Personas, Be Gone: 1:1 Marketing Revisited

Soccer moms, coffee house professionals, gears-and-gadget guys — in the world of data marketing, the audience personas available to select from enterprising data vendors go on and on and on. Tailoring and targeting based on personas — with hundreds of variables and data elements — dominate the business rules that direct billions in media spending and gazillions of business rules built inside customer journey mapping.

Millennials are not the only ones who eschew labels.

Soccer moms, coffee house professionals, gears-and-gadget guys — in the world of data marketing, the audience personas available to select from enterprising data vendors go on and on and on. Tailoring and targeting based on personas — with hundreds of variables and data elements — dominate the business rules that direct billions in media spending and gazillions of business rules built inside customer journey mapping. Practically every retailer, every brand, has a best customer look-alike model — and segments to that model.

But ask most consumers — they say they don’t want it that way.

An international survey released last week by Selligent Marketing Cloud, reported by Marketing Charts, says that 77 percent of U.S. consumers want to be marketed to as individuals, rather than as part of a larger segment.

Credit: MarketingCharts.com

The take-away seems to be that personalization at a 1:1 level should be any brand’s consumer engagement mantra. Throw out those data segments to which you may think I, the consumer, belong. “Pay attention to what I’m doing!”

That Darn Privacy Paradox … Again

Yet there’s a paradox here. “Paying attention to what I’m doing” raises the creep factor. The same survey shows that nearly eight in 10 consumers have at least some concerns about having their digital behaviors tracked, findings that seem to echo greater societal concerns about technology and business, with real branding impact.

Part of the addressable media conundrum comes down to intimacy. My mailbox is outside my door. I have no issues with personalization there, and I expect it. But pop “into” my laptop and now you’re getting closer to how I spend my days and nights — moving between work, play and life. That gets even more pronounced on the most intimate media of all, my smartphone. (I suppose a VR headpiece might be the “what’s-next” level of intimacy — or an embedded chip in my forehead.)

Conflicted as a marketer? Which path does my brand follow?

Revisiting Moments of Truth

One might argue that going from mass marketing to 1:1 marketing is an easier step than going from database marketing to 1:1. I’m reminded of Procter & Gamble’s moments of truth, freshly updated. A brand doesn’t need to know everything I do all day long in order to recognize the critical moments when purchase consideration comes into play. Less in-your-face, more in-the-right moment.

“Delighted, table for one.”

Whether database or 1:1 (or some combination of both), I cannot think of a smarter marketing scenario — one that engages the consumer — that does not depend on data, analysis, insight and action. Even the beefs that consumers have with marketing — remarketing when the product is already bought, not being recognized from one screen to another, for example — are cured by more data (transaction data, graph data, respectively here), not less, and such data being applied in a meaningful way.

“I’ll order the sausage, please. It’s delicious.” (Just don’t tell me how it’s made.)

In this age of transparency, we can no longer hide behind veils of ad tech and algorithms. We must explain what we’re doing with data in plain English. Based on the Selligent Marketing Cloud survey, for most consumers, it seems the path is to tell exactly how data are collected and to serve each as individuals. And we need to be smarter when, where and how ads are deployed even ad professionals are blocking ads today.

As for vital audience data, maybe we should re-think how we explain segmentation to consumers — less about finding “lookalikes” and more about serving “you,” the individual.

The Power of Purchase List Targeting

It’s important to have a trusted purchase list source. You should be informed of where the company gets its data, how often the data is updated and its policies on bad data. Once you have a good source, you need to take on the challenge of choosing your list options.

targetaudSince your response rate is directly related to who you are sending mail to, purchasing a mailing list can be a real challenge. There are so many options to choose from that it can be overwhelming. But first, it’s important to have a trusted purchase list source. You should be informed of where it gets the data, how often the data is updated and its policies on bad data. A couple of big purchase list players are Experian and Acxiom — you can check them out, as well as many other reputable list brokers. Once you have a good source, you need to take on the challenge of choosing your list options.

Top industry list option examples include:

  • Nonprofit: Income, net worth, age, children, causes donated to in the past, organization membership, fundraising engagement, location
  • Retail: Number of children, income, age, gender, apparel purchase habits, brands, online shopping habits, location
  • Political: Children, homeownership, voting propensity, location, age, political party affiliation
  • Entertainment: Age, income, children, hobbies, purchase history, location, marital status
  • Healthcare: Age, income, number of children, location, gender, homeownership
  • Education: Age, income, gender, highest level of education, location, interests

You may pick from demographics as well as psychographics. There are so many options, make sure to give yourself time to look over what will target your best potential customers. You want to get the right offer to the right people — the more targeted your list, the better response you are going to get. Marketing personas are fictional representations of your ideal customers, so if you have mapped personas beforehand, it will be easier to make your selections.

