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.

  • freedictionary.com has as the first definition of personalization: To render personal rather than impersonal or purely professional.
  • searchsalesforce.techtarget.com 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 searchsalesforce.techtarget.com’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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Why resistance to change is such a big deal

You don’t meet someone and immediately tell them they need to be friends with you.  The same way you don’t do that, you don’t tell someone who you just connected with on social that they need your services.  There is no logic behind such an approach, yet a number of professionals and businesses do that.

As an online marketer I ask myself where they got the idea that this type of approach is effective.  I also, wonder, if they even care or maybe are they just starting as a business or consultant?

It’s interesting how the online world has made it so easy for people to connect and build relationships no matter where they are, yet businesses treat it like traditional marketing.  By traditional marketing, I mean one-way messaging, where users can’t engage with your magazine advertisement or radio ad.  So the next question that arises is if they are having that hard of a time adapting to change.

Transitioning away from a technical talk on marketing and moving towards a human characteristic area, I’ve asked people before questions about change.  More specifically, once I actually formulated my question with the implication of people having a hard time adapting to change or basically, resisting change.

Interestingly enough, the people who engaged with the social media post (it was in my LinkedIn group) said that people welcome change and look for change.  I don’t think that’s untrue, but I’ve seen time and time again, resistance to change a lot more often than the embracing of change.  This behavior comes through in indirect ways, one of which, the example of someone who hasn’t even gotten to know me yet, telling me I need their service or product.  Someone who is looking online about how to go about with their online marketing activities, and who has either A) stumbled across marketers’ sites who are giving this advice or B) who are taking on online marketing by using traditional marketing as their basis.

If people were so apt to change, this type of approach would not be so recurring.  I get at least 10 DMs on Twitter a day that are from businesses and professionals I’ve never interacted with, who sell to me without even using a personalized approach.  But, getting back to humans and change.  Why is change so difficult to embrace?

Well, when we look at different studies on human behavior we find a repeat talk around perspective, around a certain peripheral view.  Humans can see clearly what they’ve experienced and what they hold to be true in life.  It isn’t easy to step out of one’s own person, to be objective and nullify subjective reactions/opinions or at least be aware of them.  Without this characteristic it is no wonder that people aren’t really listening and aren’t really open to new or different ways.

If you can only see what you see as true, then how can you really see what’s in front of you?  You can’t.  So if online marketing specifies that building relationships is key, it won’t be something that a person will really hear.  They will hear marketing and connect that to what they’ve known of marketing up till that point.  Furthermore, anything that is new or different will seem scary, maybe even threatening.  Just look at some of the reactions to Pokémon GO.  A lot of people are criticizing it because they have a set viewpoint on augmented reality or these types of games and don’t see the bigger picture, which is the transformation of how people are interacting, communicating, and absorbing information.

We can resist change all we want, but change happens and transforms.  Thought leaders ride the waves of change, which is why they tend to be leaders.  Those who resist, will eventually learn new patterns of behavior and adapt; for that is what human beings do to survive at one point or another, they adapt.  But it would be much more of a beautiful experience if people were able to step outside their shell and see what that change is for what it is, so for example, that online marketing is not one-way push marketing or that Pokémon GO is not a silly game that only teenagers play.

Change happens and the key is to 1) recognize who you are and what you believe in, 2) step outside of your own judgement and look at something from a neutral standpoint so that you can grasp its true essence, and 3) realize that this is what is going to be, it doesn’t mean you have to like it or do it or believe in it; but it is where society is heading.

It always comes down to awareness and choices.  You, we, are all masters of ourselves and have the capacity to step outside who we are for a minute, so that we may embrace what’s in front of us to be able and fully empathize with it, understand it from its core, and then move on.  We don’t have to make it a part of us, but we should at the very least, look at it with the absence of judgement on our end.  A skewed view, gives a skewed result; and when change is happening, yet you taint it with your own perspective, you really aren’t seeing what’s going on.

 

What do you think about resistance and change?  And how do you handle change?  How do you feel about it?

When businesses really care about building relationships or the opposite

When businesses really care about building relationships or the opposite

It’s safe to say that people engage in relationships with people they resonate with or have a good feeling about.  For those who have relationships with people that don’t make them feel good or that they don’t like is another topic in itself; but self-worth and gaining something from the relationship are two thoughts that come to mind.

As for fulfilling relationships, it’s not that people look for people with their same opinion, even though maybe some do, it’s more about feeling understood and that the person or people you spend your time with can relate to you, and each enjoys the other’s company.  The same idea goes for building relationships with brands on social media.

