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Blog Post

Using Marketing Automation for Personalization: Benefits and Challenges

Companies have to know their target customers like never before and communicate their message to them in a way that resonates. Brands are using a variety of approaches to make this happen, with strong results. For example, StitchFix, an online clothing retailer, not only provides a personalized shopping experience but also makes sure clients receive a custom message from their stylist with each order. We don't live in a "one size fits all" landscape anymore and as marketers, we shouldn’t expect to influence action with a “Dear Sir or Madam” approach. Surprisingly, more than a third of companies have not implemented personalization in their marketing efforts yet 95% of companies who have report an increase in conversion rates, according to eConsultancy.

How do you personalize your messaging to thousands of customers, making them each feel connected to your brand? Here are examples to help you master the art of personalization using your website, CRM, Marketing Automation platform and analytics.

Progressive profiling

In order to provide personalized content to your prospects, you have to get to know them. Begin by collecting the basics including name, email address, company, title, and email preferences. From here, use your lead scoring and lead grading criteria to help with additional information you need. If you haven’t gotten that far yet, try asking your prospects BANT questions, Budget - Authority - Need - Timing, is a great place to start. A few suggestions to gather this information:

  • Do you have a set budget for your project?
  • When will your project begin?
  • What is your role in the decision process?  

But be careful - most prospects aren’t willing to give you all of that information at once. You’ll need to ask this information over time as you move prospects through the marketing funnel. At Mediacurrent, we use progressive profiling to learn more about our leads without creating long, cumbersome forms. This allows us to gather information along the buyer’s journey without affecting our conversion rate. With each visit or download we learn more, allowing us to tailor our messaging to the individual level, providing the most relevant content possible depending on their place in the decision-making process. If you’re not using the progressive profiling feature on your forms, I recommend you make those changes today!

Segmenting - beyond the basics

Once you have gathered data, the next step is to segment your list. These lists will be the beginning of your personalization. We have given you the basics of segmentation before and the rules still apply. Using key verticals or responsibilities are good for ongoing campaigns but as you think through your strategy, also consider timely, creative ways to segment your lists. For example, I worked with several schools in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina.  In addition to having my team reach out to each school personally, we created a marketing and sales path that was different from the schools who were operating on their normal timeline. This helped keep the schools on track and ensured we were addressing their unique situation. But it doesn’t have to be a spontaneous disaster. You can leverage things like sporting events and segment customers by geographical area, tailoring your messaging to their sports team that may be in the championship race.

A word to the wise, when automating your communications, it’s easy to create a drip campaign for every potential download, click-thru, or purchase, but be sure to set parameters for how many campaigns one person is a part of and how many emails one email address receives per week. The rule we follow at Mediacurrent is no more than 2 marketing touchpoints per week. This will keep you from becoming noise and getting tuned out.

Be contextual, but not creepy

Segmentation helps you understand the most effective conversion paths for each group, allowing you to tailor landing pages and content to consistently be in the right place at the right time. You’ll work smarter, not harder to create content that moves customers through their journey.  

Here’s an example of how I’ve leveraged this in the past. One of my clients had subscribers, some that needed convincing each year to renew and some who had been members for several years. The long-standing members didn’t need a marketing campaign. They needed a “straight line” approach. By tailoring the messaging to let them know we valued them, they were renewed and there was no work for them to do, we were able to achieve an almost perfect renewal for 2+ yearly annual subscribers.   

Again, one challenge is to make sure you’re taking the time to consistently analyze and understand what your data is telling you. Marketing Automation allows you to collect mountains of data from your prospects and it’s crucial that it  is integrated and analyzed together.  The data you learn about your customers is very powerful and what you do with it can be a fine line between offering useful, timely content and being a little creepy.

For example, many of us have heard stories of a woman who purchased baby wipes and began receiving emails wishing her congratulations on her new addition. (and if you haven't, read this article)  These and other similar scenarios are often caused by a lack of contextual understanding between those mining the data and those creating marketing materials. his integration shows which connections are meaningful and which are coincidence. Without these connections, you’re operating with only part of the story and, like a book missing 4 chapters you may be guessing that the butler did it when really it was the maid.  

By learning all you can with progressive profiling and segmenting your lists, you'll increase the chance of giving your prospects what they need to trust your company and convert into a lead. Not just any lead either. A warm lead.

Additional Resources

Designing with Personas | Mediacurrent Blog Post
Business Blogging Made Easy | Mediacurrent Infographic
Butler University | Mediacurrent Case Study

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Meet team member, Shellie Hutchens

As Director of Client Services, Shellie Hutchens draws on a 12-year professional background in client services and digital marketing to work with Mediacurrent's customers. Her specialty is developing cohesive marketing...

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