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Personalising your customer’s experience: the three key questions you must ask
Personalising your customer’s experience: the three key questions you must ask

It seems like the only thing that marketers from different industries, specialities and countries can agree about is how critical it is to personalise the customer experience. For an industry that spends a lot of time dissecting opposing views and trying to understand a variety of different technologies and ways of working, we’re surprisingly well aligned on this idea that personalisation is what we should be striving for.

In my opinion, personalisation is deeply important to stimulate and encourage the behaviours in our customers that we need in order for them to buy our products, advocate our brand and stay loyal in the face of fierce competition.

But too often personalisation is interpreted to tactical, stalker-esque remarketing campaigns. Sure, these can be effective, but they’re not personalisation. Not by a long shot. In fact, Seth Godin nailed it when he said about personalisation that “it is a chance to differentiate at a human scale, to use behavior as the most important clue about what people want and more importantly, what they need.”

The best way to do this is through true personalisation using a range of different content items that deliver utility, to Godin’s point, not just the ability to transact in a personalised way. If we can align that marketing content to the various points of the customer experience from way back in the awareness phase all the way through to post-purchase and loyalty and advocacy, then we’re doing the personalisation job the way it should be done.

When we have conversations with marketers about their personalisation challenges, we often end up reaching the same conclusion. It’s all about the content and making that content as individual as possible. Delivering that content at the right time and in the right channels is also important, but the foundation of a delightful and useful personalised customer experience is in the content.

We’ve found that marketers grapple with three major questions when they’re thinking about how to build their personalised customer experiences. They don’t cover the whole gamut of the issue, but they certainly can steer you in the right direction.

Do I have the customer’s permission?

Explicit permission is the best place to start when it comes to thinking about how you’re going to engineer your content for personalisation. If a particular customer or segment has not directly opted in to have this kind of a conversation with you, then you really shouldn’t proceed.

Aside from the obvious potential regulatory headaches you might face, the crux of the issue is that if a customer feels as if you’re badgering them with irrelevant or overly familiar tactics, you’re going to not only lose a friend, you may well create a very vocal enemy. You absolutely want to be sure that this permission is gained through an opt-in process rather than an automated sign up that then relies on less interested parties to opt out of.

Seek out customers’ permission in ways that encourage them to understand the benefits of the experience rather than doing it in a functional way. Don’t ask them to ‘sign up for our monthly newsletter of recipes’ or ‘follow us on Instagram for fun cooking videos’ but rather put it to them in a way that highlights what they’re going to get out of the association. For example, it’d be much better to say ‘sign up and you’ll get to know the best ways to improve your home baking skills’.

Where am I going to get my content from?

It’s often the mistake of hastily-assembled personalisation programs that the content will just flow or be easy to source from your marketing team’s minds and hard drives. That’s seldom the case and a lack of due diligence in this area is what separates the also-rans from the true success stories of personalisation.

The explosion in the amount of content you’re going to be producing for a personalised customer experience of any scale is really the most significant change you’re doing to have to deal with. Even if you’re only segmenting your audience into two groups - let’s say, expert home bakers and beginner bakers - you’ve potentially just doubled your content load.

You should definitely not be put off by this question and, in fact, when we’re chatting with marketers about this topic, this question really helps unblock things. It catalyses them into asking even more questions (the right ones) that help them reach that confidence threshold about their personalised customer experience. Once you know where your content is coming from, then you can have greater confidence that you’ll be able to feed the personalisation beast for a long time to come.

How do I know what content is working for the customer?

Another great question and, honestly, one that doesn’t get the airplay that it deserves when marketers are putting together their personalisation plans. Everyone’s focused on picking the right technology or hiring the right talent before asking this question.

If you’ve taken the time before diving into things to identify the behaviours you want to see exhibited by your customers, or even just the kinds of metrics that will give you a read on how things are going, you’re in a far stronger position than if you hadn’t done that. Take the time before picking channels, technologies, talent and content creators to do some deep work on this topic.

Think about how this personalised customer experience can enable progression for someone on their journey with your brand. What content is going to deliver educational value? What content is going to help a customer overcome a related barrier? What content is going to encourage someone to share it with a friend or family member?

There are ways to measure these behaviours digitally and also physically, if your business has an offline component to it. Consider the infrastructure already in place and also potentially what additional platforms and processes can help you measure the effectiveness of the content in your personalised customer experience. Start simple when it comes to this and pinpoint two or three behaviours only that can be shifted by your customer experience.

It seems like whenever we have a discussion with a marketer about personalisation, we always end up in a different place. However, while the experience and aspirations of each marketer and brand are different, there’s a consistent theme in that an excellent personalised customer experience is built on a solid foundation of content. Regardless of the varying opinions, I’m certain that much will not change.

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