People like to do business with people, not businesses.  The reason people keep coming back to do business with companies is based on how the company makes them feel, how they are treated as a customer, and of course yes, the need for the product and/or service the company is offering.  There are some exceptions to the rule, but they are few and far, and usually there’s more to these brands than just a product or service (Simon Sinek’s TED talk, Start With Why, points to what this ‘more’ is).

I don’t want to get into the technical intricacies of marketing, business and social media strategy; rather, this post aims to share what I’ve noticed and experienced throughout the years as an online marketing professional between genuine and authentic relationship building versus the opposite.

PS I’d love to hear what your experience has been and what you think; so please, please do leave a comment (when you have a minute :)).

What I’ve encountered is a lot of unauthentic relationship building efforts by marketers and businesses alike (even though usually, it’s the marketers who are handling the social channels, but the business also agrees or disagrees to what is happening so the two are making the decisions).

It’s not that marketers and businesses don’t care about building relationships with consumers and their online community, but the intent behind the action is basically, sales and consumption of their product or service, or even ego is in there sometimes, becoming the next rock star.  Of course, a business needs money to stay in business and professionals need to grow their reputation and status to build trust; we all get it.  And yes, these businesses and professionals are also offering value, they are helping to fill a gap, a need; which is great.  However, the fact that these brands claim loudly how much they cherish building relationships, but then through their efforts it becomes very clear that their main objective is something else hits a nerve.  I’m looking for your thoughts because sometimes I wonder who else is picking up on this (or is it just me because I’m in the industry).

The need to grow a business or a name isn’t something I don’t understand, but I’m a firm believer that if you create something to help and assist others then you will thrive.  If you care about the people you’re trying to help, you don’t need to sell to them because your product and/or service was catered specifically for them and their needs.  Caring, for real, about connecting with your customers, not as consumers, but as people you want to relate to, you want to have conversations with, you want to continue helping, you want to get to know; having those components in your social media strategy, and not metrics on how many clicks or followers or sales you’ve made, are genuine intent in building relationships.

If a business is that good at what they’re offering, they can’t fail because the market has a need for them.  It’s that simple!  So, when I see an industry “leader” or brand claiming to care about building relationships, but doing the opposite; it totally turns me away from them.

A perfect example thanks to the personalized aspect of the social app is Snapchat; where there are a great number of brands and professionals snapping away without any interest whatsoever in consuming other people’s content, but rather just creating their own content and adding people (or not adding them), just so that they can be seen and heard.

It feels as if they actually think they can fool me and others; but more than that, it makes me know they don’t care about me.  With this being the case, I will want to engage with them when I need their product or service, but not to build a relationship.  Furthermore, if another brand or professional offered the same product or service they are offering, but with the added bonus of genuinely caring about building a relationship with me, you bet I won’t think twice about switching to that brand or professional as my go to person or company for the product or service I need.

For me, genuinely caring is what will lead to success.  It leads to loyalty and affection for a brand, it leads to feeling like your opinion matters, it leads to feeling like you can count on the business or professional in moments of need, it leads to a life-long relationship; which in turn leads to business growth.  It shouldn’t be about numbers, it should be about people, after all, that’s who businesses are servicing.

There are plenty of businesses with this mindset as well, just doesn’t seem as many as the opposite sometimes.  Not to mention the fact that the biggest differentiator between traditional and online marketing is the two-way conversation (the pull, not push component).  Maybe it’s just too hard for brands and marketers to move away from the traditional way of doing things or maybe they just don’t care.  As consumers become more and more empowered in the decision making process of what they buy, businesses will have to rethink their ways or perish.  Even for those customers who may complain a lot, good for them; good that they can voice that and possibly get brands to act upon it and improve their offering, as well as customer relationship behavior.

Looking forward to your experience and thoughts on the topic!

What’s the deal with lack of authenticity by business owners and marketers

What’s the deal with lack of authenticity by business owners and marketers

Authenticity, we all talk about it or at least there’s a lot of chatter on the topic within the online marketing and entrepreneurial space, but I wonder the different interpretations and reactions there are around it.  The question arises from the fact that the world is a very subjective place, and rightly so.

Each of us sees the world from our eyes, we each have feelings and reactions attached to things that happen, to a type of behavior, and so on and so forth.  Yes, there are groups of this type of thinking, which is why friendships form and relationships move forth.  We associate and spend time with people who we can have seamless communication with, which means they get us and us them.  It doesn’t mean we have the same opinions, but somewhere in that relationship there’s a mutual understanding of what each person is expressing.

