The Personalization Challenge (and Why Tech Alone Can’t Solve It)

Targeting and Personalization


My three-year-old was extra special the other day and I wanted to surprise her with a treat on our walk home from school. We passed by a storefront with macarons in the window—one of my daughter’s favorites—but we kept on walking for another block. Why? Because it was worth the extra time to go to our favorite bakery, the one where we know the talented baker, with whom we’ve had many conversations about our lives and hers.

She knows us. We know her. When we want something sweet, we bring her our business.

Personalization is powerful stuff—when it’s authentically human. But human connections are hard to scale, especially when your target market is not the cookie lovers within walking distance of your small bakery, but thousands of users around the world.

Marketers are hungry for a technological tool that can easily rip and replace the personal touch that shopkeepers can create. But there is no way to fully automate our way out of this challenge. Instead, business leaders and marketers need to acknowledge what personalization tools do well and what they don’t—and then adjust accordingly.

There are several tactics our team uses to create meaningful connections with our base of tens of thousands of customers, without completely overwhelming our sales and marketing teams, or relying solely on technology to do the job.

In this blog, I’ll tell you about three tactics that worked for us when it comes to personalization and how you can apply those to your business.

Introduce Yourself to Your Buyers

An Infosys study found nearly 60% of shoppers think personalization affects their buying decisions. As you think about how to gather and leverage data about your customers, consider what you are (or are not) sharing about the people who run your company. One-to-one relationships include two parties, by their nature. Why do you do the work you do? What do you put into your product that’s a little different? What are the vulnerable stories about running your business that might create empathy among your prospects? Answer these questions in the content you share via your blog, your YouTube channel, your newsletters, and your media outreach.

Bake Up Special Batches When You Can

Things that are rare are special. It’s harder to find the handmade macaron, but it tastes better when you do and you remember the experience. Marketers in any industry can incorporate that approach by hand-crafting some communications for customers.

When you sign a new contract, for example, you could send your customer a personalized video or a custom piece of content geared toward a particular pain point that came up during the purchase process. Personalized content can go a long way to gain momentum with word of mouth marketing as well. We send out personalized videos that our customers often mention to their friends and the benefit from that has been substantial.

Automate Thoughtfully

Templated messages aren’t ultra-personalized. Consumers know it. Marketers need to acknowledge it. But within the realm of technologically driven personalization, you can make updates that satisfy the expectations and needs of the audiences who have come to expect some level of customization.

For example, you can personalize one aspect of correspondence with customers, like the weather in their town, to create a dialogue in which they want to engage. Or, when your customer relationship management tool shows new business was referred by an existing contact, reference that referrer’s name in your welcome message to your new customer.

Whatever you do through automation and segmentation, change it up often, and season it with personal commentary about what’s happening on your team or within your business. Even though recipients will recognize that message is not, in truth, for them alone, they’ll respect your efforts to stir in customized, human dialogue.

What brand has wowed you with their personalization? How have you been able to add your own personal touch to your campaigns? I’d love to hear about your best practices in the comments. Let’s keep the discussion going.