One of the greatest things that has come out of the digital marketing revolution has been the ability to create truly tailored communications at a relatively low cost. Contrasted with the cost of mass communications platforms that offer barely any personalisation opportunity, digital channels allow for individualised and highly relevant messages that can be much more effective.
Poorly targeted communications are not only much less effective, but can be extremely irritating for the recipients. But how much personalisation is the right amount of personalisation? It can be difficult to gauge where helpfulness crosses the line into invasion of privacy, and that has been known to scare marketers off.
Levels of personalisation
There are different levels of personalisation – the most basic is simply using a personal greeting in your messages, and even this very basic technique is better than the alternative. I’ve received letters from my bank in the past addressing me as “Dear Customer”. The bank has more of my personal information than any other company, and they couldn’t stretch to a “Mr Palgrave-Jones”. It makes for a poor customer experience – certainly a far cry from the days when people had a personal relationship with their bank manager.
It’s not difficult to add these details into your communications – merge fields have been around for quite some time, and it isn’t hard to find out the first names of your customers. Whether the medium is direct mail, SMS or email, this simple level of personalisation can get you going in the right direction. For example in Textlocal’s SMS platform Messenger, users can add in a range of custom fields to personalise their messages, as well as anything else they create in the platform, like tickets or surveys – giving communications a more personal touch.
The next level of personalisation is segmented, or mass-customised, where you send different messages to different consumer groups. I’m not especially likely to respond to a communication inviting me to join an all-female gym, and a simple bit of segmentation could save a wasted message. This is quite low-level segmentation, but over time you can gather more information about your customers and their buying habits and develop more sophisticated targeting.
The ultimate in personalisation is of course one-to-one communication, where each message is unique to the individual. This is the sort of communication you might expect from a small local business that you visit regularly, but thanks to advanced analytics technology and ‘big data’, it’s accessible to businesses of any size, with the right budget.
Do your customers want personalisation?
As I mentioned before, it can be difficult to identify how much personalisation is too much – and no-one wants their marketing to be creepy. Research suggests that personalisation is one of the minimum expectations of customers in return for handing over their personal information – along with the expected discounts and freebies (Source: Journal of Marketing Communications). Like with my bank – you know my name, use it!
The channel you use will also affect the level of personalisation that a customer expects – obviously radio, TV and other mass media is mostly exempt from this expectation (although oddly, 18% of people surveyed expected radio adverts to know some information about them), but where more modern digital channels like mobile and email are concerned, people expect you to know who they are when you’re talking to them.
Industry sector plays a part too – the more that knowledge of your customers could benefit them, the more likely they are to want you to use it, which is why industries like health, education, tourism and telecoms have been using personalisation for years. It also explains why so many of our customers are in these industries!
If you’re still using identical, mass communications, then it’s time to clean up your act and make the most of what personalisation can bring to you. Even if you’re only starting at the most basic level and just mail merging names into your text messages, then you’re still ahead of where you were before. You’d be surprised at the difference it can make.