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Customer personalization brings intelligence to sales and marketing

Generic messages to customers and prospects are losing their effectiveness. Today, tailoring interactions to individuals is crucial to make the sale.

Convinced that consumers have too many choices when it comes to making buying decisions, Ivailo Jordanov launched a fashion website based entirely on the concept of customer personalization.

Ivailo JordanovIvailo Jordanov

London based has its own algorithm that tailors the shopping experience according to particular interactions, including what products, brands, price ranges, colors, patterns and shapes a customer views.

"As they interact with the site, the site begins to adapt itself to what the person is interested in," said Jordanov, the site's co-founder and director.

Increasingly, customers expect highly personalized interactions with companies regardless of which channel they use. Whether a consumer is viewing an online advertisement, browsing a website or social media page, reading an email or opening a piece of mail, companies are recognizing the need to treat customers like individuals and cater to their needs rather than rely on impersonal mass messages to make sales.

But nevertheless, customer personalization efforts can introduce potential pitfalls when relying upon technology to handle these initiatives, which has led to a backlash among consumers.

"Too much of the [customer] experience has been mechanized to the point where it doesn't feel very human," said Chip Bell, a customer service consultant and best-selling author. "We've experienced more high tech without high touch."

But technology can still help companies design personalized marketing campaigns and add to the overall customer experience. While not every company has the ability, need or desire to follow Jordanov's lead by building a customer personalization algorithm, organizations can seek help from marketing cloud platforms, analytics tools, social listening tools, content management systems and more to help them tailor their messages to customers.

Personalization tools

Rob RoyRob Roy

Several years ago, Time Warner Cable wanted to personalize its online advertising to the interests of specific customers, said Rob Roy, head of e-commerce and digital marketing. Rather than using a generic banner ad, the company wanted to customize online offers to various customer segments.

Time Warner Cable started by buying a Web analytics tool to find out how customers were interacting with the site. Later, they purchased Adobe Marketing Cloud, an integrated online marketing system that includes analytics tools, a social media marketing platform, cross-channel campaign management and more. Now, the company can make advertising decisions based on how a customer has interacted with the website in the past or -- in the case of new customers -- using integrated third-party data, Roy said.

"We're able to provide relevant content at the right time in the right place to the right customer," he said. "The more you personalize, the more well-received it is by customers. They're more likely to accept an ad if it's relevant to them, rather than if it's some random ad."

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What kinds of tools help your company personalize its messaging to customers?
I have tried many services (my product is an e-commerce mobile app) and I've been using Liquid ( for sending targeted push notifications to different user segments. They also have e-mail integration with MailChimp but I haven't tested.
Well targeted emails from opt-in lists (using most of the email blast programs), with personal followup. Because we deal primarily in visual assets, sites like YouTube have been great outlets for us.

We've found that old school approaches work best for us. We're active participants on LinkedIn and Facebook, (I can not t believe I just called Facebook "old school"), we use social media, and we teach regular webinars.

For us, every bit of information about our product is free. All the scripts and budgets are to be shared. The early work output is given away. We pepper social media with in-depth articles about our work and our workers, all to build enough interest so that we can sell the final product.
While a bit of targeting is essential in today's crowded market, we have to be careful.Too much will send consumers rushing away. Of course it's essential to know that Mr. Jones makes widgets, but it's really not okay to know where he stops for a drink after work.

Of course we have access to every bit of that knowledge now. And more. And perhaps we can use it (carefully, cautiously) to shape our messages, but we're right on the edge of The Creep Factor when our messages are specific enough to seem like stalking.
I don't mind a company using a CRM to remember I don't like kiwis when I visit them in person, but I really don't like the idea of algorithmically interpreting which available goods to show me. I can't quite explain why, but it feels a little like how I can't always find the show I want on Netflix on my PS3. It's algorithm has already opted me out of things that I like but just haven't decided to watch yet. It's very annoying.
Agreed. There's been some pretty scary stuff about how people from opposite sides of the partisan divide see totally different content in places like Facebook, so they aren't even working from the same information.
And it's SOOOOO easy to personalize your message. As an example of the WRONG way to do something, I've gotten three calls over the past 45 days from the same sales person at a company in NH. He keeps leaving a message that is personalized as far as my name and Website go, but his message says that I'm the right person at my company to answer his questions about my site. Well, he's right. I'm the ONLY person at my company. And if he actually went to my site instead of reading the info off a lead list, he'd see that his product is not something I'm going to pay for because it's what my company does - CONTENT creation for other companies. I say he's lazy and an idiot. I left that on a message for him today. Who wants to bet he calls me again in 15-20 days. :-) 

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