Of all the ways technology has changed the marketing and media landscape over the past few years, the most profound is on a personal level. Not that long ago, we used media almost solely to find out about the world. Technology like social media, mobile and so on has turned that model on its head.

Media now serves another purpose: to let us tell the world what we’re thinking. If you’re feeling some doubt about that statement, just think about what you did the last time you went on Facebook. Did you share a photo, a story, an opinion or a video, perhaps?

This trend has serious ramifications for marketing professionals. People everywhere now pay attention to things that affect them and largely ignore things that don’t. It’s no longer enough to blast an email that’s only personalized with a customer’s name; marketing communications and advertising messages need to go beyond segmentation by connecting as many data points together for a truly personal experience. Marketing departments have to know what steps a customer has already taken, anticipate what action she’s likely to take  next, modify the creative not solely by persona but also based on channel of engagement, and present relevant information to her, all in real time.

We realize this is no small feat, but there are steps you can take to help your company use this new media landscape to its advantage. Here are four guidelines that enable marketers to reach a truly personal level of customer interaction and avoid falling into generic segmentation traps.

Focus on customer goals, not your products.

Customers don’t necessarily want to buy your products; they want to meet their own needs. Your products are often simply a way to get those needs met, so your personalization has to serve this purpose, and not just your bottom line. (Of course, if you do it right, the bottom line will follow.)

Use the data you collect to figure out your customers’ goals, and why they have them. Discover what they’re doing now, and what actions might be coming next. Do this for each individual by showcasing your products in the most relevant and meaningful way for that customer. It can start with segmenting into cohorts, but it can’t end there. Beyond segmentation, modify the story narrative for each individual by utilizing data points such as lifecycle touchpoint, media channel of engagement, and his or her own individual profile or account history. One or two personal details like {first name} and/or {last product viewed} does not pass muster for true personalization.

Remember interface ≠ experience.

One of the biggest mistakes we see in marketing is people saying things like, “We’re set. We have a video tailored for that device,” or, “Of course customers can place an order from their phone.” Don’t get us wrong – it has never been more important for customers to be able to interact with you seamlessly from whatever device they’re using. The thing is, most good marketers and executives already know this and are already doing it.

Graph  https://www.emarketer.com/Article/Executives-Stepping-Up-on-Personalized-Marketing/1015913

Where the mistake comes is confusing the interface with the user experience. A barely customized video isn’t going to wow someone just because they can play it on their iPhone. A personal video, sent days before a vacation, with highlights from your customer’s itinerary, and with options for additional experiences relevant to them and their family, just might. The experience here is successful by putting the customer at the center of their own video story, making the vacation narrative completely relevant to them before even arriving to the resort. In fact, personal video programs can drive up to 20 times incremental revenue growth, a 22 percent reduction in customer churn and a 19 percent increase in digital adoption.

Embrace laziness (in a good way).

Never underestimate the power of human laziness. We don’t mean this as a negative, rather that people will take the easiest route they can to get their desired result, whether it’s a product, an experience or a service. In the future, catering to customers and enabling them to buy with the least amount of effort will come to the forefront.

In fact, this future is already becoming a reality. Alexa, Siri, Cortana, Google and all the other voice recognition systems out there are perfect examples of “it’s all about me” in action. As consumers more frequently say things like, “Alexa, get me a pizza and more of the wine I had last Thursday,” rather than going out to the store or even simply reordering on their mobile device — the way you market has to change, too. The best ways to deal with this trend of telling devices what you need, having them learn what that means, and automating the whole process are still being determined, but CMOs and marketing departments have to start developing strategies now.  


Don’t creep.

Finally, a warning. Personalization done well is a thing of beauty. It helps the customer achieve his goals, forms a real interaction between you and the customer, and ultimately helps you achieve your goals. Across all of our customers, the average person will watch a SundaySky-enabled SmartVideo for 108 seconds, a whopping 13x+ higher than the average human attention span of 8 seconds. That’s what great personalization can do – it puts the person back into personalization and provides value.

When done wrong, personalization can make customers feel, well, a bit creeped out. Just because you can track your customers’ web surfing with cookies, doesn’t mean you should automatically send them a blast when they ping a certain page. Getting an email saying, “Hey we see you have foot fungus!” after a customer wanders onto a page with your product’s ad, probably isn’t going to make them engage. Show that you have respect for each customer as an individual, hear them, try to understand them and help them achieve their goals. This requires more than “single data point” marketing. It requires using all the data you have to draw up a complete view of the customer and anticipate what they want next.

This new media landscape can be intimidating – just ask anyone in the print industry. However, personalization has been important since the first days of the marketing database, and its importance only grows as technology progresses. By doing personalization right, you can ensure that your company continues to thrive, and is ready to adapt to whatever media technology comes along next – one customer at a time.


About the Author: Eric Porres, is chief marketing officer of SundaySky. Previously, Eric was the CMO for Sailthru, a provider of personalization software, and CMO for Rocket Fuel, where he helped scale revenue and complete an IPO. Eric was a founding partner of Underscore Marketing, and built the organization into a recognized Inc. 5000 company. He also founded Pericles Consulting, a political marketing firm. Eric has held management positions at AOL Time Warner, Agency.com, Lotame and LiveTechnology. He is an active angel investor and adviser to several startup companies, and graduated from Duke University.