The world grows more impersonal by the day, and people crave being more than just another number in the customer queue. During the last few years, marketers have turned toward more personalized experiences to win customers over. From Amazon basing recommendations on past browsing behavior to companies greeting people by name, you’ll see examples of personalization everywhere.

Businesses often use emails to segment their audience and send them offers they’d be most interested in. Companies also gather details about improvements consumers might like to see and then drop the person a line to let them know what changes they’ve made. Retailers even use apps to ping people as they near their store or track buying behavior. 

In short, if you’re not getting personal you’re falling behind.

What is personalized marketing?

Personalized marketing is when a business delivers individualized content to current and prospective customers. The goal with personalized marketing is to better engage with your customers by treating them as an individual. Rather than leveraging generalized language or offers, you’re instead using data collection, analysis, segmentation, and automation to make more specific touchpoints. 

Why is personalized marketing effective?

According to a survey conducted by Retail Touchpoints, consumers want more personalization from brands but 36% of them don’t want to give a bunch of information to receive that personalization. Invasive tactics by big corporations such as Facebook and Google have left a bad taste in the mouth of consumers.

People noticed they would browse for something like dog collars and suddenly get ads for the same thing on social media sites. The tactics felt a bit underhanded and people felt turned off by such tactics.

Companies collecting personal data without the consumer sharing it is intrusive and can turn off your customers. Businesses must learn how to personalize the experience without asking for too much data up front. Today’s personalization requires a mix of data and smart marketing efforts.

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How to use personalization to improve customer experience

Customers are much more likely to buy from a brand offering a personalized experience. Personalization makes people feel they aren’t just another face in the crowd. The company seems to intuitively know their needs and how to fix problems.

How can you win over prospective customers by showing them you get what they’re dealing with and have the solution? Here are our best tips that aren’t overly invasive but have a proven track record of attracting a target base matching your products.

1. Segment your audience

Segmenting your list gives you an opportunity to personalize emails, ads, and onsite experiences to ensure people only see the content and offers most pertinent to them. You can divide your current customers fairly easily based on past purchase behavior, but prospective customers may be a bit more challenging.

Start with data from your current customers and create buyer personas. Divide new customers into segments based on the personas. You may need to ask a question or two to ascertain where they fall, but you’ll be able to further micro-segment your lists over time.

You can also pay attention to what your subscribers click on when you send out messages and move people around as you see what they respond best to. Google Analytics gives you information on user demographics and interests and can be used for retargeting those people most likely to convert into leads.

For example, you might use the information onsite and add popups to help users find the specific landing page most tailored to their needs.

Another way to utilize the information is through email marketing. If you send out how-to articles every week and those are the only emails Customer A clicks on, then segment them into a group receiving only how-to emails. Change up your how-to by adding a CTA at the end to potentially convert the person into a customer.

2. Know your audience

While it’s good to dig down and micro-segment your audience, there are still some factors that are likely true for most of your customers. The more information you gather and the more detailed your buyer personas, the more on-target your initial outreach will be.

Most businesses have more than one buyer type, so segment out your buyer personas, too, making several ones with specific demographics. You might have some younger clients and some older ones. You should have buyer personas to meet their unique needs.

Filter any initial creations through the personas you have. For example, if you want to write an article, you would look at a particular audience member type. You would list out their pain points and article topics that might help them solve the issue.

Next, you’d use a tone of voice and focus that speaks to that micro-segment of your audience. With a little extra work and paying attention to how your audience responds, you’ll create material meeting their needs, which gets to the root of personalization.

3. Give them gifts

Everyone loves a free gift. If your business model allows, offer a personalized gift in exchange for some basic information. Offer them something they’d like. A free gift makes people more loyal to your brand and they’ll certainly remember your name.

For example, people who worked from home during the height of the pandemic are returning to the office. How can you offer them a gift to help meet their needs at this time and alleviate their fears?

You might send them a hand sanitizer with your logo and their first name, a water bottle, or a few office supplies.

4. Offer value for information

People are willing to share their personal data, but only if it results in a stellar experience. Don’t just collect information from them and give them an experience for similar generic people. Using buyer personas works well in the early stages of contact, but once the person gives you details, create their experience based on specifics.

One way you can convince them to share their info is by offering something of value. Give away a free ebook, webinar, or other goodies in exchange for details. Still, you’ll need to make the form they fill out fairly short or they may bounce away. 

It’s also smart to make sure your follow-up content is highly specific and circles back to the content the user initially engaged with. Throw up semi-exclusive offers and utilize language that relates to the time the person spent engaging with your content. For example, if the user searched for the term “organization,” you would offer them a discount on an organizational system or send them to other content covering the same topic.

5. Be transparent

Formation released a report on hyper-individualization that showed 83% of participants were willing to share personal information if they knew when and how it would be used. Be upfront about why you want their details.

Laws such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) act require companies to handle personal data differently than in the past or face fines. Even if your business is in the United States, if you have one lead who lives in a European Union country, you may fall under the GDPR and need to follow its rules.

For example, you should only keep the information you have a good use for. You must seek to keep that data secure and not share it without the user’s permission. Be upfront about how you store info, how long you keep it, what you use it for, and who you partner with.

As long as you’re honest and careful, you shouldn’t have much to fear from any regulations. Treat your customers the way you’d want to be treated.

6. Leverage technology

Machines grow smarter every year. Where chatbots were ridiculous in the past and didn’t respond in ways making much sense, they are on target today. Artificial intelligence (AI) gives companies the ability to have a one-on-one conversation with potential clients 24/7.

According to McKinsey’s State of AI survey, more than 50% of companies surveyed said their companies have adopted AI in at least one area. Service operations are one of the biggest areas where companies now use intelligent machines to do some of the heavy lifting.

Think of the chatbot as the first line of interaction with the customer. Use frequently asked questions to program responses so you can engage the person in a conversation and get some basic details out of the way.

The bot can ask the person’s name, which leads to a more specific experience from the beginning. If the bot is unable to answer a question and the person must be referred to a live agent, the staff member will have their name and the basic questions they’ve already asked.

Make sure the customer doesn’t have to repeat the issue they’re experiencing or questions. A live agent should be able to quickly review the computer conversation that went on before and hit the ground without missing a beat. Highly trained staff is your key to a personalized experience the user will feel puts them first.

Of course, there are other ways to use technology to advance your marketing efforts. Use data from analytics platforms to automate timing and target audiences. Customer relationship management software sends out notices when someone is due for a reorder or on special occasions to market your relationship and engage consumers. Look for opportunities to program it once and let it run on autopilot.

Create consistent relationships

As you strive for more personalization, keep in mind the root reason for developing more specific interactions is creating ongoing relationships with customers. Pay attention to omnichannel usage, how well users respond to attempts, and make tweaks until your conversation rate is where you want it to be.

AvatarEleanor Hecks

Eleanor Hecks is editor-in-chief at Designerly Magazine. She was the creative director at a prominent digital marketing agency prior to becoming a full-time freelance designer. Eleanor lives in Philadelphia with her husband and pup, Bear.