Personalize the Fulfillment Process to Hold On to Leads
In the olden days of direct marketing, personalization began and ended with putting a recipient’s name at the top of the letter and sprinkling it throughout. While that’s still a good starting point today, it’s hardly a difference maker. Today’s personalization must go much further, taking into consideration consumer behaviors and interests.
“You see a lot of … personalization for personalization’s sake: ‘Dear [First Name]' sort of personalization,” says Steve Woods, chief technology officer of marketing automation provider Eloqua. “As an audience member and as a potential customer, that doesn’t make the content any more relevant to me. We’ve all gone long past the point where we actually think that somebody is sending that e-mail to me directly.”
Woods says the real key to personalization today is understanding your audience and providing it with offers at the fulfillment level that are of interest to it.
“In a fulfillment action—whether it’s an e-commerce transaction or somebody has requested to register for an event or they’ve downloaded a white paper—the ability to use that fulfillment interaction to tease out the next level of interest has proven really powerful,” says Woods. Consumers are looking for relevant information at every turn, and a truly personalized message contains relevant content for each individual recipient. Woods says effective personalization takes into account a recipient’s past interaction behaviors—whether that be pages browsed on a Web site, white papers downloaded, items purchased, etc.—and predicting the next steps the recipient might take to offer tailored messages around that.
“No. 1, leverage what a person’s online [and past] behavior tells you, first and foremost,” stresses Woods. Figure out what the individual is interested in; is it case studies, technical specifications, or something else? Also determine the level of interest. "Use that insight to guide the content of your fulfillment interaction and make it much more relevant," he adds.
“That online behavior gives you so much more insight than any sort of demographics will give you because it is really based on what’s going on in their own business and in their own mind,” explains Woods.
Woods provides the example of a security software company, where a recipient has registered for an event. Instead of just saying, “OK, here’s what you requested; come after us if you’d like anything more,” the fulfillment registration information should give the registrant more offers. If the person registered for an event on the evolution of threats in security, for example, and you see that his Web activity indicates that he looked at information on how to encrypt the hard drive on a computer and auditing employees for security, “when you fulfill that registration and send [him the] registration details, put some teasers in this registration fulfillment that gives [him] the next webinars on encrypting hard drives and auditing employees for security,” says Woods.
“If you do that,” he adds, “you can tease out where that person is heading in [his] buying journey and take a fulfillment action and turn it into one link in the chain … That’s very powerful.”
Apply the Right Technology
Woods admits that “personalization is one of those things that you really do need software to help with.” But it doesn’t necessarily have to be complex, says Paul Demirdjian, president and CEO of e-commerce fulfillment provider Jagged Peak, who offers the following tips on what to look for in personalization fulfillment vendors:
- Understand the magnitude of the project. “If it’s simply allowing people visiting your Web site to get a personalized communication," it’s easy enough to collect the data, store it and communicate via digital printing, says Demirdjian. “In a more complex environment, you need to understand the scope and the magnitude, and then find the right platform that meets those criteria.”
- Look for a real-time, Web-based transaction system.
- Find data digital print on-demand centers. The old batch-and-post process printing centers are outdated and illogical in today’s world for most marketers. “You want to print on-demand so you’re not negotiating every time you print something,” Demirdjian says. “… Make sure the printers are flexible on the quality and quantity of their on-demand processes to meet consumer demand.”
- Do a dry run. “If they are unable to deliver in a timely fashion, that will tell you that the underlying platform is not responsive,” says Demirdjian. “Do some validation to ensure that the system is designed and works as being presented.”
He adds that two critical elements around personalization are security and privacy policies. Make sure your customers’ data is safe and privacy ensured.
Back to Basics
While the platform technology is important, Woods says it’s the smallest part of the challenge. “The biggest part, and this is really right back to the art of good marketing, is thinking through what is going to be interesting to an audience member and how can you understand, based on [his] behavior online, what cues you’re looking for to tell you what is going to be most interesting to [him]. That really is just good marketing and good content writing.
“Yes, you need technology to help you out in delivering that correct piece of content,” he adds, “but the lion’s share of the work is coming up with really good, interesting, concise and relevant messaging.”