The following article is a guest post by Mike Dorrington, Valassis National Sales Director, Shared Mail Innovation.

“Norm!” …If you were a fan of the late ‘80s, early ‘90s TV show “Cheers,” then you remember the greeting that Boston’s most famous watering hole gave its most loyal customer. If you don’t remember that show, I am sure that you can relate to the overwhelming feeling of having someone happily call out your name when you enter a room. It is the best form of recognition. The feeling that everyone knows your name is one that always invokes positive emotions and state of mind. As marketers strive to improve their response, grow loyalty, and charter new territory, one of the easiest ways that they can do that is to personalize their messaging and content.

Big data is all the rage in the marketing world, and that has led to content personalization discussions from different media channels. The amount of customization and how it is used conjures up a lot of emotion, but today, I am going to focus on the power of 1:1 marketing.

The goal for any effective marketing campaign that is going to utilize personalization is to make sure the campaign is not a “one off” – it should evolve with time and be open-ended. Personalization should be a two-way relationship between a business and each of its customers AND prospects. Yes, I said prospects. If you don’t think that prospects care about relevant content then you are kidding yourself.

Why make the transition to this fully personalized and integrated experience? Because, consumers and prospects are coming to expect and demand a “relationship” to make them purchase, plus it generates higher sales and profits for the marketer. These types of ongoing campaigns are becoming “routine” for current customers. This routine is proving out the benefits of relevant content, so marketers need to challenge themselves to apply the same creativity toward their prospecting efforts. Every mass prospecting effort should also have a test set that personalizes to prospects as a marketing rule.

OK, so have I convinced you to execute a personalized marketing campaign? What else is needed to help you decide to make personalization part of your marketing plan? 

  • “Think less about the name and more about how to use it.”– Consumers have grown to expect getting the answers, content, and offers they seek instantly from their offline media, tablet, smartphone, and computer – not just generic information, but specific tailored content. Plugging in a person’s name in an email salutation isn’t enough.Using a person’s name in creative and eye-catching ways can make the response “pop.” I have experienced this firsthand. I have seen some variable printed direct mail pieces that experienced response rate increases north of 500 percent over non-personalized solo mail. These results happened for an agency that challenged a carpet cleaning marketer to boldly place the consumers’ name spelled out in a spill on the carpet.  It worked perfectly.
  • Address Content Outside the Name – Customizing content across all channels based on the person’s lifestyle, demographics and position in the path to purchase is a critical consideration. It is important that the images, messaging, names, and offers match the data to accelerate the buyer’s journey and delight the consumer.
  • “The Data, The Data, The Data” – Companies can better know their customers and act on that information through effective personalization and segmentation. There are millions of data companies. Focus on the ones that are reputable and are working with both online AND offline information. You need to know the difference between interesting data and useful data. Useful data is actionable and can be acted on by the marketer. There should be a heavy emphasis on high-impact segments. In other words, “fish where the fish are biting.” Finally, review your data and your data sources frequently. Data can’t wait and good customer information has a shelf life.
  • Collection Mindset – For personalization to be the foundation of a strategy, marketers must move beyond “campaign-based mindsets” and think in terms of a customer’s total lifespan with their brands. This way of thinking will guide data collection strategies. It is very important to determine what you collect, why you are collecting it and what you are going to do with it.
  • Align Marketing Objectives with Strategy – According to the Realities of Online PersonalizationReport1, 94 percent of marketers believe online personalization is critical to future success and they are seeing good results from it, but three in four say they don’t know how to do it. Pick a partner that understands online and offline media. By laying out your marketing objectives and strategy, any organization that is strong with data collection and execution can organize how to get it done. Once the strategy is sound, the segments are determined and the response goals are in place, the rest is really “read and react.”
  • Measure, Measure and Adjust – It has been mentioned several times so I don’t want to keep repeating myself but as the old saying goes, “what is measured, gets done,” and this applies to our new, ongoing “personalized” relationships. It is important to measure the key objectives, learning as you go and continuing until you get your desired results. Consumers are not going to stop demanding or wanting personalized experiences. Relevant content is not going away so keep going until you find the right formula and cadence. You will get there faster if you capture and act on the relevant measurements.

As a consumer, I welcome the day when the brands I frequent welcome me with completely personalized, relevant content that I find useful. I am also excited about new and emerging companies that are willing to go the extra mile to find out about my background, interests and lifestyle to attract me to their products and services. For marketers and marketing services companies, it is time to find a place where everybody knows your name.

Source:  1Realities of Online Personalization Report published by Econsultancy in association with Monetate, April 2013

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Results-oriented, Mike Dorrington brings more than 15 years of sales expertise to his role in Shared Mail Innovation. He has developed, tested, marketed, and sold new products with a keen eye on meeting advertisers’ needs. Client-focused, Dorrington has worked with a wide variety of large clients and agencies across diverse verticals such as grocery retailers, quick-service restaurants, home services, telecommunications, automotive, and entertainment. His industry experience spans the marketing services, manufacturing, and automotive industries. He is a member of the National Sales Network.