News | 15 January 2020

Beyond the AI hype: common sense tips for personalisation

Personalisation is all about delivering a more relevant experience to customers by serving the right message via the right channel at the right time.

A client told me the other day he was finding the prospect of personalising their customer experience rather overwhelming. The hype around big data and AI is huge – we now have access to reams of available insight and technological capacity to make sense of it. This raises the fearful prospect of getting left behind if we don’t get to grips with the new paradigm of ultra-personalised content.

Salesforce’s e-book The State of the Connected Customer found that customer expectations are at an all time high and 80% say the “experience” a company provides is as important as its products and services. And B2B companies need to take note. Business buyers also have personal lives as consumers – and their expectations as consumers have seeped into their professional world.

The report goes on to highlight some compelling statistics: “At a time when personalised recommendations, proactive engagement, and deeply relevant content are table stakes, more than seven in 10 business buyers expect vendors to personalise engagement to their needs. And for 84% of business buyers, trust is a critical factor in choosing vendors. To put a fine point on this convergence of B2C and B2B worlds, 69% of business buyers expect an Amazon-like business buying experience. However, only 27% of business buyers say companies generally excel at meeting their standards for an overall experience, signalling ample room for improvement.”

So it’s clear that creating an engaging personalised experience is desirable and there are potentially big competitive advantages to be had in doing so. But it’s also worth remembering that the big data hype is driven by parties who stand to benefit from the data economy. And for most B2B companies, it helps to take a more measured approach. Superbrands like Amazon and Netflix’s slick use of artificial intelligence creates individualised customer experiences of mind-boggling sophistication. But their budgets and resources are in a league of their own. For the rest of us, real world wisdom is a good starting point to navigate the limitless possibilities of digital personalisation. We’ve put together eight common sense pointers for crafting data-driven, tailored marketing in B2B.

  1. Get organised

On-site behaviour, email response, social media activity, sales team interaction – the amount of data available to build customer profiles is vast. A methodical, strategic approach is required. At Embrace we help clients build a meaningful picture of their customer lifecycle and interactions using smart technology that doesn’t drain the budget.

  1. Don’t overstretch yourself

Rather than going all out for granular, individualised communications, it’s probably best to go for accurate segmentation. B2B audiences don’t expect responses tailored to them individually, but naturally respond better to tailored, relevant marketing rather than generic messaging. And the technology to facilitate this has never been more powerful and accessible.

  1. Find reasons to start conversations

The trend for endless scrolling down long pages has been driven by mobile use and social media. But you’ll need a little interaction from your visitors to get to know them. Micro conversions like signing up for a newsletter or downloading gated content can glean more customer insights to build into your optimised marketing plan. While design purists might push for frictionless websites, introducing some points to stop and interact is essential for personalised marketing.

  1. A relationship is a two-way street

Once you get started with these micro conversions, it can be tempting to over use them. Asking for too much information at the wrong time can be perceived as an annoyance. Remember not to ask for user input without offering them something helpful in return. Use your customer insights to create content that will help them with specific areas of interest. It’s all about the value-exchange. Test, iterate and create again.

  1. Start small

You can launch and test your personalised website on a few high-impact, high-traffic pages, or just the homepage. If the functionality is included at the build stage, creating multiple versions of the homepage for different audience segments needn’t entail huge amounts of time and expense. And you can tailor email communications in increments as you develop and advance your optimised marketing.

  1. Don’t be creepy!

Make sure your customer doesn’t feel uncomfortably ‘watched’ or spooked with the amount of data presented back to them. Sometimes people just want to browse unhindered. Balancing the marketing agenda with customer privacy is essential, not just for GDPR compliance but for building trust. Also, exercise restraint in the frequency and size of email communications delivered, unless your specific audience has shown genuine interest and engagement.

  1. Don’t promise what you can’t deliver

Be careful you of setting yourself up for failure in the customer’s eyes by offering high levels of personalisation that you can’t meet. There are often barriers to delivering this – for example, it’s more difficult to personalise across devices without turning the visitor into a registered user. When they don’t get the same experience on their mobile as they do on their laptop, this can lead to frustration with the brand.

    8. Automation drives efficiency

You don’t have to operate at the pioneering end of artificial intelligence to reap the benefits of personalisation. With marketing automation you can nurture leads by influencing and directing them through customer life cycles in a personalised and flexible way. Capturing user preferences, both self selected and implied by behaviour, creates a bank of valuable knowledge. This can be stored against customer profiles and used to optimise journeys towards the desired outcome.

Conclusion

Personalisation is being sold as a new marketing paradigm, with the implied need to laser focus on individually bespoke content in every conversation with your audience. The implication is that this requires always on-data harvesting, insight generation, content creation, advanced marketing automation and project visibility and engagement across the whole team. It’s no wonder that marketers are feeling overwhelmed.

At Embrace, we encourage our clients to keep it simple, by starting with small, practical steps that can definitely be implemented. Test and review; if you can achieve an improvement in the customer experience, move onto the next step. Build the model slowly and in layers – small steps can lead to identifiable wins and big results.

Embrace runs marketing automation and email for clients to optimise customer journeys, drive marketing communications and inform sales teams. We provide strategy and planning, system set up, lead scoring, campaign automation and ongoing support as required. We have built integrations and custom applications that integrate with many of the leading marketing platforms. To discuss how we can help you personalise your digital marketing, contact us.

Author
Paul Wreford-Brown,
Digital Director