For Sales, Personalization is More Essential Than Ever
As a salesperson, I wouldn’t present – or even speak – to a potential customer without knowing something about them. Where is their business located? What do they do? What are their goals and objectives? How long have they worked there? Are there any common interests?
Retail organizations may not be making direct presentations to sell their products and services to customers, but they are making digital ones, and are under increasing pressure to personalize their offers to customers’ unique wants and needs.
And when it comes to personalization, the bar keeps getting higher. You’ve probably seen or shared one of those personalized Facebook videos, such as a highlight reel for your year or a friendship anniversary. And you’ve probably noticed that, while these videos are interesting at first, the novelty quickly diminishes. People get used to and eventually disengage from them.
One reason for this is that over the past decade we’ve been deluged with display advertising everywhere we visit online – the majority of it annoying and irrelevant. In fact, most of us have developed “banner blindness” and don’t even see these ads while online. It’s becoming clearer that organizations need to do a better job of targeting their advertising and communications to customers, or risk getting lost in the digital chaos.
The one size fits all, or one to many, approach may work some of the time, but is clearly not the future. According to this survey, organizations that use personalization in their sales and marketing see benefits like a 55% increase in visitor engagement, a 51% increase in conversion rates and an increase in customer acquisition of 46%. Fortunately, we’ve seen an explosion in technology that can combine and report on data from different sources (like social media, ERP and other core systems, third party, and transactional sales data) to create a richer, more holistic view of customers.
Why then don’t more companies use the data they have on their customers to truly personalize their interactions, beyond putting my first name on the emails they send? I’m always surprised by how little effort the banks and credit unions I do business with make in trying to create a valuable and lasting relationship. They have enormous amounts of data on me, including home information, income level, credit rating, and spending habits. And, yet the emails and offers they promote are 90-95% irrelevant.
One reason is that it can be difficult to connect and activate the data stored in their core data systems with their CRM. For smaller banks, those core systems may still be housed on mainframe computers, making it difficult to integrate with other data streams. One technology that has become prevalent recently is the Customer Data Platform (CDP). However, CDPs introduce further challenges, including integration and resource requirements, to enable intelligent campaigns.
Another reason is that businesses know a lot about customers, but they don’t know it all. Consumers are more complex, and a digital profile does not tell the whole story – yet. You can take educated guesses, for example, what a millennial will want versus a boomer, but the downside is that now the stakes are higher. If you get it wrong, you will irritate customers – or worse. Author Cory Doctorow recently tweeted about an acquaintance whose family endured the pain of a stillbirth, and for the next few years continued to receive marketing aimed at that lost child.
Are brands following up to ensure prospects are interested in the offers and promotions being presented? My advice is to mine the data better, or simply ask. Social media technologies occasionally prompt me with an ask of whether or not the information in my feeds is relevant. In this way, gathering more data points leads to fuller personalization – but also removes any friction points from irrelevant, irritating promotions.
Let me pose this thought as well: If your financial institution was able to mine your spending habits and knew you spent a certain amount eating at certain restaurants or shopping with a specific merchant, wouldn’t it be great if they provided you a discount or rebate to use your branded debit or credit card at these establishments? To take it a step further, wouldn’t it be even better if these establishments were business customers of the institution as well? The consumer gets a discount on a typical spend, the merchant gets more business, and wait for it…the financial institution generates more revenue in interchange fees. That is true delivery of customer value from personalization.
My advice to sales and marketing professionals is to remember that one size does not fit all. Personalization is only becoming more granular, and if you don’t invest the time and effort into creating value for customers, it will become increasingly difficult to be successful. And it’s important to remember that as customer expectations continue to shift, you need to be able to ask about relevance and adjust accordingly. If you don’t, you risk alienating (and losing) them and their goodwill.
Originally published on the Forbes Business Development Council.
DataOceans delivers better experiences that increase customer engagement and loyalty with an end to end customer engagement management solution that creates, delivers and measures personalized communications across channels.