Why Marketers Need to Get Personal

As economies go global and the internet competes with Main Street, consumers increasingly demand to be recognized as individuals with unique needs and tastes. That’s why it’s imperative to get personal.

In past columns I’ve referred to millennials as the Starbuck’s Generation. What I mean is they have an almost inherent desire to have their world personalized for them. When job-hunting, for instance, it’s important that the job perfectly fits their specific criteria, just like their grande, long shot, extra hot, soy Americano Misto.

Marketing has always been about finding new tools or ways to excite people to buy what we have to sell and personalization is becoming an increasingly important tool. We’re all starting to expect an increased level of personalization with the retail world, whether online or in person.

Getting Personal Online
I’m an avid reader and probably buy 90 per cent of my books online. That never used to be the case. At one time, wandering around bookshops was pure joy, but these days Chapters Indigo online has dialed in to what I like to read. I regularly receive emails from them about books that seem specially selected for me. Because of this, I now buy more books than I used to, almost all online. Do I feel a little guilty about not supporting my local bookstore? Sure, but I’m a busy person and having someone ‘select’ books for me so accurately has won me over.

The thing is, the local bookstore could also do the same if it developed a marketing strategy that personalized its product and service to me. The ability of online stores to personalize their offerings by monitoring our buying habits and encouraging us to engage with them by telling them our likes and dislikes gives them an edge a big edge. Personalization is a powerful purchasing motivator, one that both online sellers and direct-to-consumer sellers would be well advised to consider as an important marketing stratagem.

None of this strays far from the basics of traditional selling. I’ve taught sales and marketing to thousands of small business owners and have always held the most effective way to sell is to only sell to people who want and need what you’re selling. The quicker we match potential buyers to products or services that accurately suit their needs, the quicker we get a sale. In today’s online, social-media-crazy environment, we can nurture leads and prospects by tuning into potential customers’ likes, dislikes, needs and other important factors quicker than ever before. Once we have this information, we can tailor what we sell to our customers’ every desire.

Putting a Name to It
It’s not difficult to find examples of successful personalization campaigns. Coca-Cola’s Share a Coke campaign was a big hit in 2013/2014. It was such a hit, in fact, that the campaign is back for the summer of 2015. The iconic brand will once again substitute its logo on each of its Coca-Cola, Diet Coke and Coke Zero bottles with over a thousand of Canada’s most popular names. For those who can’t find their names or enough of a particular name consumers can customize their own mini-cans during the 100-day, cross-Canada Share a Coke Tour.

The idea is that people will share their Coke with people who matter most to them. It was one of the company’s most successful marketing campaigns, with 150 million personalized bottles sold. People warmed to the idea quickly and shared more than their Coke they also shared stories, selfies and special moments. In terms of social media, the results were astounding: 998 million impressions on Twitter and 235,000 Tweets! Coca-Cola took a global brand and made it personal. That’s a powerful thing and something any company can emulate no matter if it’s a global leader or a corner store.

Personalization Services
Book publishing also became more personalized with the advent of print-on-demand. The idea that you could take something you’d written and self-publish it as a quality bound book, just like those in bookstores, was groundbreaking.

Wibbitz is a company that is capitalizing on the trend for personalization and consumers’ desire to customize their daily experience by offering text-to-video technology that creates videos out of your favourite stories in seconds.

Given the popularity of services like Feedly, which sends you reading material based on your interests, and Flipboard, a service which takes your content and turns it into a magazine, expect to see more services offering personalization.

Prospective buyers will relate to your brand in a more personal way, and at a more emotional level, if you can relate to them one on one. Think about a typical email approach. What works best? An email with no salutation or one that opens addressed to you personally? You guessed it. The personalized one.

Of course, having software input the name of the recipient in a mass mail-out (beware of the new Canadian anti-spam laws, by the way) is not enough; you have to build a personal relationship with the prospect. I delete several dozen emails a day because they don’t relate to me. I do, however, read the ones I get from dig.com because they are personalized for me; they have stories I am interested in. I also open those emails from my online book supplier because I don’t want to miss the new John Irving novel when it’s announced!

Beyond One Size Fits All
So no matter how hard we try to make marketing one-size-fits-all, that approach is simply no longer effective for today’s sophisticated consumer.

Yes, the social media age, along with new technology, is allowing us to market en masse, but building a relationship with individuals in your potential market is vital because you need to learn what they are interested in, on an intimate level. You need to know about their preferences, what makes them tick, what gets them excited and emotionally involved.

Essentially, you are looking for them to buy into your brand. It’s all about identity theirs.