Aided by technology and big data, sending messages to the right audiences at the right time is easier than it’s ever been. Yet despite this progress, some companies still struggle with how to harness customer data effectively in order to ramp up the personal factor. Many companies aren’t using data as effectively as could be, while others are going overboard and scaring off prospects with communications that come across as intrusive rather than tailored. So how do you offer the personal factor in a way that’s effective, legal, and appealing to potential customers? It requires thought, consideration, and precision. The scattershot approach won’t work – but if you follow these three focused steps, your personalisation efforts will bear more fruit. 1) Set an objective Many marketing communications are sent for the sheer sake of it. An automated happy birthday email here, a promotion there – all perfectly nice in theory, but it’s sometimes difficult to tell what specific business advantages these efforts will provide. Does the birthday message progress the relationship, or is it relatively inconsequential? Does the promotion reflect the customer’s specific buying history, or has it been sent to everyone regardless of their behaviour? More to the point: what are you trying to do? Are you looking to encourage clicks, strengthen a connection with an existing customer, or nurture a prospect over the line? These are questions you should work out in advance of sending the message. Once they’re answered, you can segment data according to these objectives. Define your goals in advance and they’ll be much easier to achieve. 2) Bigger data isn’t always better data A common approach to data collection can effectively be summarised with one word: “More”. The assumption among most is that collecting and storing as much data as possible is the best approach. Data such as social media sentiment has a short shelf life however. What was true months, weeks, or even days ago may not be true now. A personalised campaign that’s based on old, outdated, or archival information will fail to deliver that needed personal factor, and is thus doomed to fail. If the evidence suggests that a particular marketing channel isn’t particularly useful for marketing purposes, you shouldn’t collect data for it. If the data you’re accumulating isn’t seeing return on investment, the answer might be to collect less and clean what you have rather than collect more of it. In fact, if you demonstrate too much knowledge about your customers, it can actually put them off. So, when you’re collecting customer data, always do so with the aim of building a relationship in a non-invasive, friendly, and mutually beneficial way. 3) Timing is everything Here’s the thing about communication: it’s as much a matter of ‘when’ as ‘what’. The content of a message always matters, of course, but so does the timing. When your customers are based in different time zones, or if they work odd hours, or if they simply reply more regularly at some times than others, it’s worth figuring that out and incorporating it into your decision making. So, if the data you gather over time indicates that a customer checks emails at lunchtimes only, you should factor that into your decision making. If they live in New Zealand or the US, it should be considered when firing off email missives – a 2am phone call is likely to be met with a hostile response. The key to personalisation is in the name: treat the customer like a person, not an interchangeable entry in a vast database of contacts. If you take the time to craft messaging that really speaks to them and their specific needs, you’ll find that they really appreciate the personal touch. Jason Lark is managing director at Celerity
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