I’m a big reader, so when more and more commercial brands offered newsletters and blogs, I was an early adopter (much to the chagrin of my current inbox).
I’ve witnessed it all when it comes to email marketing: the obnoxiously catchy subject lines I can’t help but click, impossibly long pieces of content, dull as dirt article suggestions, and the masked promotional pieces of writing that always lead to disappointment.
But every once in a blue moon a company gets it right. I am served a delightfully surprising piece of personalized content directly to my email address based on my likes, dislikes, and previous readings. Huzzah!
And as I settle down to read, at whatever time length it takes, my loyalty to this company jumps a little bit, and I know the next time I am surprised with a perfect piece of content, it will more than likely jump again. And maybe, when I have a spare 10 minutes, I should check out this company’s products and/or services in greater detail than before. After all, they provided me with a useful and fun piece of content specific to me; the least I can do is browse their site!
And that’s how it goes, marketeers! Personalized marketing, in its simplest form, is creating and distributing content specific to your users based on a number of factors like their purchasing history, their step in the sale cycle (based on the number of times they have visited your site or requested information) or what articles they may have clicked on previously.
In doing this, you are building rapport with your customers (and potential customers). You’re showing them you care about their time, their interests; and their money by not sharing unnecessary, irrelevant, and frivolous pieces of content, product, or information.
When you utilize personalized marketing, you change the conversation: it’s not about you, it’s about them. And who doesn’t love being pampered with high personalized content created just for them?
But there are many benefits to personalized marketing aside from building a closer relationship with your clientele:
- Companies that utilize personalized marketing see a 19% increase in sales.
- 88% of marketers say using social data to personalize their marketing efforts has a high impact on ROI and user engagement.
- Only 19% of marketers are actually using marketing personalization.
- Users spend, on average, 200% more time on site when personalized marketing is used.
- Marketers are twice as likely to see an increased average revenue per user as a benefit of personalization (48% vs. 28%).
Clearly, as marketers, it would be to our benefit to start personalized marketing RIGHT AWAY as it appears to tick all the right boxes. More sales? Good. Higher engagement? Good. More revenue per customer? Good.
Much of what is known as “personalized marketing” today is completed through internet software that tracks your users’ personal information and habits to then drip market the kinds of information they would find appealing. This is also known as “marketing automation.”
“Well sure,” you might say. “We know that already, but HOW should we distribute personalized marketing materials and what kinds work best for our customers?”
I thought you’d never ask.
Before we jump into what ways you can use creative personalized marketing, you must know how to get started. For smaller companies with a manageable list of subscribers and without a budget to spend on marketing automation software, begin by segmenting your email database based on your user personas.
Ask yourself these questions:
- What kind of information is this person seeking? And in what way would they prefer the information to be distributed?
- How has this person engaged on our site?
- Are they a straightforward sale? Do they hop from page to page? Do they seem to be comparing several products? Do they read our blog?
- How invested are they in your company? At what stage of the cycle do they lie?
- Is this a previous client? Is this someone just hoping for a first-time promotion? Is this somebody who has shown interest before and then disappeared?
Now that you’ve got your lists, here are the three most common types of personalized marketing techniques and how (and to whom) they are best served:
1. Personalized Email Marketing
What customer it is best for: All stages of the sales cycle and returning customers
How is it best served: Warm a la mode.
You don’t want to overwhelm users with endlessly customized content based on their recent history on your site (creeper alert), but you want to keep the lead warm. Start off by drip marketing at a slow and steady pace (max 1-2 times a week). When a user first seeks information is the most important time to watch and understand habits.
Are they opening every email? At what time did you see the most success? What kinds of language have higher CTRs? What pieces of content have led to higher time on site? Is the user more interested in long-form pieces of content or do they like a variety of pieces to choose from?
If the content you are providing is relevant and useful, users will engage on a regular basis (a duh) and often come back for more.
Important to Note: Don’t be afraid of the break-up email (one of the most effective sales strategies to date). If a customer is not interacting with your marketing efforts, tell them you’re more than happy to end their subscription. Tell them you’re sad to see them leave, but you don’t want to bombard them any longer. Watch your interactions soar.
Who has done it best? Personalized email marketing might be best utilized, and most creatively produced, by product companies.
Ibotta, an app that gives you monetary rewards for purchasing certain products, sends customers updates on products they might not have heard about based on their previous purchases.
GoodReads, ModCloth, and Amazon are great at letting their customers know when a) something they love has gone on sale or b) they’ve abandoned their cart, and don’t they still want this awesome thing? c) a product that is closely in line with their tastes is on the market and wouldn’t they like to take a peak? These techniques all fall under “automated trigger emails” and are if anything, more than enticing.
2. Dynamic Content for Websites & Landing Pages
What customer it is best for: Returning customers
How it is best served: Hot and bubbling over
Seventy-four percent of online consumers get frustrated with websites when content that does not relate to their interests. While many companies may produce dynamic content for their site or landing pages based on location, some would argue that dynamic content based on a customer’s previous purchase or download history is even representative of their interests.
By showing a customer content (or ads, promotions, etc) that is more in line with their purchasing or inquiry history, you’re not wasting their time when they visit your site. You’re showing your customers exactly what they want to see and, therefore, allowing them to explore more naturally.
Who has done it best? Services and online stores
Netflix is a prime example of dynamic content. The complete personalization of suggestions for future watching based on your previous watching history means binge-watching at least three more shows you hadn’t originally considered.
Location-based websites like Zillow and Yelp have also found success with dynamic content. There’s no need to type in your preferences for an apartment, Zillow uses its data to show you pads that are within your price range the next time you log in to their site. Yelp shows you restaurants you might enjoy in the area based on your review history.
Dynamic content always keeps users coming back for more because they know you understand them.
3. Personalized Pitching
What customer it is best for: Customers or clients at the awareness stage
How it is best served: Goldilocks level – just right
It’s not always enough to send several emails to potential clients with [Name]. Sometimes, taking the extra effort to understand a client’s position and needs goes a long way. A generalized pitch about how great it would be to work together has been done a million times. Yawn.
Instead, research the industry and the person’s position within the company. What struggles comes along with that position? How can you address this struggle? What resources could you provide? Is there industry news you could leverage?
Who has done it best? B2B companies
Personalized pitching is a B2B game. Larger companies with fewer prospects but a higher-end clientele can find personalized pitching enormously effective.
Employees of big business get pitched all the time, but when a company presents them with useful information that shows they understand their industry and individual position’s challenges, you’re par for the course.
While it’s obvious that personalized marketing is here to stay, here are three trends to stay away from before launching your first campaign:
- More than just a [Name]: Filling in a customer’s name on an email doesn’t scream “personalization.” It screams, “We’re too lazy to do anything but remember your name is Joe.”
- Personalization consistency: Sure, you may send a customer perfectly personalized pieces of content, but if they visit your brick-and-mortar business and receive less than a personalized experience, your efforts will fall flat. This also applies to social media; while social media may be harder to personalize, make sure your team is responding to questions and comments sans stock responses.
- Too much for too little: Requesting too much personal information up front to better serve a customer’s content experience can be a little off-putting. Unless you’re giving a customer the map to the Fountain of Youth, there’s no reason to ask for their life’s history.
Personalized marketing can be a rabbit hole of suggestions, techniques, and strategies, but, at the end of the day, people want to know your brand cares about their interests over your bottom line. And what better way to do so than with personalized content with cherries on top?
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