Most marketers will tell you the same thing; personalization is vital for a successful marketing campaign. But can personalization be taken too far?
While buyer-centric strategies are commonplace in today’s marketing arena, creating hyper-specific campaigns can actually sabotage your results. In fact, if you focus too much on personalization, you may end up alienating a large portion of your audience. When it comes to the perfect approach, you’re looking for the Goldilocks principle; personalized enough to create relevance, but generic enough to be scalable. In this blog post, we’ll review the strengths and weaknesses of your personalization strategy and how to find the right balance.
Let’s look more deeply at personalization, its strengths and weaknesses, and why you need to find the right balance.
What’s Good About Personalization
The common wisdom about personalization is that it lets businesses target customers with precision. With personalized ads and campaigns:
- You can target prospects in the appropriate demographic. Whether you’re targeting businesses that utilize a certain marketing tool or all CEOs of SMBs in the state, you can narrow in on the parameters that are important to you. Creating specific buyer personas helps you to personalize at scale.
- Retargeted ads remind customers of products they’ve viewed. The benefit from the company’s point of view is that the audience is already motivated to make a purchase or at least to explore their options. Retargeted ads keep your product and company top of mind.
- You can help the customer feel acknowledged. For example, email software makes it easy to address subscribers by name. People generally prefer their names to generic titles such as “friend,” “opportunity seeker,” or “customer.” Based on the prospect’s actions, you can continue to personalize your campaigns by referencing content they’ve viewed or products they’ve explored.
When Personalization Impacts Your Bottom Line
With advances in technology, we’re quickly getting to the point where the problem isn’t a lack of personalization but taking the idea too far. From distasteful specificity to the inability to scale, too much personalization can sabotage your marketing efforts.
Invasion of Privacy
One of the benefits of personalization, as noted above, is that customers feel acknowledged. However, if you take this too far, they may feel like you’re stalking them. When the movie Minority Report came out in 2002, one of the memorable features was ads that recognized people in public and followed them around. At the time, it was a farfetched idea. It wasn’t long, however, that retargeting and other developments made it close to reality. As the Los Angeles Times reports, there are already billboards that can track people.
For many people, the common experience of having Amazon products and other ads follow you from one website to another can be disconcerting. Just as importantly, these tactics can backfire if customers feel that their privacy is being violated. A study shared by Harvard Business Review revealed that purchases dropped by 24% when customers felt that their information was gathered in an unacceptable manner. Personalization, beyond a certain point, can feel creepy.
Costs and Liabilities for Businesses
If customers feel that you’re not respecting their privacy, it can affect your bottom line. However, there are additional concerns to creating highly personalized campaigns. For one thing, it will increase the cost of your advertising campaigns. The more precise your targeting, the more you’ll pay for ads. If you experiment with retargeting or remarketing, make sure you’re calculating your ROI.
There’s also the issue of scalability. If you have a very specific buyer persona, you run the risk of creating limitations in your campaign. For example, suppose you’ve created a buyer persona such as, “Mike, a married 38-year-old middle manager who lives in the suburbs, drives a 2-year-old Prius, and plays golf.” If this profile informs your content marketing and advertising, you may be unwittingly sending out messages that don’t apply to many potential customers.
One of the often-stated advantages of inbound marketing is that it’s highly targeted compared to traditional, outbound methods such as TV commercials, print ads, and billboards. However, extreme personalization can take targeting too far, as you can overlook and alienate potential customers.
How to Find the Right Balance
If some personalization is helpful, but it gets intrusive or even creepy when taken to an extreme, how do you find the happy medium?
Market to Personas, Not Individuals
If we take the idea of personalization too literally, it’s easy to forget that marketing is aimed at target demographics rather than individuals. A sales representative who is dealing with prospects one-on-one does need to use a personalized approach, especially with high-ticket items such as real estate, automobiles, or premium software. Marketing, however, is targeting a large audience to sell products or to generate leads.
When you create a buyer persona, for example, you have to remember that this is a representation of your customers and captures their most important similarities, i.e. their job function, industry, etc. What makes a buyer persona so useful is that it describes a category of people while leaving enough space to account for the inherent differences within your market. If you focus too much on the minute details (like Mike’s Pruis), you’ll lose some of your audience along the way.
Personalization Techniques That Work
While you don’t want to overdo your personalization efforts, you also don’t want to dismiss them entirely. Here are a few strategies to incorporate a balanced approach to personalization.
- Create multiple buyer personas. If you have many products and services, your customers most likely fall into more than one category. By creating distinct profiles for each, you can avoid sending irrelevant messages.
- Keep buyer personas timely and relevant. Measure your analytics against your buyer personas and make adjustments as needed. Your customers may change over time. You also don’t want to make assumptions about customers that aren’t backed by your own research and experience. Rely on testing to refine your approach.
- Segment your marketing. Create segmented email lists for different types of customers. You can segment based on interests, buying behavior, location, and other demographics. Similarly, you can build web pages, blog posts, and other marketing content for different groups.
Avoid Stepping Over the Line
To avoid taking personalization too far, be aware of when your efforts may be counterproductive.
- Listening to your customers is essential. Polls and surveys help you track their opinions.
- Track online reviews. Pay close attention to any complaints about your marketing tactics.
- Be wary of the data you collect and how you use it. Aim for transparency when connecting with your audience.
- If you use retargeting or remarketing, don’t overdo it by showing people the same ad over and over again. Additionally, make sure you set up your campaigns so that you don’t keep showing ads to customers who have already converted.
Personalize With Awareness
When used properly, personalization helps you engage with customers and prospects. There’s no magic formula for determining how personal you should get with your campaigns. As you learn more about your audience and test your results, you’ll get better at connecting with prospects without annoying them. To learn more about personalization, click here.