B2B Marketing Zone

Why (and How) Your Team Should Personalize the Customer Experience

Why (and How) Your Team Should Personalize the Customer Experience

Why (and How) Your Team Should Personalize the Customer Experience

We all have good intentions when it comes to customer experience and treating our customers well, but sometimes there are disconnects.

The classic example of this is when you get put on hold by a company. They tell you at the beginning of your wait, “Your call is important to us.” They tell you that again five minutes later. Then ten minutes later. And you begin to wonder how important your call really is to them.

Hopefully, this isn’t a common practice at your company. But some recent research suggests some companies, and their customers, are having exactly that kind of experience.

A study from Econsultancy, found that “81% of consumer brands say they have a working holistic view of their customers.”

Customers disagree. Only 37% of them “say their favorite retailer understands them.” Consumers also say brands often send irrelevant messages.

This is a screenshot from an eConsultancy report showing how companies are falling short of understanding the customer experience.

Is it possible your company could be having a disconnect like this with customers and prospects? Perhaps by treating them all the same?

Many B2B companies tell prospects and customers they understand their unique needs. But then the company turns around and sends everyone the same email. Or maybe they show everyone the same website. Or lump everybody into the same sales funnel.

CMOs are keenly aware of this problem. They shared how far along they are toward solving it in the CMO Council’s Context, Commerce + Customer report.

As seen in this chart from CMO Council’s Context, Commerce + Customer report, CMOs are keenly aware that most customers are being served the same customer experience.

There’s some good progress shown there, but clearly we’ve got a ways to go. That’s why personalization, and optimizing the customer experience have become one of the top goals for marketing teams and their executives. As Ascend2 notes in this survey summary report:

According to Ascend2's 2016 Data-Driven Marketing Survey, Personalizing the customer experience is one of the most important goals for marketing professionals.

Personalization is part of the customer experience

Before we get into the nuts and bolts of how to personalize the customer experience, let’s establish something: Personalization and the customer experience aren’t two different things. They’re two different aspects of the same thing. Personalization is simply another way to enhance the customer experience.

We know that improving the customer experience is worthwhile. If you doubt it, consider this chart from a study by Watermark Consulting. Companies that are customer experience “leaders” generate nearly four times the returns of customer experience “laggards.”

In fact, many marketing thought leaders name customer experience as the next new market differentiator. We’ve written about it ourselves on this customer experience blog post.

But some people take the importance of customer experience even further. Research from Walker asserts that customer experience is already more important to business strategy than products or price. They predict it will be even more critical by 2020.

The importance of customer experience will only continue to grow.

Customer experience is such a huge topic – a discipline, even – that it rolls customer service, interface design, and content marketing all together. It’s literally a new way to view how companies function.

Customer experience investments pay off, too. According to research from Sitecore and Avanade, the ROI on customer experience investments is 300%.

Respondents report that for every US $1 their organization spends on improving the customer experience, their organization sees a return of US $3.

You’re good with an ROI of 300%, right?

But what about personalization? Is it worth the investment?

I bet you already know the answer. It’s “Yes.”

Here’s proof: According to the Harvard Business Review article, How Marketers Can Personalize at Scale, “We know that personalization can deliver five to eight times the ROI on marketing spend, and can lift sales by 10% or more.”

How to personalize the customer experience

So you know you want to do this. Customer experience and personalization clearly deliver excellent returns.

Great. Now what?

There are nearly endless ways to personalize customers’ experiences. That doesn’t mean you should try all of them. In fact, the smartest advice around seems to be to start with the data you already have. Begin by testing simple things using your existing data. See what works and what doesn’t. “Fail fast” as the startups say.

Do this before you invest in a massive, complex personalization stack. Why? Because too many businesses seem to go whole hog into personalization, only to find they simply don’t have the bandwidth to do everything that’s possible. Let’s face it – we’re not all Fortune 500 companies with whole floors of marketing staff. Often, there’s just a few of us around to make all this work.

That doesn’t have to be a problem. In fact, with the right strategy and the right software, small teams can get Fortune 500 results without getting lost in seas of data, or taking months to see any returns.

One thing you do need, even before you buy software and even before you start testing, is a map of your customer journey, aka the sales funnel. You can use this free tool to make one.

I’ll bet you’ve heard this advice before. Hopefully, a bunch of you just thought “Got it!” and are ready to rock. If you’re not, please: Step back and map out those customer journeys. Define your personas, too. Then find somebody to play devil’s advocate and try to poke holes in your plans. Because all that work is the foundation of your personalization and customer experience program. It’s gotta be solid.

After you’ve got that map, start thinking about every customer touchpoint along the way. And I mean every channel:

  • Email marketing
  • Your website
  • Social media
  • In-person or in-store events
  • Webinars
  • Advertising on third-party sites

Why figure this out? Because most of those things can be personalized, but to be effective, that personalization needs to be planned and coordinated. Random acts of just inserting someone’s first name into a piece of content or an email won’t cut it. And it’s time to think beyond simply personalizing emails (though that’s still one of our favorite things).

Global Giving
This personalized email from the nonprofit GlobalGiving generated a “10x increase in the number of donations and engagement from the email.” To get these results, both the salutation and the recommended projects were personalized.

For instance, maybe you’re already personalizing your emails and getting good results. The next step might be to add personalized messages and content to your website, and perhaps run a few small experiments with personalized retargeting ads or personalized social media messages.

To give you some context for how to think about what and where you’re going to personalize, here’s what your colleagues are personalizing:

eMarketer released a study showing the top channels for personalization in 2016.

And here’s what your peers recommend for delivering an optimal customer experience:

It’s interesting how two out of these three top attributes include human beings. Sometimes, improving the customer experience may mean hiring more people as much as it means buying more software.

Conclusion

Marketing software has raised the bar on what’s possible with personalization and the customer experience. But it’s also raised expectations. Consumers (and B2B buyers, too) now expect a personalized experience. If they don’t get it, they often express dissatisfaction with the company and begin to look to other options.

An Agilone survey of US and UK consumers found that 79% of US and 70% of UK consumers expect at least some kind of personalization in their digital experience. If you looked deeper into the data, you’d see that younger buyers tend to expect even more personalization. In other words, these expectations aren’t going away – the bar is only going to go higher.

What do you think?

How well is your company doing at personalizing the customer experience? Or if you’re holding back, what’s causing that? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Act-On eBook: Do You Really Know Your Customers?

About

Pam Neely has been marketing online for 18 years. She has a background in publishing and journalism, including a New York Press Award and a Hermes Creative Award for blog writing. Pam holds a Master's Degree in Direct and Interactive Marketing from New York University and is the author of a bestselling Amazon Kindle book "50 Ways to Build Your Email Marketing List." Follow her on Twitter @pamellaneely.