Personalization isn’t easy but it isn’t impossible

Personalization, everyone talks about it, but how many actually put it into practice?  As a marketer and consumer, I have seen different levels of personalization.  With colleagues we’re always exchanging ideas on best practice, while as a consumer I get email after email or message after message that is slightly personalized sometimes, but seriously not personalized at all.

When we say personalization, the word says it all; but interestingly enough there is more than one definition and two of them particularly stand out for their differences.

  • has as the first definition of personalization: To render personal rather than impersonal or purely professional.
  • has: is a means of meeting the customer’s needs more effectively and efficiently, making interactions faster and easier and, consequently, increasing customer satisfaction and the likelihood of repeat visits.

From’s definition we find a very general definition that treats personalization as a technique to use to increase customer satisfaction, but it doesn’t really focus on the personal components that should, essentially, be met in order to make something more personal.

I had never looked up the definition of personalization before because for me it’s implicit that it is saying to make an email or a pitch or a first contact personal and catered to a person or group of people.  Since businesses with a good marketing team will have different buyer personas, they will be a lot more successful in their attempt at personalization.  Also, due to limited time and resources many businesses and marketers try to automate certain processes with different tools and templates.

Although time is of the essence, when I receive or see messages that are nowhere near personalized, such as messaging that includes titles of what I do, which are not what I do at all; it is a huge turnoff.  Then I think of all the end users (customers or potential customers) who feel the same way and I also think of how it is possible that a business doesn’t realize that they’re actually turning away clients by making them feel very, very unappreciated.

It would be better to stay vague in your attempt at personalization than to get so specific without the proper research, like job titles and/or interests of a niche market.  Language is beautiful because there are so many ways we can express a thought and there are ways to make someone special by focusing on what you know they’re having trouble with versus trying to include specific characteristics of a group of people without doing one by one research before sending out that email.

When it comes to personalization from a human to human perspective we don’t encounter such problems because it is a one on one interaction, which typically involves interest on both ends.  If a relationship doesn’t suit one of the two individuals, they merely stop interacting with each other.  But when personalization is applied at a business level, as a strategy, the more your intent is driven by sales and numbers, the less personalization the approach will be because essentially personalization isn’t the intent.

Passionate entrepreneurs who are trying to make a difference with their business are the most successful with personalization because they are not focusing on the numbers, they are invested for real in personalizing interactions with their users (customers, potential customers).  They acknowledge the level of commitment and time it takes to be able and personalize an email or a phone call and they’re ok with investing that time.  For the other types of business owners, being unsuccessful with personalization won’t necessarily make them fail and it doesn’t mean they’re not trying to make a difference, but they will for sure lose the business of people who are turned off by the lack of attention they had in sending that email or making that phone call.

What has your experience been with personalization?  What businesses have you found to be more successful in doing this?  And what has your reaction been to receiving an email or contact that was obviously not personal, at all?


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