind that they’re seeking out this content.
It’s the user experience that can be exponentially enhanced by using personal information. Personalization here can help you surprise and delight. It’s not creepy to be welcomed and called by your first name and then be asked how you’re enjoying the most recent purchase you made – did it arrive on the date we promised? This is not creepy, and it’s also expected.
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