Monday, March 15, 2010

Personalization Alone Doesn't Create Relevance

Today's B2B marketers have more ways to reach out to customers and prospects than ever before.  Digital technologies have created new marketing channels and enabled marketing techniques that would have been impractical, if not completely impossible, only a few years ago.

But despite the new marketing channels and technology tools, most B2B marketers are finding it more difficult to capture the attention of potential buyers and create the kind of engagement that leads to new business.  Easy access to information makes B2B buyers less dependent on sellers than in the past, and our environment is filled with advertising and marketing clutter.

As I've written before, the real solution to overcoming these hurdles is to use marketing messages that are relevant to the problems and issues B2B buyers are facing.

The good news is that B2B marketers now have an array of tools to improve the relevance of marketing communications.  Personalization technologies can enable marketers to create marketing messages that are customized for individual prospects.  For example, marketers can use variable data printing to create direct mail pieces that are customized for each recipient.  Other personalization technologies make it possible to create customized e-mail messages and Web pages.

The capabilities of personalization technologies are impressive, but it's important to remember that personalization alone does not necessarily create relevance.  For some time, marketers have been personalizing marketing messages by including specific facts about the recipient - her name, job title, or company affiliation, for example - in the message.  I call this explicit personalization, and the reality is that explicit personalization alone won't make an irrelevant message relevant.

Effective marketing can be defined as getting the right offer in front of a potential buyer at the right time.  Information about a potential buyer - particularly the buyer's behavior - can be a powerful tool for determining what the right offer should be and when that offer should be presented.  When personal information is used this way, the result is a personalized, customized, and relevant marketing message.  What makes this kind of message different from one based only on explicit personalization is that the personalization is embodied in what the offer is and how it is presented, rather than in a collection of "facts" about the recipient.

All relevant marketing messages are in a very real sense personalized, but not all personalized messages are relevant.

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