Online Personalization 101: WHAT it is, WHY You Need to Use it & HOW to Get Started

 
online personalization photographingtravisYou see it all day, every day. You open your inbox and there it is: your name in the subject line. You get home from work after a busy day, kick up your feet and flip on Netflix—and there it is again: your name. You sign into Facebook and you see an ad pointing you to a website you recently visited.

Coincidence? Never.

WHAT is Online Personalization?

The aforementioned examples are all instances of online personalization (sometimes called content personalization). BusinessDictionary defines online personalization as “tailoring the presentation of a website’s content to match a specific user’s instructions or preferences.” This form of custom-tailored marketing is achieved by collecting data about prospects and customers, then using that data to tweak online experiences to perfection.

WHY You Should Care About Online Personalization

Online personalization has become a key part of digital marketing strategies. As humans, we crave customized experiences. A study from the University of Texas at Austin attributes this to our desire for control. Google searches 30 trillion pages, 100 billion times a month. 60 hours of video is uploaded every minute on YouTube. More than 30 billion pieces of content are shared each month on Facebook.

Get the point? There’s A LOT of content out there! Online personalization helps you break through the noise and improve your marketing ROI.

HubSpot reported:

  • Personalized emails improve clickthrough rates by 14% and conversion rates by 10%.
  • In-house marketers who personalize web experiences (who are also able to quantify that improvement) see a 19% uplift in sales, on average.
  • 40% of consumers buy more from retailers who personalize the shopping experience across channels.
  • Leads nurtured with targeted content produce a 20% increase in sales opportunities.

And the list goes on. Hey, online personalization works!

HOW to Get Started with Online Personalization

Not every business can be a giganto expert at online personalization like Amazon.com (constantly pulling data and signals to personalize their users’ shopping experiences). However, there are a few basic things you can do to hop aboard the online personalization train, today.
 

1. Segment Your Email Marketing

Online personalization in email marketing is one of the most cost-efficient methods. Don’t always send the same email to everyone on your list. Break your lists down into various segments and tweak your messages accordingly.

Examples:

You’re in the staffing business and you work with companies looking to fill positions in marketing and IT.

  • Segment out the companies that have a need to fill marketing positions into one list. Then, send a monthly email featuring your top marketing candidates.
  • Likewise, create a separate segment for companies looking to fill IT positions. Send a separate monthly email featuring your top IT candidates to this list.

Sending a monthly e-newsletter? Most email marketing software (like MailChimp and Constant Contact) offer the option to insert a ‘receiver name’ field. Use it!
 

2. Segment Your Social Media

Facebook uses data in ad targeting that’s fairly easy to implement. Let’s say you offer computer repair services to small- and medium-sized businesses and you’re only able to offer those services within 50 miles of Brookfield, Wisconsin. You’re not going to want to run a Facebook ad that will be seen by everyone and anyone in the entire United States. Determine what your target audience looks like and set up your ad accordingly.

Here’s what your targeting might look like…

online personalization

Online personalization is not only a great way to break through the marketing noise and improve your marketing ROI—it’s also a really fun way to get creative with how you market to your audience! Give it a shot and you’ll be amazed at the results.

Need some help getting started with online personalization? Contact Cultivate Communications.

 


Image “Hello My Name Is” courtesy of Flickr user Travis Wise licensed under CC by 2.0.

4 Steps to Creating a Big-Picture Customer Touch Plan

 
If you don’t have a customer touch plan, you’re not alone. We’ve run across quite a few small business owners who weren’t even familiar with the phrase—yet, a customer touch plan is one of the most effective marketing tools for small businesses.

Let’s start with a no-frills definition…

What Is a Customer Touch Plan?

“Touch points” are every contact you have with your customer, whether online, in person, on the phone, by direct mail, via email, on social media—or any other potential contact point. Every time your brand gets on prospect or customer radar, that’s a touch point.

A customer touch plan consists of the deliberate efforts you employ to create those touch points. To communicate with your customers, you create those moments—they’re opportunities to get your customer thinking about your brand, your products, or your company.

Your touch plan may include:

  • Distribution of digital, TV, or physical marketing materials and ads—this can include both content marketing and direct mail
  • Employee contact with customers (customer service, billing, sales, management, security, help desk, etc.)
  • Website visits, downloads or emails
  • Social media/promotion/shares

Opportunities for customer touch points come along frequently, but taking advantage of every possible opportunity can be both overkill and creepy. Your customer touch plan should be carefully crafted and designed to be personal, but not intrusive.
 
customer touch plan

Step 1: Gather Your Customer Data

You probably already have a wealth of customer data at your fingertips. Most people are connected by their email address to social media accounts that will yield location, birth date, age, gender, and other personal details. Other handy details include past purchases, reasons that customer has contacted your company, and what type of device they use to access your website.