Humans gravitate to that which resonates with them in some shape or form.  This brings me back to our main topic: authenticity.  I’ve been mentioning Snapchat a lot lately, and it’s because it’s an awesome platform that really allows you to have great conversations with people and get to know them through their snap stories.  It is a true relationship building social media platform.

As it’s grown in popularity with business owners and marketers, strategies and ads are starting to appear; but even before this I noticed something.  Let me make a pre-note before I continue:

  • The people I follow, I follow because I am interested in building relationships with them and I want to hear what they have to share. So, I watch every snap story I can with the time at my disposal; but lately with some of them I’ve noticed myself tuning out.  I talked about this with a friend (a friend I made on Snapchat, yes 🙂 and PS if you’re looking for fitness tips and some great motivation you should definitely follow him) and our chat made me think a bit more about this reaction of mine.
  • I asked myself why am I tuning out, what’s going on? My answer, after a couple days of thought on the situation was unauthentic versus authentic.

I don’t know about you, but it seems relatively easy to pick up on authentic versus scripted to me.  For me, it starts with this gut feeling and then finding myself not really listening to what I’m watching.  At first I thought that maybe it was my judgement, something about how I communicate that triggered a closed off response; but then it dawned on me that it’s because I feel that the person I’m listening to isn’t really sharing their life or stories or advice with me, they’re selling me on something.  There’s this veiled façade of genuine with behind it a script (whether it’s an intent of getting me to do something or believe something or buy into something).

This realization doesn’t make me want to steer away from listening to what these individuals have to say, but it does make me ask another question…why is it so hard to be authentic for business owners and marketers.  I focus on this group because they are the ones I see day in and day out online with their scripted snaps, tweets, Facebook posts, etc.; and I wonder how do consumers or viewers do it?  How do they sit through the messages?  Is it just me?

As a person who is branding online, I’ve gone through the struggle of marketing while being genuine.  Every time I’ve tried to think of how to integrate what marketers or business owners say works, I just twitch.  If I share something that has an end game (so to speak), that is not purely genuine to my person and heart, it just doesn’t feel right.  My solution has been to just be me, it’s what keeps me going and it’s what feels right.  At the end of the day, it’s the relationships we build that make our lives beautiful; and for business growth, I firmly believe that as long as you want to help others and offer value everything will work out.

So, I ask you, what are your thoughts on authenticity versus unauthentic and how do you react to unauthentic messages?  How do you identify them and what do you do as a consequence?

Taking online messages as if they were fact and letting people talk to you like you’re a moron

There are a couple of things I observe weekly online that make me wonder: Does everybody really buy into this type of messaging?  Does everybody really believe what they see and hear online without questioning it?  Let me expand on what I am referring to and also, why, if you don’t take time to question what you see and read online, you might do so moving forward.

The few things are: messages that sensationalize things as if they’re already a trend, when they really aren’t; and talking to someone not with someone, so basically lecturing them, as if they had a really low level of comprehension.

A perfect example of sensationalization messaging is how rumor has it that screenshots are the new Snapchat likes.  This one really gets a giggle out of me.  Don’t get me wrong, the more people are saying this, the more it will become true.  But nowhere in Snapchat’s creation were screenshots meant to equal likes; Snapchat is not Facebook, it doesn’t have a like button.  But it’s interesting how more and more people are spreading the word as if this were a fact nobody else knew, when in reality it’s not a fact, it’s a behavior that is being instilled on people who are onboarding Snapchat, most likely for businesses and marketers since they are the ones who use social as a means to an end and not just to socialize with friends, family and the world.

Don’t get me wrong, not all marketers and entrepreneurs use social only to sell.  There are plenty who believe in social and love it for its relationship building characteristic.  However, a good portion of them use it strategically from the very beginning for the sole purpose of increasing sales.  Is it wrong?  No, but the difference between online marketing and traditional marketing has always been the relationship building factor.  You don’t sell on social, you offer value and understanding and care and within the mix you include what you can provide to your community to help solve a problem or need.  And a small FYI, people leave or diminish their use on social channels and look for new ones to stop getting harassed by marketers and businesses.  They are not interested in being sold to, they are interested in communicating and engaging with people online.  And if they don’t leave, like they tune out TV and radio ads, they tune out social ads.  I personally do it every day, just skip right over them, it’s like an automatic reflex.

