Targeting Engagement, Establishing Trust, and Building Loyalty
The cynic in us recognizes that we are living in the era of “it’s only about me.” The pragmatist in us also recognizes that as a brand and an organization, if you don’t cater to this mentality, you are likely to become irrelevant. The tools available to us to personalize our communications, offerings and services to our various stakeholders makes it impossible to conduct business as usual with legacy tactics. Simply said, to make yourself relevant, you have to be relevant. One-size-fits-all is passé, and with data at your fingertips, you can make yourself matter to each individual. Think about it: Psychologically, people respond more positively if they engage with your brand and organization in a one-on-one relevant way. The ultimate goal is high-level engagement, establishing trust and building loyalty.
The New Moniker of B2I (Business to Individual)
As the subscription economy grows, more and more organizations are representing themselves as Business to Individual. The moniker recognizes the “it’s only about me” era and the need to deliver highly personalized and relevant experiences. The concept isn’t radically new, but it has been updated by the likes of Netflix’s recommendation engine, Amazon’s suggestions, and Spotify’s recommended playlists. Most if not all new subscription-based streaming services suggest “you might like” choices based on prior behaviors and content consumption.
The subscription economy targeted to “subscriber, members of, community” and the like continues to grow with the recognition that recurring revenue via retained customers is the new bellwether in maintaining and growing revenue and decreasing expenses.
We all recognize new customer acquisition is expensive and often the return never reaches the outlaid expense. Therefore, locking up those that have subscribed to the organization for the long-term is fruitful if an organization recognizes the impetus to curate, manage and be of value delivering a relationship with a member, subscriber, community participant or the like.
Personalization to maintain and grow relevant delivery and build strong engagement leads to establishing a trust relationship that then ingrains deep loyalty to an organization, its brand and its offerings. Remember, word of mouth in our local channels as well as across digital channels remains the greatest source of new members, customers and subscribers.
What Is Personalization?
Personalization and B2I are not just popular marketing trends, both represent a customized user experience, tailored to the individual. And it is the future business model for high-performance organizations who want to remain relevant and grow. Personalization, or customization, will build relationships with your customers and drive loyalty. It is all predicated on trust establishing that an organization has and will continue to produce and deliver value — a bond that takes authenticity to build and is a promise you cannot break.
Personalization delivers a user experience that correlates to a person’s unique interests through relevant content or offers. A study by Accenture found that 56% of consumers are more likely to use a retailer or service if they are given a personalized experience. And the blunt truth is that if they are not engaged through a high level of customized engagement, they are likely to leave you and find it somewhere else.
Also, HubSpot found that personalized calls-to-action results in a 42% higher conversion rate than calls-to-action that are the same for everyone. Customization can lead to a 152% higher open rate compared with other types of email marketing, according to Kissmetrics; Personalization, when done intelligently, can be a lifeline for members, subscribers, customers and clients.
There’s really no excuse not to serve stakeholders with products, content and services that are customized for them.
Negative cases in point:
- Being solicited to subscribe to content behind an online paywall when you are already a subscriber.
- Being asked to respond to a (long) survey that is not your area of expertise.
- Reminders to register for an event when you already have registered.
- Invitations to broadcasts that are irrelevant to your profession.
- Pitch for products and services that are not aligned with your interests.
- Content that is off-topic to your professional expertise.
Spray and Pray
Each and every one of us has been subject to one or more of the above practices. The old marketing concept of “spray and pray,” which many organizations still practice, is to send out the same message to everyone and offer the entire universe (current and prospective customers) the same thing — then sit back and pray that a small percentage will convert in some way or another. In this day with digital tools at our disposal, this seems archaic at best.
The spray and pray practice of email marketing grew out of the early direct mail days. Direct mail has evolved and only the “medium” has changed. What has not evolved in many ways is the practice of taking a shot in the dark and hoping a target gets “hit.”
Those that still practice spray and pray are overlooking a radical change in the consumer marketplace. Email is easy to send and there are many organizations that send a lot of emails. Any individual is now getting a growing number of daily emails, most being irrelevant to their needs and wants (personally or professionally).
Organizations that leverage data, engage their audiences and deliver relevant messages and offerings can easily set themselves apart. They are also viewed more positively by an individual given the high level of digital “noise” being generated and sent by others.
Measuring Personalization, Engagement and Delivery of Relevant Value
Behavioral data unlocks the ability to create customized experiences. The metrics you measure should focus on engagement. We have written often about the connection to successful engagement and personalization as based on both explicit and implicit attribute data. Please explore 2040’s article section of the website.
- Explicit data is data that a current or prospective customer share with you via forms, surveys, applications, registrations and the like. The data can be demographic in nature and also offer an opportunity to collect “interests” that can be used to customize personal communications on the subject matter of interest.
- Implicit data is data that is generated by the individual via interaction, actions, systems and the like which can demonstrate and inform beyond explicit data. An individual’s activity can then be correlated to available information or services.
Implicit data often becomes more important for delivering a personalized experience as contrasted to explicit data, which can be subjective based on the individual’s interpretation of a question and their willingness to share. Implicit can often be viewed as objective; explicit as subjective. Cautionary note: Individuals often say one thing and do another (explicit may not be a silver bullet). Assessing and taking action on the “doing” (implicit) can lead to great results.
Explicit data can be aligned to be more objective and less subjective if an organization asks stakeholders the right questions. Not asking the right questions in the right ways will result (at least for those that responded) in grouping current and prospective customers into segments and buckets that probably don’t apply — but rather seem to make sense to an organization’s internal perspective. We all know the saying about “assumptions” … so, we won’t remind you here.
