Marketing Automation: Too Personal
As digital marketers, we can cite countless studies that illustrate how our customers want more relevance across the channels we use to engage with them on email, social media, websites and more. Yet, we also hear the constant drumbeat from consumers who are worried about how marketers are using personal data, and that perhaps we're getting too personal.
It's a double-edged sword; one that's made sharper still by the fact we don't always demonstrate that we know what personalization means.
1. Marketing Automation vs. Personalization
The term "personalization" is often misused, particularly in cases where what is positioned as personalization is actually marketing automation. There is an important distinction: Marketing automation has proven to be an effective way to target a consumer's needs or interests and maximize ROI without the drama that can come from using personal information or behavioral data.
For example, B-to-B marketers create automated email responses following a webinar sign-up that thank the customer for registering and include a special offer for a free research report. While the email may reference their recent registration and include an offer for related content, the effectiveness of this campaign is rooted primarily in its timeliness through automation.
Marketers often lump these responses into the personalization bucket, but efforts like these are all about marketing automation, even when they include data-driven content. The same goes for marketers who utilize social posts to reach fans and followers on Facebook and Twitter. Posting messages to a fan's news feed is typically an automated effort. Traditional social engagement does not become "personalized" until a direct conversation takes place between the consumer and the brand. And when that happens, it's usually less about marketing and more about customer service.
Let's take a closer look at some key digital channels in which marketing automation and personalized messaging intersect, and examine how the right balance can help marketers maximize ROI without subjecting themselves to privacy data drama.
2. Personalized, But Not Personal
As described earlier, email marketing features many of the most common examples in which automation and personalization intersect. For the most part, consumers are accepting of personalized campaigns that are driven by an action—such as an online purchase—and feature personalized content—such as a product or service related to that purchase.
Perhaps the reason is most consumers have been trained by Amazon from nearly the very beginning of the e-commerce era that this type of email targeting is acceptable. Or perhaps it's because using transactional data feels less intrusive because it is inherent to the relationship between the consumer and that particular brand. Either way, it is effective.
Another successful email marketing tactic involves using the customer's demographic data—such as address or ZIP code—in concert with data that is personalized but not "personal" (ow.ly/B5lk8). For example, email marketers can create a segmented list targeting customers who live in the greater Boston area, and hit them with a discount offer on tickets to events at Fenway Park. The result is a message that is timely, valuable and highly personalized, without using any data customers would consider intrusive.
3. Social Media Beyond the Feed
The personal nature of social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter often leads to marketers misrepresenting social marketing as personalized. But the reality is posting a message to your fans' news feeds is far from personalized, because every fan sees the same generic post. While the message is likely welcome because the consumer has elected to be engaged with your brand on Facebook, the engagement is hardly one-to-one.
One way to make more out of your Facebook marketing is to use targeted advertising. Like website display advertising, Facebook targeted advertising enables you to leverage inferred consumer data—likes, or brands followed and engaged with—and use this consumer-provided information to drive highly personalized ad content.
This is an effective way to automate a personalized social media campaign, and at the same time lift your most important messages above the consumer's news feed, which is typically noisy and occupied by messages from other brands, groups, friends and family.
4. Real-time Web Personalization
Of all these tactics, perhaps the most effective means of maximizing your ROI is enabling your website with personalized content (ow.ly/BiO35, opens as a PDF). By infusing your site with the ability to use in-session data to actively market to a consumer as he or she navigates your site, Web personalization is a powerful approach.
You can provide timely offers and show relevant messages based on information gleaned from the moment rather than sensitive personal data. You can even hide or highlight certain content on the site based the "personas" of the visitor deduced from how they navigate the site.
Real-time Web personalization also enables marketing automation that is engagement-driven with compelling calls to action. For example, a consumer who shops for camping gear on an e-commerce site can be invited to sign up for a newsletter for outdoor enthusiasts. And if the same consumer leaves items in a shopping cart for an extended period of time, the e-commerce marketer can offer a one-time discount for completing the purchase before leaving the site. On a B-to-B site, visitors can be offered relevant whitepapers or blog posts based on the topics they search or pages they visit.
As you can see, there is a clear distinction between marketing automation and personalization, and both offer marketers an opportunity to engage consumers in meaningful and timely ways. But it is when you can identify the intersection of automation and personalization that these campaigns become the most valuable … without the need to "get personal."
Andy Zimmerman is the chief marketing officer at Evergage, a leading personalization and customer data platform (CDP) provider. Andy has more than 20 years of experience heading marketing, sales, business development and alliances at leading software companies, and is a frequent speaker at industry events.