Marketers want customers to feel special. They want customers to feel they have a personal connection with advertised products. In order to accomplish this, targeted marketing efforts need to get personal. But getting personal is not always easy. A study conducted several years ago by Salesforce ExactTarget Marketing Cloud and Forrester Research found, “Forty-eight percent of marketers queried reported that they face challenges in personalizing each customer interaction, and 42% of marketers reported they face challenges with analyzing customer interaction data.” The survey also found, “Marketers also see value in predictive intelligence, with 86% reporting they use broad segmentation and simple clustering for personalized marketing. About half concede personalizing each customer interaction is the challenge because of the mindset of always-connected customers. And about 42% also say analyzing the constant flow of customer interaction data is difficult.”
Targeted Marketing and Data
A more recent study by Ascend2 found personalization remains a high priority with marketers. “Creating personalized marketing content is marketers’ top goal for their data collection. … Seven out of 10 respondents report that personalization as a form of targeted marketing is the primary objective when utilizing collected data on leads, prospects and current clients. … A clear majority of respondents (95%) believe that data-driven personalization is increasingly effective as a marketing strategy to boost customer experience. However, … the study found that, while 81% of the 220 respondents describe their data marketing as above average, only 37% stated it was ‘very successful.'” Todd Lebo (@), partner and CMO for Ascend2, states, “The most significant barriers to achieving data-driven marketing success for about half of all companies [surveyed] are integrating data across platforms and enriching data quality and completeness. Marketers must put data silos in their rearview mirror if they want to compete in today’s marketplace.”
In this digital age, there is no excuse for data silos. They not only hold back marketing they hold back the entire enterprise. Cognitive computing platforms can help overcome the silo challenge because they can integrate both structured and unstructured data providing a single version of “the truth” for all enterprise decision makers. But, as Lebo notes, integrated data is especially important for marketers. In order for them to create personalized targeted marketing campaigns, they need to know more about customers and what they want. Simon Miles (@), Digital Director at Coca-Cola Enterprises, observes that getting personal with customers is not a new marketing goal. “Building a cohort of loyal customers is key to the success of any brand,” he writes, “it always has been.” He adds, “The question of where and why customers spend their money is ‘marketing 101’, yet the proliferation of digital technology can afford brands new insight into these age-old questions by giving them vast amounts of new customer-profiling data. Digital allows brands to be smarter in how they create the perception of value across different customer demographics — for example, price promotions to specific audiences at key times of purchase.”
Five Techniques for Getting Personal
“As marketers,” writes Patrick Groover, “we’re in a race — a race to capture and hold the attention of our target audiences. Yet on the open road of the internet, it can sometimes feel like we don’t know which way is North.” Groover offers five personalization techniques to increase engagement while reducing the strain of developing more content. They are:
1. Develop Messaging Categories. “Practically speaking, from top-to-bottom, do all of your activities begin and end with your target audiences in mind? Are your target audiences properly mapped to the products and services that will be the most interesting to them? As you’re thinking about your go-to-market approach, start by defining commonalities in audience interests and solutions, then place audiences into respective messaging groups that have similar needs. Create messaging categories that are strategically manageable, yet distinctive enough to produce an impact so that you can scale your efforts.”
2. Architect Your Audience Into Your Site Layout. “A first step of audience personalization is aligning your website layout to the messaging categories that you’ve defined. This is often a key area where attempts at personalization can quickly break down. Internally, companies may focus their communications more on the product than the customer, and these two objectives often conflict with one another. While it’s important to properly support and communicate product information, it is equally, if not more, important to communicate to your audience based on the problems your solution personally solves for them.”
3. Structure Your Website With Responsive Design. “Another core breakdown in effective marketing is taking on more than your team can handle. There is a fine line between effective communication and sustainable communication. While quality and timely content is often more important than the quantity of content, your team needs enough content to fuel their programs. To balance quality with quantity, you should build scalability into your website design to support your go-to-market strategy. Modern web design leverages referential content that can be tagged and accessed through object-oriented databases — the most notable being WordPress, which allows users to manage content categorically. A properly managed website will incorporate audience personalization into its core structure, allowing you to place content into appropriate parts of your site through system-supported tags.”
4. Leverage Systems That Automatically Update List Membership. “Defining the criteria that will support the ‘who’ in your personalized marketing is an essential, yet potentially time-consuming task for persona-based marketing. Having to rebuild these criteria before each and every campaign reduces your team’s ability to focus on the important task of matching communications to the targeted audience. But by leveraging systems that have a self-updating list architecture, you can dramatically improve the accuracy and effectiveness of your campaigns.”
5. Find Marketing Systems That Support Dynamic Content. “A final component of a scalable personalization strategy is the ability to automate the delivery of relevant messages without having to completely rebuild emails, landing pages, or your website. Sophisticated marketing automation platforms have dynamic content functionality built directly into their core design.”
Don’t Get Too Personal
As I noted in a previous article, you can get too personal (i.e., your segmentation can be too refined). Marcus Schaller (@) asks, “Are your buyer personas drowning in details? How much information is too much, and what do we truly need to know about our prospects to motivate them to respond?” There is a fine line between being personal and being creepy. Schaller notes, “Details that won’t have an impact on your marketing decisions are dead weight. … The real value of a buyer persona is not the total quantity of information but the relevance of that information to your options as a marketer. The trick is differentiating valuable insights from filler. To do that we need to start with the broader possibilities, then whittle down to the important stuff.” The goal is to make consumers feel special not uncomfortable.
“The very best shot that marketers have at attracting audiences and maintaining them,” writes Assaf Dudai, head of content at BrightInfo, “is to be champions of relevancy. And the foundation of relevancy is personalization.” He adds, “Being relevant and offering a personalized content experience is pretty much the same thing; it is just a matter of which side of the coin we’re looking at: Personalization is the task of the publisher, relevancy is what the readers are after.” To know whether content is relevant, marketers need to know what consumers want. Demand driven marketing begins with data. Today’s cognitive computing systems can help gather, integrate, and analyze all sorts of data and can then provide actionable insights for decision makers throughout an enterprise, including marketers.
 Karl Greenberg, “Digital Marketers Beef Up On Personalization,” MediaPost, 18 August 2014.
 Promogram, “Marketers Prioritizing Personalization,” Advertising Specialty Institute, 4 August 2016.
 Simon Miles, “Use digital technology and personalisation to beat the discount challenge,” Campaign, 2 July 2014.
 Patrick Groover, “5 Ways to Get Personal With Your Audience at Scale,” Marketo Blog, 23 August 2016.
 Stephen DeAngelis, “Targeted Marketing: How Much Segmenting is Too Much?” Enterra Insights, 3 November 2016.
 Marcus Schaller, “Buyer Personas: How Much Detail Is Too Much?” MarketingProfs, 7 November 2016.
 Assaf Dudai, “Online Marketers Need to Embrace Personalization: Here’s Why and How,” MarketingProfs, 17 November 2016.