Customers are no longer impressed by personalised communications. Nobody gets an email from their bank, addressed to them personally and imagines it was drafted by a customer service representative who knows anything about them. People aren’t surprised to see ads in their Instagram feed related to a product they almost bought yesterday. People understand how personalised marketing works – it’s become a baseline expectation for them and no longer evokes any sense of a “personal touch”.
If done badly, personalisation can have the opposite of its intended effect. Customers cringe at brands that use an overly familiar, easy-going tone when addressing them, knowing full well that the promotional email they’ve just received enquiring about their plans for the weekend was generated by a piece of software. If you’ve just quietly updated your Facebook relationship status from married to single, you’re unlikely to be impressed by an influx of ads for dating apps or singles bars. If you’re en route from work to a Friday evening Yoga class, committed to a weekend of healthy living, you might not want to be reminded of the Double Quarter Pounder meal plus McFlurry you drunkenly ordered this time last week.
Why should you automate personalised communications?
Companies that have built their reputation on their customer relationships and the personal, high-quality service they deliver, are often reluctant to cede control over those relationships to databases and algorithms. But as companies grow, they inevitably find that they can’t provide the personal touch they could when they had just a handful of customers. The reality is that scale creates distance between the customer and the company, and automation is the only practical way to bridge that divide.
The challenge brands face is that customers expect personalised communications, but they don’t necessarily like the idea of companies capturing their personal information and feeding it into an algorithm. The answer to this problem is pretty simple – you just need to provide value. If a prospect is genuinely enthusiastic about what they’ve just received, they’ll be willing to ignore the covert data capture, automated profiling, and profit motive behind it. This requires some understanding of where the recipient sits in the sales funnel, what they’re interested in, what they’re motivated by, and (therefore) what conversation you should be having with them.
How to “nurture” prospects towards conversion with personalisation
The critical “nurture” stage of the user journey (between awareness and conversion) can be particularly challenging when it comes to delivering genuinely valuable, personalised communications. You don’t have the luxury of years of historical interaction data between the prospect and your brand, and the cost of creating a bad impression could be the loss of a potential customer.
Here are a few things to consider when devising your strategy:
Retain a personal touch
Don’t let “the data” make every decision for you. What you send to whom, where and when should be guided by data but also driven by an extensive set of business rules. These business rules, in turn, should be informed by your real-life relationships with and understanding of your customers. Your sales team are a great place to start if you want to know what prospects want or need at each stage of the buying lifecycle.
Maintain personal relationships.
Automating a majority of customer communications will free up your sales and customer service teams to focus on high-impact, high-value customer relationships. It’s important to maintain these relationships as you scale, not just for the sake of the accounts themselves, but for the sake of the valuable insights into your customer base that those relationships will continue to yield.
Collect data wherever possible
Nurturing prospects through to conversion requires you to quickly build an understanding of them based on a limited set of interactions. You can accelerate user profiling and segmentation by:
- Capturing personal information when they download gated content.
- Asking users for their content preferences when signing up for a newsletter.
- Offering freebies or discounts on sign-up and tracking what products they go for.
- Monitoring web interactions such as incomplete check-outs or content pageviews.
Capturing these data points will help you find the optimal conversation to have with your prospects, and the optimal time to have it.
Consider user location
One relatively easy data point to capture is the location of the prospect. With this information you’ll be able to:
- Deliver content at the right time of day.
- Deliver content that’s relevant to what’s happening in their location.
- Deliver content relevant to the weather.
Monitor & optimise
As with all user journeys, capturing performance data and continuously optimising is critical to success. IVE can help you unlock these insights and deliver automated journey optimisation through Salesforce Marketing Cloud. This solution allows you to build your journeys off a defined set of business rules, and then continuously optimise to find the optimal sequence of personalised content for each of your audience segments.