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How to Make Your Marketing Personal (But Not Creepy and Weird)

How to Make Your Marketing Personal (But Not Creepy and Weird)

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Sometimes it’s a struggle for brands to walk that fine line between personal/friendly and creepy/weird.

It’s really hard to strike the right balance when it comes to achieving a memorable tone of voice.

This is, in part, because you have access to thousands of pieces of information about your customers. You probably know who they are down to the tiniest details of their lives. With a little data research, you could potentially even find out what size shoes they wear and which type of dog food their schnauzer, Mr Scruffypants, prefers.

The customer data at your daily disposal in all likelihood ranges from general demographic trends to purchase information for their 2014 Prius.

So how do you put all of that data to good use to make sure your marketing is personal, without overstepping the mark and sounding creepy or weird?

This article will run through the key tactics and apps for you to consider, test and try.

Just remember that whatever stage you are at in your brand journey, the vast sea of data is equal parts helpful and dangerous. You’ve got to be able to swim before you experiment with depth.

Remember, customers want personalization.

It’s common knowledge that customers increasingly want personalized marketing to come their way and to build reciprocal relationships with the companies they do business with.

Look at these key findings from the 2017 Consumer Trends Report from Kibo Commerce:

  • 85% of consumers said personalized promotions on a homepage influenced their purchase decision
  • 44% said they were influenced by targeted recommendations on the product page
  • 92% said preference-based recommendations in their shopping cart influenced them before they completed their purchase
  • 55% said they were influenced by customer loyalty discounts and additional offers to complete their purchase.

Ecommerce sites constantly look for new and innovative ways to give customers a personalized experience across all digital channels. Email marketing platforms like Campaign Monitor allow businesses to collect demographic data about their subscribers, such as age, gender and geo-location. Using this data to send the right email, at the right time, to the right person, has been shown to increase email revenue by 760%.

But… do you remember the first time you ever sent an email using a keyword that later showed up in an ad on a sidebar?

It was weird, and spookily prescient, right?

While today’s consumer may have gotten used to ads based on their browser history, you can still deeply offend a customer by taking an all-knowing approach that implies you know a creepy amount of stuff about them.

So again, the big question remains, how do you provide that personal touch without making customers feel like they’re being stalked?

Here’s how to do it right.

1. Use predictive analytics

Predictive analytics can be used in lots of different ways to enhance the customer experience.

It takes data from other customers who have browsed and purchased the same item, to make suggestions about additional or alternate purchases. For example, when you order a video camera for your son for Christmas, a shopping cart suggestion might remind you to buy a memory card – something you could easily have forgotten.

In the Customer Decision Hub ebook, Pegasytems describes the process as ‘customer interaction memory’. Predictive analytics collects every bit of information available about customers, from a basic profile to preferences and moods, and uses it to deliver real-time advice to customer service staff and sales reps. Right down to when to hand off to a supervisor or another department, when to push for a sale or up-sell, and what to offer.

In other words, it gives the staff or sales rep the info they need to address each customer on a personal level, even if they have no previous rapport.

Knowing everything about your customer – and about the behavior of similar customers – is a core component to successful marketing. In the digital-first era, we’re lucky enough to have technology sophisticated enough to make that happen.

Use it to your advantage. But – and this is the all-important ‘but’ – leave the hard sell out of the question.

Suggest, don’t stress, the right option for your customers. You’re trying to personalize, not push, your offer.

2. Know your niche

It’s not enough anymore simply to sell goods and services. You need to provide solid reasons for customers to feel good about choosing your business or brand. One way to do this is to provide a niche service that’s tailored to a specific profession or customer base.

Even if your product or service is broad, you may be able to tailor your offering to speak directly to a niche segment. This is another form of personalization.

Vista College knocks niche segmentation out of the park by marketing to a slice of the population often completely overlooked: military spouses. These are people who face enormous challenges to further their education and find meaningful work while following their partners from base to base.

At its core, personalization is making the right offer to the right audience at the right time. Just remember never to patronize people as you personalize your offer. Speak directly to your niche, not down to it.

Even with all the data at your fingertips, you should never assume that you know all the answers.

3. Speak social

Companies that have learned to effectively use social data analytics have a distinct advantage on the social front.

The Brandwatch Social Outlook report examined key findings from 450 brands in 15 key industry sectors.

Measurable factors included social visibility, general visibility, net sentiment, reach growth, engagement, and content.

