The Ultimate One-to-One Tool
A key part of this continual process is keeping a dialogue going with customers and prospects. Sandler explains, "You should incent the person to stay in contact with you. Provide offers for updating profiles, and every so often ask the user or the prospect what you could be doing to make their experience even more relevant."
An example of Wunderman using incentives to garner, then customize, customer information is a campaign executed for The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants designed to attract students to the accounting profession. The agency used a substantial survey about the students' interests and career aspirations and turned that into an ongoing e-mail dialogue that drove them to an engaging site experience. The site addressed students' specific career interests; where they stood in terms of their stage of career development; and guided them through the different rights of passage toward taking the certified public accountant exam. "Personalization, even to the slightest extent, is cost of entry," notes Sandler. "Because personalization, in my mind, leads to relevance."
Creating a Persona
Persona development, an already-established technique used in more traditional marketing research, also has emerged as an effective method through which marketers can go beyond site visitors' demographic and psychographic information to a deeper understanding of why they are going to a site and what they want to accomplish.
Interactive agencies such as Avenue A/Razorfish and Columbus, Ohio-based Resource Interactive use persona research to more effectively determine the features and content that would best serve each type of customer. Personas are created based on qualitative and ethnographic research, says McGrane. She describes: "We go into people's homes or their offices, visit wherever they are using the Web and try to learn a little bit more about their motivations and their desires—what they want to get out of a Web site."