You can pre-map customer personas by taking a look at your best customers: Who are they? The more details you have, the more accurate the persona will be. Look for trends in how your customers find you and what they buy. Make sure you are capturing important information about customers in your data so that you can use it to build your personas. You should also interview customers to obtain key answers directly from the source. Too many assumptions can cause you to create an inaccurate persona.

Once you know the personas you are looking for, choosing the right selections for your list becomes easier. Select the options that best represent your customers. The more characteristics you pick, the better targeted your list will be. But keep in mind that more selections often result in a higher-priced purchase list. So make sure you only use the options that really reach your target.

Your list is now ready! Your final ingredients for successful direct mail are your creativity and your offer. Don’t spend all your time on the list and forget these other two components — without all three working together, your direct mail will not generate the response you are looking for. Make your offer clear and concise. Make your creative design catching, but not overwhelming. Give people a reason to read your direct mail.

11 Rules For Mobile Marketing Success

If you haven’t heard, a lot of people are talking about mobile. It’s mostly marketers doing the talking, but that’s because the businesses that they’ve helped have their heads down implementing mobile initiatives or at least started educating themselves to better understand how mobile will fit into their marketing mix.

If you haven’t heard, a lot of people are talking about mobile. It’s mostly marketers doing the talking, but that’s because the businesses that they’ve helped have their heads down implementing mobile initiatives or at least started educating themselves to better understand how mobile will fit into their marketing mix.

Now I could go dive into some juicy stats, like how mobile Internet usage will overtake that of desktop by 2014, or that 74 percent of consumers will wait only five seconds for Web pages to load on their mobile devices before abandoning sites. We could even discuss the 46 percent of consumers who are unlikely to return to your mobile site if it didn’t work properly during their last visit, but I’m not going to do that right now. 😉

After interviewing some of the top mobile specialists and brands that strategically use mobile to grow their businesses, I’ve noticed some recurring trends. If you want to use mobile and actually see results that create an impact on your business you can follow these rules:

1. Know your customer. You should create at least three customer personas to identify exactly who your audience is and each communication should be targeted to one of those users. You should aim to give these personas a name, know what their wants and desires are, what their frustrations are, etc. Are they smartphone users or might they have feature phones?

Make sure before crafting your messaging that you know who you’re talking to and how they’d like to keep in touch with you. Is it via email, SMS or possibly a phone call? You need cater to your specific customers or else you’ll be communicating to nobody.

2. Solve a problem. The best use of mobile comes when it solves a problem for someone, whether that be a customer, an employee or even just a problem within your business. Once you’ve identified the problem, ask yourself, “Can mobile solve it?” For example, can mobile possibly eliminate a once time-sucking, paper-pushing task and save time?

If your customers tend not to redeem direct mail coupons, maybe you can deliver offers right to their phone via SMS in order to drive traffic to your establishment during slower hours.

3. Only use mobile if it adds value. Is mobile the best solution? I love mobile, don’t get me wrong. But it’s not always the answer. Too many businesses get caught using mobile for mobile’s sake. Make sure your mobile strategy solves a problem, ultimately adding value to your customer’s life.

4. Don’t chase shiny objects. This is my favorite. Mobile technology is advancing super fast that it’s hard to keep up. It can be overwhelming, I know. People are talking about NFC (Near Field Communication, Augmented Reality, the mobile wallet etc.)

BUT, there is a reason that Coca-Cola allocates 70 percent of its mobile budget toward SMS. Your mobile initiative should be about efficiency NOT shiny objects. Make sure you can differentiate.

Oh, and did you notice that the iPhone 5 doesn’t have an NFC chip? There is a reason Apple chose not to add that feature this time around, but that’s a post for another time. 😉

5. Execute from start through finish: Ideas are great, but it always comes down to execution. Make sure you cover all touchpoints for the mobile component of your program. The most common mistake is driving customers to a non-mobile friendly website.

Your customers may end up on your site from an email, social feed, a QR code, an SMS or a mobile search. Make sure their experience is friendly and helpful, no matter what screen they’re on.

6. Simple is Sexy: Due to the pace of mobile innovation, sometimes things get complicated. Do everything in your power to make your mobile initiative easy to understand and participate in. Make sure you:

  • Use a clear call to action. Most failed campaigns bury the CTA.
  • Limit their options. Focus on your ONE objective then go from there.
  • Don’t make consumers jump through hoops. Does it take five steps to receive the value? Don’t do that. Deliver value immediately.