Take a look at the breakdown below for the automotive industry.

Does it come as a surprise to you that the top features mentioned in auto conversations are frequently about power and speed? No, because their social media marketing is tailored to their niche. They’ve learned to speak social, while remaining technical.

A key point to remember with social media personalization is that posts with photos generally get plenty of overall engagement, while videos are shared at more than twice the rate.

4. Ask customers questions

Take personalization to a whole new level by regularly conducting customer surveys.

Net Promoter Score (NPS) methodology offers a way to get measurable feedback and let the customer tell you what they want to tell you; not ask them a bunch of questions they may not be interested in answering, and that may bias their answers.

Another nice thing about the NPS application is that it allows you to keep track of different customer segments over time, plus you can gather feedback from your customer base in the medium they are most comfortable with – email, the web or SMS.

Once you receive customer feedback, the trick is to close the loop with your customers and let them know how you are incorporating their feedback. Otherwise the personalization drops out before the circle is complete – and while you may not have been creepy, the approach does seem weird.

Customizable and segmented surveys like the one on the Delighted dashboard below help give your customers a voice and make them feel valued. The answers add a new data set as well as new dimensions to your customer persona.

You’ll always be able to get a great feel for customer sentiment based on personalized responses to outbound surveys.

For painfully honest insight, try polling consumers who didn’t buy from you. Make a segmented list of people who fell out of the pipeline or abandoned their shopping cart.

See if you can identify patterns amongst this customer segment and use it to gain insight into issues within your business to improve your overall communication.

5. Use #hashtags responsibly

Using hashtags offers a great way to streamline content, but there is a definite hashtag etiquette involved.

Hashtags can be broad category keywords like #marketing or #travel, or references to a specific event or brand discussion. In essence, they put all social media posts with the same hashtags in the same conversational pigeonhole.

Joining other industry-related conversations is a great way to find new customers, join in a conversation or just snoop around a subject (or product). However, stealing a hashtag or event tagline to tout your company or product usually ends badly.

It’s poor form to boot.

An example of irresponsible hashtagging would be if you wanted to get your shoe repair business noticed and tried to gain followers by hashtagging popular shoe brands to hijack their audience.

Not only would you annoy your competitors, you’d mess up the virtual index of social media posts and irritate the customers who take the time to read your social media feeds.

Don’t use never-ending or random hashtags in a lazy attempt to personalize your business, either, like this one: #myshoebusinessisnotonlyannoyingbutsuperconfusedabouthowtousehashtagsresponsibly.

Do create your own hashtags that customers will love, but be sure to put some thought into them and use them sparingly.

Also, limit your hashtags to no more than five per post. This will make your brand look less ‘spammy’.

6. Monitor your reputation

This is particularly relevant when it comes to protecting your social media reputation.

The fact that 80% of consumers use social media to make their buying decisions should provide you with a pretty powerful incentive to give your social media reputation some thought.

What it comes down to is knowledge – not just the accumulation of data, but the ability to develop actionable insights about how and where to engage your customers, what to offer them (and when), and how to manage your online presence.

Sales-oriented personalization is more than welcome under the right circumstances – sending highly  targeted emails with a conversational tone, on-page recommendations during ecommerce transactions, and up-selling during customer service calls are all good examples.

However, social media is, by nature, social. So never lose sight of that fact, and when you set out to entice customers with photos or videos, remember to keep the tone light.

A hard sell doesn’t belong on social media.


The writing has been on the wall for a while now: traditional ‘spray and pray’ marketing is on the way out and personalization is the way forward.

SEM has surpassed traditional marketing. Old methods are far less effective than they once were… not to mention more expensive than targeted content.

In the selling market today, customers not only want personalized marketing, they expect it.

Take a look at the image below. The facts are staggering, right?

The trick to personalizing content is to make sure it is persuasive, not pushy, and provides answers that your customers are seeking. It should be an integral part of your marketing strategy, but it should constantly change and evolve along with your business.

Personalization cannot be tone-deaf or rely on data alone. That’s counter-intuitive to its very definition!

Remember to always opt for warm, not weird, next time you’re about to go personal.

Guest Author: Sherry Gray is a freelance content writer from Key West, FL, currently suffering the burbs of Orlando. She’s a science geek, a business and marketing writer, and an unapologetic fan of all things bacon. Connect with Sherry on Twitter@sherisaid or on Linkedin.

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