Data-driven marketing is all the rage—and for good reason: it works. Therefore, your first step is to consolidate and organize your customer data. If you’re not using customer relationship management (CRM) or other project management software to manage your customer interactions, it’s time to adopt and adapt.

Step 2: Use Your Customer Data

With data in hand, you can decide when you want to contact your customer, plus the best channel to use to reach that customer with a personal message.

Data-Based Customer Touch Point Ideas:

  • Send a greeting or special offer on your customer’s birthday. If you really want to stand out, send them a present. What would get your attention more? A computer-generated birthday postcard or a product sample? If you don’t sell goods, how about something really unusual, like a small box of chocolates with a real card? Great customer service is about going the extra mile.
  • When a subscription is set to expire, treat it as a new sale. Send your potential repeat customer updated information, current offers, and whatever you would send to a new customer who is deciding to buy. Win their continued loyalty. Sadly, most companies take loyal customers for granted—but repeat customers are your hidden GOLDMINE.
  • Location-based touches might include references to local sport teams or local events.

Step 3: Interact on Social Media

These days social media IS customer service, so be hyper-responsive, don’t skimp on the details, and don’t leave social media management to your inexperienced intern.

Your social media plan should include interactive content such as polls, surveys, and answers to comments. Document your social media engagement (here’s where that CRM comes in handy again) and look for the types of engagement your customers best respond to.

Step 4: Follow-up

When should you follow up? Almost every single time: whether it’s new sales, customer service issues, mailings, surveys, or social media. The goal is to ensure your customers are satisfied with your response. Put an internal process in place to ensure every interaction receives a prompt and thoughtful follow-up. Be sure to take notes so everyone in your organization knows each customer’s current status.

………

Your main objective: Build a customer touch plan strategy.

After you’ve explored all these steps in-depth, go back to square one and create a customer touch plan strategy that incorporates all of these elements, but be sure it’s tailored to your business and to your customers. Keep your strategy flexible—you’re going to be adjusting it over time based on what works…and what doesn’t work.

Over time, as you craft a more refined customer touch plan strategy, you’ll be loading your CRM with great information you can use to better understand your customers, which will also help you craft a more targeted marketing plan. As your customer data becomes more refined and personal, you’ll be able to confidently reduce your random marketing efforts and send only highly targeted campaigns. The goal of an effective customer touch plan is to make your customers feel appreciated, not hammered with spam.

Questions? Let us know in the comments!
 

Motivational Monday: Stop Wishing. Start DOING.

stop wishing start doing

“Stop wishing. Start DOING.”

We’re always trying to be the best there is—and that’s not a bad thing! But oftentimes, we get so bogged down with perfecting, we end up spinning our wheels rather than getting the ball rolling. We spend weeks trying to perfect our website before unveiling it (even though it’s already 99% there), or sketching out content before taking things live (even when we’re confident in our strategy).

While planning is important, it’s easy to get stuck. At some point, you have to take Nike’s advice and “Just Do It.” In today’s world, information moves quickly and trends are ever-changing with the latest technologies. It’s easy to become overwhelmed and start crafting the perfect answer and approach, or wishing you had everything in place and aligned before you have to begin. Well, technology’s not going to wait.

Plan, test, and execute so you don’t get left behind, wishing for the perfect plan to reveal itself.

If you’re ready to stop wishing and start doing, be sure to follow Cultivate on LinkedIn or subscribe below to receive full Motivational Mondays posts in your inbox each week.

 

Get Motivated Every Monday!

Marketing creativity is the ability to tap into our mental pool of resources — knowledge, information, insight, stats, examples — and combine them in unique ways. The larger the library of creative building blocks, the more visionary your ideas will grow to be.

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Here’s Why CEOs Are Choosing Content Marketing in 2016

In the past, content marketing has been a hard sell to busy executives. It’s hard to sell a theory, and harder still to explain benefits measured in “engaged audience.” Not so long ago, many CEOs were more invested in sales numbers than in the long-game of building trust and authority online—and that’s proven to be a mistake for many.

