Every week, I venture five minutes down the road to my local Starbucks just to get away from home and do some writing or reading. Home can be a little distracting sometimes with the fridge, TV, fridge, sofa, and of course, the fridge.
The best part of my Starbucks is not the caramel macchiato, not the cold brew coffee, and not the pastries or breakfast sandwiches (though the breakfast sandwiches are amazing. Seriously, if you haven’t tried the double-smoked bacon, cheddar, and egg sandwich, you’re missing out…anyway). It’s the fact that when I order my beverage, I don’t have to tell them the name to write on the cup. They already know.
Sure, that’s a small thing, but the fact they remember my name means everything to me. It makes me feel like I’m walking into Cheers, “where everybody knows your name.”
As a consumer, businesses that know me are my favorite places to patronize. As the saying goes, people do business with people they know, like, and trust. And as Dale Carnegie once said, a person’s name is like music to their ears.
But in the digital age, where most interactions happen online, how do you create a personalized experience when marketing to potential customers or clients?
Before I explain how, let’s discuss why personalization is important for your business.
WHY PERSONALIZATION MATTERS
Personalization is important for your business because it makes you stand out.
Plenty of your competitors are doing great work and providing great products and services. From a content perspective, there is tons—I mean freaking tons—of content available in your niche.
What makes you stand out from your competition? When all things are equal, what makes a person choose your business? It’s the intrinsic qualities that make the deal. Faced with quality options, people go with their gut feeling, or the company they feel comfortable with and connected to.
The personal touch makes the difference. I drive past two other closer and less expensive coffee shops to go to Starbucks. Not because of the brand name, but because of the personalization.
The marketing world has picked up on this trend, and they’re focusing on personalized marketing. Personalized marketing is a data-driven approach to content creation that uses audience segments, behavioral data, and demographics to target prospects.
It’s all around you. Just look at Coca-Cola’s Share a Coke campaign. Other companies riding this trend include Amazon with their “recommended for you” section and Spotify’s Discover Playlist.
Getting personal pays off:
- 56 percent of consumers are more likely to patronize your business if they have a personalized experience.
- Personalized emails have a 26 percent higher open rate than those that aren’t
- 80 percent of marketers say personalized content is more effective than content without personalization
Some of the benefits of personalization include:
- Builds better relationships: Personalized marketing makes content feel more exclusive, genuine, and intimate
- Improves customer experience: Customers get more relevant information and a personalized touch
- Increases audience engagement: Personalization grabs customer attention and subtracts from the cacophony of noise in the online world
- Improves customer conversion: A positive and personalized experience increases chances of a sale or repeat business
HOW TO CREATE PERSONALIZED CONTENT
A Gartner study said that by 2018, companies that have fully invested in all types of personalization will outsell companies that haven’t by 20 percent.
So basically, you have four months to get your act together.
Many large companies are using automation and machine learning tools to do personalized marketing. But most medium and small businesses don’t have the resources for that technology, or the time/bandwidth to gather data and personalize content.
But personalization doesn’t have to be this high-tech methodology that only machines can handle. And the truth is, automating everything is overrated and impersonal. As Benji Hyman of Grow and Convert recently wrote:
“In general, I think people are focusing too much on automation instead of having real conversations. Personally, I’d rather have real conversations with prospects—they’ll be more likely to close that way over sending them a bunch of automated messages.”
Here are some simple ways to make your content more personal without fancy marketing tools.
It all starts with knowing your audience, and there are plenty of free or inexpensive ways to gather data on them.
When someone signs up for your email list, collect pertinent information that can help you get a better understanding of them. Don’t request everything short of a blood sample though! Collect a few key data points to create a profile (name, location, job role, industry).
You can also survey your existing customers or email list to gather more extensive data, and offer them a small incentive to complete the survey.
Analytic tools such as Google Analytics and email open tracking give you insights into what content and topics resonate with different people. You can use segmentation to target certain groups with specific content.
It costs you nothing to pay attention, and it’s the simplest way to learn more about your audience, prospects, and customers so you can connect with them.