7. Identify how you’ll measure success. Again, a frequent mistake. You’ll never know if you were successful unless you have a base for success. Is it opt-ins, sales, scans, etc.? You get the point.

There is no way to tell where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been. Establish criteria for success and monitor them during and after your campaign.

8. Deliver value to your customers: They are taking the time to engage with you on the most personal device they own. Make it worth their while.

9. Mobile won’t save your business: Mobile is just a piece of the puzzle. When viewed as a channel on its own, you’ll likely fail. Look at is a part of the whole and you’ll be in a position for success.

10. Look for ways to enhance offline experiences: Mobile places super nicely with other channels. In fact, mobile is one of the most dependent and complementary channels at the same time. Think about how mobile can give legs to your other programs.

Mobile offers an opportunity to take offline, once non-interactive experiences, online with a chance to extend the conversation.

11. Think mobile first: “Mobile first” is a hot topic right now around designing sites that are responsive toward a user’s device and intent. Mobile first goes beyond just your site to all of your points of engagement between you and a customer.

This is unfortunately hard for organizations that are uber-traditional. For those in that boat, I recommend asking yourself when planning any initiative, “What happens if they experience this program from their phone? What does that look like?” Figure it out and accommodate the mobile user.

If you can follow these 11 rules when adding mobile to your strategy you’ll be off to the best possible start and eliminate your odds of being featured on one of the many blogs that cover all the failures in mobile. 😉 You don’t want that to be you now, do you?

Marketers, Stop Ignoring Your Content Marketing Strategy

As I write this, I’m on the plane heading back from DMA09. While I was moderating the Search Marketing Experience Labs, one common element ran through every site review: When you ignore your SEO content marketing strategy, you’re hobbling your conversions, ignoring your customers and forfeiting your search engine rankings. Here’s why.

As I write this, I’m on the plane heading back from DMA09. While I was moderating the Search Marketing Experience Labs, one common element ran through every site review: When you ignore your SEO content marketing strategy, you’re hobbling your conversions, ignoring your customers and forfeiting your search engine rankings. Here’s why.

Seth Godin had it right when he said, “The best SEO is great content.” A well-written product page can skyrocket your conversions. A fantastic blog post can gain your company new leads and incoming links. The right Twitter tweet can gain not just followers but evangelists for your brand.

It’s really that important.

I’ve been in the SEO industry for 12 years. During that time, I’ve seen companies spend six figures on design, embrace five-figure monthly PPC costs and chase the latest “sexy” online marketing tactic.

Yet unfortunately, these same companies will ignore the foundation of their SEO and conversion success—creating customer personas, developing a keyphrase strategy, and developing useful, keyphrase-rich content that helps prospects across the buy cycle and engages customers.

Instead, the content becomes an afterthought. The one piece—heck, the only piece—of a company’s marketing strategy dedicated to engaging with customers becomes, “Isn’t SEO content supposed to be stuffed with keywords in order for me to get a high ranking?”

And that’s sad.

Think of your SEO content marketing strategy as your online salesperson, enticing your prospects to learn more and communicating with your audience. Your SEO content strategy could encompass many things, including:

  • Product/service pages.
  • Blog posts.
  • Articles, FAQs and white papers.
  • Twitter tweets.

Every word you write is a way to engage, inform and, yes, sell. But most importantly, a content marketing strategy helps you communicate with your prospects on multiple levels.

Fortunately, some companies “get it.” Forbes reported in its 2009 Ad Effectiveness Survey that SEO (and yes, that includes your content play) was the most effective online marketing tactic for generating conversions. Furthermore, Mediaweek reports in its article, “Marketing Must-Have: Original Web Editorial,” how AT&T created more than 100 how-to articles targeted to small business owners. Paul Beck, senior partner and executive director of Ogilvy Worldwide, is quoted as saying, “Having a core content strategy is the secret to engaging an audience.”

And at the end of the day, isn’t engagement what it’s all about? The company that engages, profits. The company that doesn’t—even big-brand companies that dominate the brick-and-mortar world—get left in the dust.

My monthly SEO & Content Marketing Revue posts will show examples of companies who “get it”—and what they’re doing right. I’ll share what’s worked for companies like yours, as well as what to avoid.

Most of all, I’ll share how the right SEO content strategy can gain your company the SEO and conversion “win” you may have been missing up to now.

And I’ll answer your questions (because, yes, you will have questions,) showing you how to leverage the power of strong, customer-centered content.

Stay tuned. This will be fun. Promise.