For the second point: talking to and not with.  This one really gets to me.  It gets to me because ultimately it feels as if the person who is talking to me thinks I don’t understand.  And even if that is not their intention, that’s exactly how it feels and it definitely doesn’t make me want to listen to them.  I will add, I am not the only marketer or human being that has this feeling.  I’ve asked colleagues and have read articles that talk about this aspect. Although I’m only one tiny person in this vast world, and even if I wanted to add up all the colleagues and influencers or industry experts I’ve come across that feel the same way I do, we wouldn’t add up to a significant percentage of the human population; I am still inclined to think most people who can read, hold a job and live their day to day life, feel the same way.

Also, if these individuals who talk to people would take the time to learn a little psychology 101 and human behavior 101, they would realize that people don’t like to feel like they’re dumb.  They don’t like to be talked to, they like to be treated as peers and made to feel that they belong to a group, to a group that cares about them, not the opposite.

I’m sure there are plenty of people who are looking online for basic information and who don’t even notice the talking to component.  Maybe they actually prefer to be told what to do as if they were a 4-year old; but at some point those individuals will have understood the basics and will move on to wanting to continue to learn in a setting that makes them feel as if they’re a part of it, a part of it that understands the value and logic behind what is being shared.

Granted, we each hold expertise in one area or another, but there are ways to teach someone without talking to them.  Using your words and composing inclusive sentences, relating to the community you’re talking to instead of talking to them as a separate entity from yourself and a group of people that don’t know what you’re talking about.

I’m not sure if it’s only entrepreneurs and marketers that talk like this or take this approach, but since those are the people’s content that crosses my path, I know for sure they use this approach; and I can only hope that they take the time to reflect on their methods.  As for the reader, I hope they come across entrepreneurs and marketers who talk with them so that they can see and feel the difference.  I guarantee there will be a shift in who’s message they will want to follow and it won’t be the one where they are being talked to.

In regards to sensationalization messaging, well, that’s a marketing tactic and something that has existed forever and ever or since mass consumerism took place.  On this point, all I can say, we as humans on the planet decide what becomes a trend and true.  We define the world we live in and we steer it in a specific direction.  Don’t let others tell you what is true or not, or at least if you are going to let this happen, keep your feelings in mind and keep in mind that trends are born from us.  Without our support no company or tool or system would come into existence.  It is thanks to our vision and actions that things come to be.

So tell me, what do you think about people taking everything they read online as true from the get-go and how do you feel about people talking to you and not with you?

When first impressions take precedence over depth

Question: how many of you read the social media posts you share?  Follow up question, how much time do you have to read all the online articles that cross your path throughout the day as you browse your social media networks?

I just finished my guest blog for Leaderswest where I took a look at an article and some stats regarding social media post consumption.  I will link when it’s posted, but in the meantime I wanted to carry over the conversation here, to look at it from a different angle.

A brief summary of the stats: Six out of 10 users don’t read the social media content they share.

Are you surprised?  I’m not, but not because I think users aren’t interested in reading.  I think they lack the time and they share those posts because either the source is one they trust or is a known brand that has gained trustworthiness (possibly even trending status) online or because they are emotionally attracted to the post at a first glance and it is something that resonated with them and created a reaction (the reaction to share). With that being said, the article also points out how this means viral news is viral in it getting shared, but not necessarily read.

As an online marketer, the notion of viral content has always made me laugh.  Not in a good or bad way, but laugh because of unknown brands wanting something to go viral and thinking they can somehow make it happen with the click of a button.  Viral happens by chance for unknown brands or people, and by good content crafting for known brands, plus the positive emotional bond followers have with that brand.  Actually, more than followers, they are loyal fans of those brands.

The fact that most people don’t read content, but share based on an exceptional title also leads me to say that even though first impressions shouldn’t make or break something or someone, they obviously play quite a big role in perception and value given to something or someone.  In the long run, first impressions only last so long.  Eventually, the deeper level behind a brand or person comes out and that’s where the continuation of what was perceived and the value given by that first impression will continue or end.

It is only normal that in a noisy and busy world people notice something or someone that stands out, but it is also natural to go deeper as time passes.  Experiences with a business or a person always reveal what’s behind the scenes, what’s below the surface (that first impression); it is inevitable.  Can it be frustrating to know that depth isn’t the primary source from where great brands or people are born?  Yes, but instead of being frustrated, knowing that true value will always come to the surface can help.  Also, taking a close look at our own habits can help to keep things in perspective.

Shiny objects attract everybody’s attention; the only difference is that some people dig deeper sooner, while others go with the flow until the next shiny object comes along.  It’s just a matter of what you choose to look at versus wanting everyone to look at things the way you do.

What are your thoughts on the subject?  Did you expect a majority of people to share online content without reading?