Few terms are written about more than the P word (what is it with marketing and Ps?). And yet, for all the words thrown out into the digital abyss, the cavernous gap between recognition and understanding remains.
Let’s start with the basics. Personalisation isn’t an email that starts with Hi <name>. Nope. Not one bit. Yes, it may increase email open rates. Sure, the oral equivalent is a better icebreaker than ‘Hey…and you are?’ But it is not, repeat it with me, personalisation.
Neither is Netflix suggesting a series of box sets based on your viewing history. Or Google changing search results based on your location. These are valuable shortcuts based on acquired data. Valuable shortcuts, definitely, but not personalisation.
Examples over. Explanation coming.
Personalisation means matching someone’s individual needs. Individual needs. There is nothing individual about a 57% match to Peep Show, or a front-page recommendation for 6 different iPhone cases because I just bought one last week.
Here’s an article by a series of very talented marketers discussing personalisation at scale. Bullshit. There is no personalisation at scale; it’s a fucking oxymoron.
Rant over. Recommendations on deck.
As faux-personalisation – I’m doing it, I’m coining faux-sonalisation – takes hold, consumers are that much savvier to the regurgitated, sponge-bow-and-arrow-accurate tactics that marketers point their way.
We know that we’re being talked at, not to.
Think about ordering a pizza via the Dominoes FB Messenger bot. You know it’s not a real person – please tell me you know it’s not a real person – but you can still delight in its zany-yet-succinct tone. What a world.
Now think about buying a present for a friend. If you’re like me, you’re probably no better at guessing what your pal might like any more than Amazon. But, whatever you shyly present to them (please tell me you need another iPhone case…) you’ll do it in a manner that is based on your personal history with them. The card you write, the words you say, the body language you present.
Personalisation isn’t product. Personalisation is procedure.
The day that Netflix recommends me Peep Show because they know it’s my day off, and I don’t really fancy anything challenging, and I’ve not watched it for 18 months, and I’ve got enough time to plough through seasons 1 & 2, and Netflix delivers the news just after breakfast when I sit down on the sofa, thinking about what I want to watch, then I’ll have just received a personalised recommendation.
In order to personalise content or communication, it needs to be prepared for a specific individual. No, this doesn’t mean regressing to the pre-digital, pre-CRM times. Yes, this means that very few of your outbound comms will be personalised.
And yes, this means you need to rethink the value of personalisation. Personalisation, in the manner we’ve just discussed, can help you, your department and your business in ways that inflated metrics may not.
There’s a grand schism between different types of marketers and operators: Those that favour anecdotes and those that favour data.
Modern marketing embraces the latter. The influx of data, the prevalence of dashboards and psychedelic bar charts. No wonder. But there’s still room for conversation, for anecdotal evidence to support data (and vice versa), for truly personalised communication to steer an enterprise in the right direction, and for your best customers to be spoken to like they’re your best customers.
You’ll need to start conversations, ask questions, garner feedback and get to know people. You should then feed this into your product and process, and start more conversations and ask more questions based on the developments you’ve made.
The good news is that you’ll be doing something difficult. Trust me, that’s a good thing. It means that hardly anyone else will be doing it too.