Personalization Marketing: If you’re still using Personas, it’s time to get with the times!

Old Timer with Old Watch

It’s always surprising to us how many people are still using antiquated marketing techniques like customer personas. While the need to know your customer is paramount to your marketing efforts, what’s with all the guesswork? Do we really still need to make up phony personas in today’s age of big data and personalization?

What is Personalization Marketing, and why has it Killed the Customer Persona?

I’m often asked to explain why we are so anti-persona, and how personalization marketing is so different from Persona based marketing.

The difference between Persona marketing and true personalization is night and day.  While Persona marketing gives you a theoretical look at who your customer “might” be, true personalization marketing gives you an inside view into your customer’s likes, wants, habits, and real-world activity.

Say Hello to BOB

Example of a real customer

Let’s look at a real-world example. Let’s say I’m the CMO at a major travel agency who is getting ready to launch a campaign going after retirees. My marketing agency just gave me a couple of personas, one of them was BOB.

Your Persona might tell you that Bob is a retired government worker who wants to spend his retirement fishing in Florida, but the reality of the situation is Bob is actually an adrenaline junky who has been watching skydiving videos and compiling a bucket list of retirement adventures. If you listened to your marketing agency, who still stuck in the 1960s using antiquated personas and Blackmagic guesswork, good luck bringing Bob in as a customer.

If you used real-world data, backed by a solid analytics and a CRM system, you now have a real chance of selling Bob by creating personalized ads that are relevant to him.  Instead of serving Bob ads for a three-week lake fishing trip, you served him what he really wants — a three-week Himalayan Adventure Tour that your marketing agency said was for your Jim Persona.

Digital marketing has turned personalization on its head.

Hello Tag that Says Do you know me?

Today’s Personalization Marketing is not the same as what Direct Marketers considered Personalization only a few short years ago!

Digital marketing has turned personalization on its head. In the past, when someone talked about personalized marketing they were likely referring to Personas – or at best, they thought they were using personalized marketing because they added the customer’s name to a mailing piece.

Today, when we talk about personalization, we are not talking about guesswork, and we are definitely not talking about adding a customer’s name somewhere on a landing page.

When I talk to a client about personalization marketing, I’m talking to them about things like using their analytics to set up remarketing campaigns that are designed to serve users personalized ads based on what they have either bought or looked at in the last 14 days. We are setting up systems to track the types of articles they read on the client’s blog, so we can then send them personalized emails, highly targeted Facebook content, and dynamic web content that is relevant to that individual user.

But what about anonymity? Isn’t this all a little creepy for the Customer?

Woman using a Laptop

If your personalized marketing is done right, the user should never feel as if their anonymity has been compromised. Unless it’s an email or the user is logged into your site, we don’t use names or anything that makes it look like we have large amounts of data on the user. Your marketing pieces and dynamically generated landing pages should look seamless, and look like a natural extension of what your customer is already used to seeing online.

What is the difference between Customer Personas, Personalization Marketing, and Segmentation?

In our opinion, personas are insulting and rarely give you a real look at who your customer is. But when it comes to digital marketing, personalization and segmentation compliment each other and are two pieces of the puzzle that are essential to getting your marketing right.

Personalization is great, but in the end we are still trying to segment out large groups of people to make the most out of our advertising dollars. That may sound weird, because most agencies will try to sell you on things like impressions and getting in front of as many eyeballs as possible, but we don’t like to waste our clients money so we like to segment based on who is going to actually buy the product. So for us, that means segmenting out large groups to make the marketing as narrow and as streamlined as possible.

If my business is geographically restricted from doing business in certain areas, then I’m going to of course want to segment my users by geography before I even think about personalizing the campaign. If my research shows me that 90% of my conversions come from 18-30-year-olds, then I’m going to focus on that group first and then start to build out my personalized campaigns to go after even smaller segments within that age group.

What’s the use of getting a million impressions, with a .05 CTR? If it’s branding ok, I get that. But if it’s a direct marketing campaign where you need real-world conversions and sales, then SEGMENT, SEGMENT, and then SEGMENT again. Then, you can serve your personalized pieces and watch your conversion rates soar.

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