Surveys and similar collection methods are often structured with an organization’s institutional filters and knowledge and then applied as overly structured on top of what individual respondents say. In short, the temptation is to construct the questions in such a way that the only result you may receive is a confirmation of your own perceptions. And that is not necessarily the right guidance to make informed decisions. Critical thinking is important for stepping back and assessing an organization’s system and value by looking in from the outside. It’s about thinking and seeing what the customer sees objectively, instead of what you want to see or how you want your “customers” to answer.
The Folly of Persona Development
The development of Personas is an important part of the path towards personalization, increased engagement, establishing trust, and creating loyalty. That said, we often find that organizations attempt to overgeneralize the segments that they serve or seek to serve into 4, 5 or 6 personas. Why?
Fewer personas seem easier to manage internally, make it easier to place customers in big buckets, reduce the work involved, and reduce perceived complexity. The decision-making and resulting behavior to overly generalize neglects many of the regional, social, economic, professional and personal nuances, interests, needs and wants that individuals have and how they connect those very individual factors to a relationship with an organization.
Overgeneralization of personas also leads to a similar outcome of spray and pray. Only a small percentage of a persona grouping may find a message relevant as it is represented. A message, webpage or the like that doesn’t speak directly or address individual nuances, interests, needs or wants so, is viewed as irrelevant. The downstream and subconscious result is that the individual recipient may internalize the message, webpage or the like as representative of the organization not knowing “who I am.”
Perhaps in the overall numbers game of revenue, an individual and the recognition that the organization doesn’t know them isn’t all that important. But multiply that individual by 10, 20, 100 or 1000 and the group that has that impression and recognition is much larger and the impact all the greater. Remember, word of mouth remains king in bringing in new customers. By being irrelevant to serving those you already have, you are limiting your growth.
Of course, an organization needs to stay in its lane, so to speak, and not offer things it doesn’t have, not represent things outside of its area of focus and expertise or attempt to fill needs and wants it simply cannot. But it can know its individual customers better and more distinctly match those individuals to the information and services that it provides in more relevant and highly contextual ways.
Three Key Areas of Personalization
At 2040, we work with our clients to help them master customization to make their brands indispensable to their customers. We’ve identified three key areas where personalization is critical to the success of a long-term relationship.
Imagine that you have just plunked down $299 for an annual business subscription, and you are welcomed with a personalized onboarding experience that shares with you in detail the value of what you now have available, offers support and assistance in how to use and apply what you now have and continually raises awareness of what else you may not be using. Most brands hit the activation switch without any meaningful, personal outreach and the individual never fully understands or knows the full value of the subscription, membership or the like.
Here’s an innovative onboarding playbook:
- Send an authentic, personal communication from the CEO detailing the benefits of a membership or subscription, offering a welcome and demonstrating the brand value that will be delivered. Also use the message to set expectations of the coming onboarding communications outlining what services, information or the like will be offered.
- Implement an automation-based onboarding communication series that is released in intervals and is based on implicit behavioral data, continuing through the first year of a membership or subscription. Most organizations lose members and subscribers within the first year of a relationship or at the end of the first year.
- Monitor, collect and measure the implicit data that is generated by the individual to assess engagement, participation and use across services, information and offerings.
- Ensure that your initial communications are relevant to each individual’s title, company and professional interests.
• Marketing Communications
It has been widely accepted that we have more in common with people who read the same content/media we do that we do with our next-door neighbors. Zip code, geo-location marketing, if it is overgeneralized can be less effective than appealing to an individual’s values, attitudes and lifestyles. Sure, this requires more analysis, but the payoff can be invaluable. Look at your stakeholders holistically to identify key touchpoints to customize each individual’s profile. Then use these touchpoints to create personalized experiences to make your brand relevant.
- What stage are they in their careers?
- What stage of life are they in?
- What are their special interests?
- Which of your communications have they opened and actually read (not skimmed)?
- What parts of your website or app have they interacted with?
- What content are they routinely consuming?
- What content are they searching for and are you representing content relevant to what is searched for? Or are their needs going unmet?
- What products and services have they purchased from you?
- How many events, virtual and otherwise, have they attended?
- How quickly do they renew/resubscribe?
People will engage with you based on their individual professional and personal needs and interests and what they believe you offer. Remember, what we don’t know, doesn’t hurt us. But let’s rephrase that idea in terms of a member or subscriber relationship: what they don’t know hurts the organization, and the result may be failure to resubscribe, low or no engagement, and in the end, poor word of mouth marketing to others with similar needs and interests.
Although personalization with the goal of increasing engagement, earning trust and solidifying loyalty isn’t easy, it’s worth it in lowering your expenses as you deliver more and more value and retain those that have made the decision to join or subscribe. You are increasing positive word of mouth and acquiring new customers more cost-effectively.
At 2040 we are known for our expertise in helping clients develop their own playbooks for mastering the art of personalization. It may be daunting at first, but once you design a database with comprehensive behavioral and preferential information about individual stakeholders, you can then develop marketing communications strategies to appeal to the individual, not the membership at large. Much of this can be automated by combining intuitive art with the science of personalization. Contact us today to kick start your strategy and journey to personalization.
Get in touch with us!
2040 helps organizations navigate the sea changes of finding their new normal. We offer actionable expertise in the strategy and operations of digital growth and engagement, empowering an empathetic workplace culture, strengthening your value proposition and driving revenues. We’ve been in your shoes and we know what impedes transformation … and what unlocks it.
Onward and upward from the 2040 Team