When someone comments on your posts or video, make sure you reply to them. If they liked or shared your content, send a personal message thanking them along with other relevant content that may be helpful to them (Note: It doesn’t have to be your content either, as long as it’s relevant and valuable to the prospect).
In the B2B world, it can be as simple as staying up on the news and trends in your prospect’s industry. You can create a prospect-specific newsfeed or content collections for people in that industry or sector.
Also, pay attention to your audience’s geographic location:
Do you have readers from Boston? Send targeted content for Patriots Day.
Did Chicago just get plummeted with a snow storm? Send readers in that area content about what to read while they’re snowed in.
Do they live somewhere you’ve visited? Mention something about the area in your email communication.
It’s all about finding simple connection points.
Personalization is sometimes just about being more relatable. Remember, people do business with people they know, like, and trust, and the more you relate to them, the more they’ll trust and like you.
Your content’s tone and style play a big role in this. Too often I read business blogs that are dry, boring, and stuffy. You may have a corporate target audience but doesn’t mean your content should sound like an industry report.
Even if your clients are B2B, you’re not creating content to connect with a business; you’re trying to connect with a person. A business isn’t going to decide to buy your product or service—a person in the company makes the buying decision.
So either way, you have to relate to an individual.
How do you do that? Here are a few quick tips:
- Content should be in second person, instead of third First-person narratives work as well.
- Have a conversational tone, instead of a business tone. A rule of thumb is to write like you’re talking to a person face-to-face instead of like you’re giving a boardroom presentation.
- Use stories and analogies your audience will relate to. These create mental pictures that make ideas more understandable and memorable.
- Don’t be afraid to be entertaining, use humor, or cultural references if your audience will appreciate it.
Leverage Social Media
Social media is a godsend for businesses, but many companies are still using it simply as a promotional tool and not leveraging it for what it should be—a conversation.
You’re probably using tools like Hootsuite or Buffer to schedule your posts, which is good. But if you just schedule your posts and don’t monitor the conversation, you’re missing an opportunity to connect.
Here are some simple ways to engage your audience on social media:
- Create conversational posts and respond to comments (this should be a no-brainer)
- Create polls. This is especially ea effective on Twitter. It’s an easy way to gather information on your followers
- Send a direct message whenever someone follows you and provide a relevant content link or free download
- Find your followers who are most engaged on the platform and have the largest following and proactively engage and interact with them
Gary Vaynerchuk gave some great advice in this video (below) about how to connect with individuals on social (Gary’s advice is at 2:30).
Join the Conversation
One of the best ways to connect with someone online is ultimately the same way you would in person.
Say you’re at a happy hour networking event or one of those cocktail receptions at a conference. You’re looking to connect with people, right? So what do you do? Do you see two or three people having a conversation about a topic, jump in and start stating your opinion or handing out your business card?
You ease into the circle, cocktail in hand, and you listen and observe. You hear what each person is saying. When you get a moment, you introduce yourself and contribute to the conversation.
Notice, I didn’t say hijack the conversation but contribute to it.
You ask questions. You respond. You offer valuable and thoughtful insights.
Want to provide a personal touch in your marketing? Listen to the conversation and contribute. Whether it’s social media, forums, or wherever your prospects hang out online, find out what they’re saying and contribute to the conversation.
You then create content around those conversations that resonate with those prospects.
Want to make a deeper connection? When you create content based on a conversation, send a personal note to someone who made an interesting point and asks if you can quote them in your piece.
You just gained a reader and someone who will promote your content because he/she is quoted in it.
Providing a personal touch makes the difference. Your business may not have face-to-face interaction with customers or prospects, but you can still be personal in your communication and content.
It doesn’t take a lot of money or investment in marketing tools to be personable. Just a little effort, creativity, and caring what your prospects are thinking about and saying. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go to that place where everybody knows my name.
Want to see how your business can improve its content marketing and get more personal? Contact me for a consultation at firstname.lastname@example.org