What’s the real secret behind effective personalisation?

Patrick Headley2Creating strong personalised content with good cut-through continues to be a challenge for brands. It’s riddled with potential pitfalls, from poor data to lack of relevance. But brands that can rise to the challenge are able to forge great customer relationships, and in turn are rewarded with customer loyalty. After all, if something is worth doing, it is worth doing well.

Customers, whether B2B or consumer, expect you to know their needs. By approaching them at the time of their choosing and, crucially, with the right message, brands can almost guarantee enhanced engagement, loyalty and ultimately return on investment.

And with an ever-growing number of communication platforms in use by organisations, there’s a real opportunity to meet customers wherever they are.

Targeting your communication demonstrates how well you understand your customers. These new, all-encompassing communications make customers feel recognised and validated. And that can only ever be a good thing for a brand.

‘Good’ customer data
For personalisation strategies to work, you just need to take advantage of good customer data and use it in the right way. The argument against personalisation primarily picks apart the use of third-party data. And while third party data can be used to enhance a campaign and certainly has its place and purpose, it has serious limitations, and so criticisms of its use with regards to personalisation are valid.

But instead of this creating a case against personalisation, it should set the scene for airtight first party data, and the infrastructure set up to support its collection. Marketers need to take a step back and focus on creating a campaign which will drive opt-in rates.

There have been some incredible examples of creative campaigns which entice customers to opt into marketing and volunteer their data directly. Incentives, discounts and exclusives really come into their own here, like one retailer who block booked tickets to a fancy food and drink convention, resold them to loyal members at a discounted price and threw in loads of extras like meeting celebrities and giveaways.

Who wouldn’t be willing to put up with a few emails to feel like they were in that club? Ultimately, if a brand is willing to go the extra mile with its marketing incentives, customers will be more inclined to share their details directly.

From there, validated customer data is the bare minimum – name, address, email address and ideally telephone number.

But for personalisation to be truly effective, the next stage of the customer journey is crucial – collecting  transactional data. If you can demonstrate that you know what a customer bought, when and even why, you’re more likely to forge a meaningful relationship with that customer.

And that cyclical relationship is what makes a campaign with a complicated or expensive initial push worth the effort – the harder a brand pushes for loyalty and delivers value in return, the more it can rely on longer, personal relationships with their most valuable customers.

Why impersonalisation is not the answer
There are two sides to every coin, and as compelling as the argument for personalisation is the one against impersonalisation. It doesn’t work for customers, and it doesn’t work for brands.

Essentially, customers are far less likely to engage with a campaign which does not feel personal to them. An impersonal campaign often lacks relevance to their wants and needs, and it doesn’t necessarily reflect how they have engaged with the brand in the past. By failing to personalise, brands are cutting themselves off from further developing engagement with existing customers.

The link between personalisation and loyalty
The key to brand engagement, then, is to ensure the consumer knows that this communication is ‘for’ them. It’s aware of how, when and why they are purchasing, and it reflects their circumstances. It then begins to become a self-fulfilling prophecy; the more solid your relationship becomes with these customers, the more inclined they will feel to remain loyal to your brand.

Once they’re established regular customers, the brand can make business decisions which accurately reflect customers’ wants and needs. And so the cycle continues.

This customer loyalty is ultimately the bottom line when it comes to arguing the case for personalisation in marketing. The tumultuous past few years have catalysed ‘the great leveller’ for companies: with a slew of new competition to the market and more choice than ever, savvy customers are only engaging if there are tangible benefits to doing so.

Hyperpersonalised, bespoke behaviour is the only way to get customers and – more importantly – to keep them.

Patrick Headley is chief executive of Go Inspire Group

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