Personalization Framework

In the age of constant bombardment with marketing messages, staying relevant to prospects and customers is not just good practice in the manual; it is a matter of survival.

personalizationIn the age of constant bombardment with marketing messages, staying relevant to prospects and customers is not just good practice in the manual; it is a matter of survival.

Recipients of marketing messages are more immune to generic offers than ever, and a relentless series of emails and we-will-follow-you-to-the-end-of-your-journey attitude literally trained them to ignore anything that even resembles commercial messages.

You want to stand out in this world of omnichannel marketing? Try to stand out by making it about “them,” not about “you.”

Personalization

Personalization is not just another buzzword that came after the Big Data hype. It actually is something that marketers must care about.

According to Gartner Research, “By 2018, organizations that have fully invested in all types of online personalization will outsell companies that have not by more than 30 percent.”

I am not sure how they boldly put such a numeric prediction out. But in this case, I honestly think that the gap could end up being even larger, because the winners in this zero-sum game are moving at light-speed, while others still stubbornly carry that “If you keep reaching out to them, they will respond” attitude.

Being Clueless

I’ve actually met marketers who asked me how many more emails they should send out each week to compensate for an increasing number of non-responders.

They actually asked me if they can poke their customer base even more frequently. (They were sending uniform messages to everyone more than six times a week.) That means they had been diligently training the customers to ignore their emails.

I bluntly told them they just can’t mail their way out of that trouble. They should think about contacting their targets less frequently, and staying relevant as much as possible.

Do Unto Others

It is not difficult to sell the concept of personalization to marketers. They, too, are recipients of irrelevant marketing messages, and I bet that they mercilessly purge them out of their personal inboxes on a daily basis.

Surely, there are enough conference tracks, webinars, whitepapers and articles about this subject. But how are they supposed go about it? Do we even agree what that word means? (Refer to “What Does Personalization Mean to You?”)

Based on all of the client meetings that I’ve been to, the answer unfortunately is a hard “no.” And that conclusion was not solely drawn from some rudimentary practices being conducted by many marketers in the name of personalization, either. Because of available data and in different stages of customer relationship development, we do need to differentiate various types of activities under that all-inclusive personalization banner.

We Can Get There From Here

There are many personalization frameworks out there, listing various endeavors, such as collaborative filtering (as in “if you bought that item, you must be interested in these products as well”). Then there’s customer segmentation, and personas development based on predictive modeling techniques, usually in that sequence. If you add technical elements in terms of ability to show different things to different people, multiplied by content generation and content management pieces, things get complicated quite fast.

In any case, I do not agree with such sequential framework, as that is like saying the patient cannot be admitted to the operating room unless the doctor’s exhausted all of the simpler forms of treatments. Needless to say, some patients need surgery right away.

Likewise, when it comes to maximizing the value of data assets for personalization, marketers should not avoid predictive modeling by habit, just because it sounds complicated. That shouldn’t be the way in this age. If you want to be sophisticated about personalization, you’ve got to get serious about analytics without resorting back to simper, often ready-made, options. Unless of course, you as a consumer think that seeing offers for similar (or the same) products that you’ve just purchased for next couple of months is an acceptable form of personalization. (I don’t.)

Nuts and Bolts

Then, what should be the not-so-sequential data framework for personalization? Allow me to introduce one based on activity type and data availability, as no marketer can be free from data scarcity issues at different stages of customer relationship development.

Colleges and Universities: We Need More Focus on Marketing Metrics

First a brag: My Temple University advertising students won the Gold Collegiate ECHO — earning First Place out of 200 teams from over 30 colleges and universities. The challenge was to increase referrals for DirecTV among the existing subscriber base.

First a brag: My Temple University advertising students won the Gold Collegiate ECHO — earning First Place out of 200 teams from over 30 colleges and universities. The challenge was to increase referrals for DirecTV among the existing subscriber base.

The most telling comments from DirecTV on the winning entry:

  • “… clear understanding of the way campaigns should be analyzed, from not only response rates but offer costs and CPAs”
  • “One of the few undergrad teams with strong principles of Direct Response Marketing”

Today’s advertising and marketing students are digital natives. And while they intuitively understand digital marketing, and are even schooled in its mechanics, most don’t understand the basic metrics of acquisition cost and lifetime customer value, the key components of ROI. The Internet is a direct response medium — consumers buy things there. And with increasing proportions of marketing budgets being spent online, it’s important that colleges and universities prepare students to understand how to optimize online marketing.

According to a 2014 Gartner survey, “Digital marketing spending averaged one-quarter of the marketing budget in 2014.” Survey respondents were 315 individuals located in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. who represent organizations with more than $500 million in annual revenue across six industries: financial services, high-tech, manufacturing, media, retail and transportation, and hospitality. The survey found that “of the 51 percent of companies who plan to increase their digital marketing budget in 2015, the average increase will be 17 percent.”

But most undergraduate advertising programs focus more on traditional awareness advertising rather than response-driven advertising and the metrics that make it work. As a result, advertising students graduate without a knowledge of the key tools that will help them succeed in the in the digital marketing world.

The most gratifying part of participating in the Collegiate ECHO competition for me was seeing the students embrace direct marketing principles, like test design and acquisition cost: concepts that aren’t normally covered in traditional advertising programs. That’s one of the great things about the Collegiate ECHO competition; it provides the opportunity for students to learn these principles and apply them to a real client. By sponsoring this competition, MarketingEDGE is helping to promote education in the basic principles of direct, digital and relationship marketing — principles that will prepare students for success.

Finally, a shout-out to the winning Temple team: Bridget Doyle, Tatiana Drye, Kaitlin O’Connell and Kia Street. It was an honor for me to work with such a talented group of students. They earned the Gold with their dedication, hard work and persistence.