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then we break it down into product categories, why they are buying and their demographics. If you were to ask what that woman is buying, she would say, ‘I’m buying back-to-school products because my kids need them for school, but they need paper in packs of four, so why do you sell packs of three?’ If we can start shifting how we think about customers and why they do business with us, and talk to them the way they want to talk to us, it shifts the relationship.” Corbett says another way to learn how to talk to clients is not to talk about business. “Find out what an individual is interested in and talk with them about this and get to know them,” he says. “Eventually, the conversation will turn to business and this is when you have an opportunity to discuss what you do, why you do it and what makes you different.” Communicating with clients in these terms not only softens barriers, but it shifts the company’s or brand’s relationship with the customer and drives loyalty. “We stop talking to them like they’re a catalog,” Miller says. “It encourages them to be part of the buying experience, whether it’s a long buying cycle like in B2B markets, or a short one like in B2C markets.”

PERCEPTION IS REALITY On a smaller scale, personalization is very much a grassroots effort. Corbett says plans of action include eschewing multiple e-blasts and newsletters, instead focusing on personal interactions with customers. “Thank people personally for meetings or shares of their social content,” he says. “Call them when appropriate. When you find an article they are mentioned in, send it to them and congratulate them. If somebody does something for me, I do a social shout out. Business is a two-way street. Do whatever you can to help the client get exposure and show off what they do to your audiences.” But on a macro scale, such personalization may not be realistic. One-to-one communication, at scale, is a scary proposition. After all, a company with millions of customers can’t possibly hire a marketing staff of millions. But that’s OK, Miller says, because individualization isn’t the goal. It’s really about the perception of personalization. “How are we speaking to that individual so that they believe we are truly speaking to them as an individual?” she asks. “I think that sometimes people miscommunicate personalization because they think that it’s total individualization. It’s really not. It’s that mass personalization that delivers intense layers of relevance to that individual customer.” And don’t misunderstand the message to mean that simply mail-merging a letter with customers’ first names and the city in which they live (à la the technology of the 1990s) will do the trick. That’s bush-league in today’s marketing game. “We’re talking about creating highly relevant moments, regardless of channel,” Miller says. “So that means that if a company is sending an email to me, Liz Miller, not only is it reflective of my history with that brand, but it also is tailor-made for me. That may be different visuals, different offers or offers that are more relevant for me than they are for someone else. It’s about making that intense relevance, because relevance drives relationships.”

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SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016

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September/ October 2016  
September/ October 2016  
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