Personalized Marketing – Is It Really For You?

I’ve written about the sustaining power of email and my favorite newsletters. One is Scott Monty’s Timeless Wisdom for Your Inbox, which recently asked for support.

For three dollars a month, I could access special content. Frankly, I was motivated by the idea of exclusive, the low financial barrier, and backing professional content marketing (I also support several journalists via Patron). I expected a standard thank you email, but within 12 hours, instead I received a link to a video from Scott, personalized! I’m a fan boy of Scott’s since his days at Ford so of course hearing him say my name out loud was a kick.

This make me think about what I tailor for others. I worked in direct marketing for years, but that doesn’t mean I do direct marketing. 

So much of it of course is terrible. 

Last week I received direct mail from a local Allstate agent. The envelope had a screened photo of what my house looked like. The address was in a very realistic handwriting until you looked close and realized it was computer-generated. I opened up the letter to learn to a “Hi Matthew,” and a figure about what a lower premium might cost. Now a pitch for lower insurance doesn’t bother me. But the letter was so personalized that a) There was a photo of my green house, and b) It reiterated my address and the actual insured value. Obviously this information is probably fairly accessible, and I got a little comic relief that the photo was clearly taken from Google and from before we painted our house black last summer.

I think I prefer personalized marketing that is more interactive and more participatory. 

One of my favorite podcasts is Your First Million, hosted by venture capitalist Arlan Hamilton who runs Backstage Capital, investing in companies led by people of color, women and/or LGBTQ. I’ve listened to about 10 episodes, and on the last one, I paid attention when she asked mid-stream for reviews in the Apple Store, offering a t-shirt reward if we sent her proof of the submission. I might have given a rating eventually (I know how important these are from the two podcasts I produce) but took the bait for the extra effort of crafting a review. And we know as marketers not to count on people’s organic maybes.

Personalization continues to be big.

Companies hunting for higher performance with automation are certainly employing it. Evergage research in 2018 had 77% of marketers (U.S.) doing personalization in email and 52% on the web. Merkle’s Q4 2019 Customer Engagement Report looked at where brand marketers can deliver excellence in personalization by channel. Email led the pack, followed by digital media, in-app, call center and web. Point-of-service and browser push were at the bottom, but still at 30%.

How worthwhile is the payoff?

TRG/Onespot showed one percentage point uptick in response and conversion rates via personalization in email. While at scale that’s probably not terrible, it’s not impressive to me. Triggered messages—deployed by a consumer action—see 5-10% higher performance in opens, conversions and clicks, according to eMarketer. That’s pretty cool. 

Marketers seem to rely mostly on first-party data for personalization which maybe is the challenge. It’s not enough. What people want is not single channel emails addressed to them but personalized omni-channel experiences that know them and can help them.

“Stop working so hard, Mat” was an email subject line in my work inbox one recent morning. I nodded and opened it right away, wouldn’t you? It was from the Content4Demand Demand Gen report. I agreed with the sentiment but also with my finger hitting delete.