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The revenue power of personalisation

Technology has enabled marketing professionals to personalise communications with customers, and consumers are expecting these one-to-one interactions.

With advances in messaging technology, sophisticated online experiences and custom emails, marketing departments are feeling the pressure to generate better response rates in an increasingly competitive market. Effective personalisation, such as one-to-one marketing, offers a proven method for improved response rates and loyal customer relationships.

Technology is changing everything.

Before today’s advanced digital technology was available, the word “personalisation” referred to the simple inclusion of a customer name in various locations throughout a communication. As technology has evolved, so has the ability to further personalise, through varying degrees of customer segmentation and data mining. Today, any marketing professional who understands how to leverage technology can take personalised communications to an unprecedented level, all the way to a one-to-one dynamic.

Messaging and tracking innovations have made communicating with customers so fast, flexible, and personal that it is also changing consumer expectations and behaviour. Now, consumers expect businesses to understand their needs and provide relevant and desirable information, products, services and solutions. They often won’t pay attention to a company that doesn’t make the effort to communicate in a meaningful and pleasing way.

From personalisation to relationship building

When people meet face-to-face, first impressions often set the tone for the future of that relationship. If either person is turned off by, or unsatisfied with the initial interaction, there’s a high probability the relationship will not continue. However, if the interaction is pleasing, engaging and satisfying, there’s a good chance that they’ll build on that relationship through future interactions.

Because consumers have become accustomed to and expect personalised, one-to-one interactions with businesses, they tend to apply the same principles when evaluating a business relationship as they do when evaluating a personal relationship. A consumer’s first impression of your organisation is critical and often determines whether or not he or she will become your customer.  Since people’s personal or business needs and preferences change and evolve over time, businesses - and marketers, in particular – need to stay informed and nimble.  This helps to build customer engagement and loyalty.

Nurturing the relationship

Even when a first impression is favorable, you -- as a marketer -- should continue to listen, learn and adjust to a customer’s changing needs—and respond accordingly. Just as in a personal relationship, an organisation’s one-to-one relationship must be nurtured in order to continue to grow. If a customer feels that a business isn’t holding up its end, they won’t hesitate to find another business that will… and the damage to your business may not stop there.

With the advent of social media, one unhappy customer can tell countless others of his or her negative experience. Before you know it, you’ve lost many more customers and the issue has become the topic of a public conversation.

Instead of messages that are focused on product and service benefits, sales marketers are changing their perspective and approach. Now, they need to think of ways to find out what customers really think, feel and want.  Then, they need to establish a trusted relationship that positions their brand as the one that can fulfill their customers’ needs.

The goal is to reach customers on an emotional level so that they feel a personal, genuine connection with the brand—like a friendship. Once customers are comfortable in the relationship, they tend to remain loyal and even recommend others to their brand.

Taking personalisation to the next level

Though most marketers agree on the rationale for a personalized customer communications, they don’t always take full advantage it.  There are now many ways that you can make their campaigns more relevant and valuable to your customers.

How do you move from basic customer segmentation to one-to-one personalisation?  From that, what’s the ideal way to nurture customer relationships?

Gathering consumer data

To start and maintain good customer relationships, its critical to find out all you can about each customer. Developing and maintaining a central customer and prospect database is an essential first step. This means information gathered through various channels should be aggregated and linked. Which channels should you focus on?  Here’s a place to start:

  • Retail locations
  • Direct mail
  • Email
  • Social media preferences
  • Mobile phone habits
  • Search and click behaviours on your website

For example, IP recognition software can track detailed online behaviours that offer insights into the psyche, personality and preferences of your customer.

You can also fill some gaps using data from other sources that specialize in collecting, linking and analyzing customer information.  Using this type of insight, you can generate a “holistic” picture of their target market. What used to be “mass communication” can now become a one-on-one conversation.

Leveraging consumer data

Once you, as a marketer, are armed with detailed information about your customers, you can use your findings to communicate in the most impactful way. Although customer data can be used to deepen the level of personalisation and improve the response rates of individual campaigns, the greater goal is to make campaigns a subset of a larger customer relationship - anchored by an ongoing, two-way dialogue.

Each time a customer is exposed to a particular organisation -- online, at a retail location, or through some other communication channel -- it should be a personal and consistent type of experience. Regardless of the medium, the message needs to reflect the personal nature of the relationship with the customer.

Organisations today often focus on quick returns, the fulfilment of short-term objectives and/or higher conversion rates at any cost. The need for results from one campaign or one component can overshadow the larger, more important objective of deepening the customer relationship.

Practicing cohesive personalisation

The clarity that today’s profile data can provide about customers, combined with the flexibility of digital technology and print production, makes it possible to create a truly valuable one-to-one relationship with each customer. Digital communication channels like email, websites and smart phones have always offered advanced levels of customisation and personalisation. Today, the same flexibility exists in the print world.

Variable data-driven messaging and crisp colour images can be placed, moved and switched to almost any location of any package component. Custom messages on “transactional documents” – such as invoices and statements – can offer unique, dynamic opportunities for personal offers.  In addition, for marketing communications, personalised mail, such as personally focused envelopes, can increase open rates, where a matching or supporting message is waiting inside.

In either case (transactional or marketing communication), each customer can receive a completely unique message, designed specifically for him or her “on the fly,” based on very recent behaviours and preferences.

Keeping data current and accurate

The lifeblood of a digital world is data and success depends on the quality of that data. Be thorough in researching and developing your data capture analysis and processing strategies. There are a lot of places to gather customer data: websites, mail reply, email clicks, social media preferences, smartphone touches and many others. Combine data from different sources into a centralised location or database rather than retaining it in silos.

A clean, reliable mailing list may be an organisation’s most valuable asset. Be sure to incorporate the data management tools and list scrubbing processes to ensure that the correct names and addresses are used for mailings. Failure to maintain an updated address list is a sure way to waste precious budget dollars on undelivered mail.

Measuring results

Every one-to-one campaign must include the ability to measure and analyse the results. Only then can campaigns and interactive touch points can truly be optimized and personalised. 

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
It can be daunting to start a one-to-one integrated customer communications strategy. It can appear complicated or expensive to implement. However, with today’s innovative tools and technology, the process is easier and more affordable.  Plus, it’s critical when you’re trying to show an ROI in sales or the overall profitability of campaigns or customers.

Take advantage of the knowledgeable marketing and production service providers who specialize in helping you transition to an interactive, personalised communications and marketing strategy.

1. Hopkins Jeanne. “60 Ways Personalization is Changing Marketing”. Hubspot Blog. 12 May 2011.
2. Carnes Cassandra. “Best Practices for One-to-One Marketing”. Digital Publishing Solutions. October 2010.

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