Who’s In?

content marketing in 2016Content Marketing Institute’s 2016 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends report revealed some interesting information. Of the 88% of businesses using content marketing, only 30% feel they’re using it effectively. Given that, it’s not surprising that only 32% said they had a documented content strategy. Should that be discouraging? Not at all. CMI’s Joe Pulizzi pointed out that, “companies that report being clear on what success or effectiveness looks like also show a higher effectiveness rate (55 percent).”

So, while most businesses have opted in to content marketing in 2016, most of them don’t really have a plan, and therefore, aren’t satisfied with returns. However, those with a content marketing strategy had a very clear picture of their successes.

The Takeaway: CEOs and other C-suites who went “all in” ARE seeing the long-term results we expect from content marketing. To understand the value of content marketing and take it seriously (read: dedicate sufficient resources to make it work), your content marketing plan should be documented and focused, and it should outline exactly what success looks like.

Content Alone Is Not Enough

Successful marketers understand one thing better than their competitors: It’s not just the content. Great content is useless without distribution and promotion. When we say “all in,” we mean a budget that includes stellar content, plus social media investment to give it legs.

If you think making noise in 2015 was tough, brace yourself. It’s going to be even harder to get attention in 2016. But: It’s also going to be more rewarding if you do it right.

You start with great content. No matter what your industry, this will include product and industry knowledge, an intimate knowledge of what your customers are looking for, reviews and testimonials, and engagement on all levels.

Neil Patel recently revealed he’s invested $30K in high-quality, in-depth guides, which he gives away for free. He then promoted them via free channels. To date, Patel’s ROI is 10x what he’s invested. Wow.

He is the definition of “all in.” He’s also a CEO at the very top of the game, one of the most trusted names in the business. He did not get there by accident. He invested, remained consistent, published the most informative content in the digital marketing industry, and understood the long game.

Can You Get There?

Certainly. Believe it or not, few industries have strong leading voices. Even today, businesses are flooding the web with low-quality content and terrible social media fails. They’re not earning enough real traffic. In other words: they’re wasting their marketing money.

To make content marketing work for your business, go “all in.” Here’s how…

  • Budget for extraordinary content, social media, and promotion.
  • Understand what your audience wants and where they hang out online.
  • Invest in SEO.
  • Build relationships with influencers to help spread the word.
  • Create your own unique content, using data and customer surveys. (Ask the right questions—you want other people to reference your data.)
  • Include case studies in your content.
  • Test and measure your results.

And above all, start with a plan. Every year, marketing studies say the same thing: Companies that start with a content marketing strategy see much higher returns. Once you start seeing more traffic, double-down. Learn what works and what doesn’t. Then, keep expanding your reach and answering audience questions. You’ll see your content marketing pay off.

 
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Side Door Thinking: Learn the smart marketing tactics you need to truly engage with more customers.Stop banging on the front door of your customer’s mind …when the side door is wide open! Want to learn more about effective content marketing? Whether you decide to outsource content marketing or not, this eBook is chock-full of great information on content marketing. Download this FREE guide, Side Door Thinking, to discover how content marketing can help you ramp up your website and complete your marketing strategy.

You’ll learn how to:
  • Increase Your Referral Rate
  • Increase Your Social Media Reach
  • Leverage New Product Lines & Revenue Streams
  • Earn Your Customer’s Loyalty & Business
  • Position Yourself As An Industry Leader & Trusted Resource
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Motivational Monday: Expect the Best, Prepare for the Worst

expect the best

“Expect the best. Prepare for the worst. Capitalize on what comes.” –Zig Ziglar

Let’s get 2016 off to a great start! As business gets underway after the long weekend of New Year celebrations, it’s time to make your resolutions, revisit your strategic plan, and see if you’re on track for your 2016 marketing strategy. Prepare for the challenges that may come up this year, but expect the best—it’s time to figure out how you can make the most of what’s on the horizon.

What challenges did you face last year? No one has a crystal ball (we wish!) and crisis can arise from out of nowhere, but there are a few certainties. We know 2016 is an election year. We know the market just experienced a rate hike for the first time since 2008. We know people are increasingly turning toward mobile technology and customers are responding more strongly to personal connections and tailored messages.

Aside from trying to predict where things are headed based on current trends and trajectories, we should approach 2016 with an understanding of our strengths and weaknesses in 2015. Let’s apply what we’ve learned this past year. Let’s do better. Examine your strategic plan. Rely on what’s working and resolve to change the things no longer propelling you forward.

Let’s work together to make 2016 your best year ever! For more ideas on how to create a kick-butt 2016 marketing strategy, be sure to follow Cultivate on LinkedIn or subscribe below to receive Motivational Monday updates in your inbox each week.

 

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