When It Comes to Hyper-personalization Use Your Spidey Senses

Digital technology available today makes it possible to hyper-personalize communications with customers and prospects. But, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. I think the biggest mistake that marketers can make in pursuing hyper-personalization is assuming familiarity with people—customers and prospects—that simply doesn’t exist. That can be extremely off-putting if not downright creepy.

Making meaningful connections is one thing, overstepping is quite another.

Yes, you should take steps to know your customers—and prospects.

While some amount of familiarity with existing customers can be useful and actually expected by customers—e.g., knowing what they’ve purchased in the past, or even knowing about their families or work—using this same approach with prospects is, I think, a big mistake.

Consumers today are very savvy—including technologically savvy. They know that marketers are able to access information about them, but they often don’t like it when they do—and especially when they flaunt that access and the information they have by explicitly referring to it prior to actually having a relationship with the prospect.

But be careful about overreaching.

My rule of thumb when using data to personalize interactions involves these considerations/approaches:

If you have no existing relationship…

It’s perfectly fine—in fact, advisable—to use data to understand your target audience and create your messaging and approach, but don’t exploit their personal information to target them in intrusive ways.

If you have an existing relationship…

Only mention that information you have if it’s valuable and meaningful to your customer. For instance, I’m a StitchFix customer and they will frequently send me emails showing me some new items they have that would go well with items I’ve already bought from them. They include an image of the item I have along with other pieces that would go well with that item. I love this! And I imagine other customers to too. It’s helpful for me because it offers a reminder of something I’ve purchased and may not have worn recently, and also gives me new ideas that may result in another purchase from StitchFix—but may not. In either case it’s an example of using hyper-personalization in a value-enhancing way.

In all cases, listen to your “spidey” senses. We’re all consumers ourselves, even if we wear marketing, or digital marketing, hats. If it would be offensive to you—or your “Aunt Marge” (persona), it’s likely to be offensive to your customers as well.

When it’s likely to be perceived as helpful, even preferable, that you have knowledge of your customers in some meaningful way, yes, use hyper-personalization to provide value. When it’s more likely to be perceived that you’re exploiting their personal information, or presuming a relationship that doesn’t exist, don’t. The short term gain is not likely to be worth the long term impact on your brand.

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Strategic Communications, LLC, works with B2B clients to help them achieve their goals through effective content marketing and management with both internal and external audiences. We work with clients to plan, create and publish high-quality, unique content. Whether on- or offline, or both, we’ll help you achieve desired results.

(Strategic Communications is certified as a Woman-Owned Business Enterprise through the Wisconsin Department of Administration.)

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