Individualized marketing isn’t the wave of the future — it’s what’s happening right now. Every second, consumers are making their voices heard, and the companies that are able to aggregate, sort, and understand the story the data is telling are the companies that will be able to create the individualized experience consumers expect. Without knowing the cues from the voice of the customer that prompt marketing action, it’s impossible to market on an individual level.
The benefits of individualized marketing will produce incremental growth, but what’s less obvious is the work that goes into creating truly unique marketing materials on a moment’s notice. What infrastructure needs to be in place? How do you know what actions to deploy at which time? How do you get engaging advertisements into the hands of your audience, and how do you know they’ll look at your materials?
If you don’t have the answers to these questions, you aren’t ready for individualized marketing. But with a little preparation, you’ll be ready to respond properly to a consumer’s signals of purchasing intent.
Have a Digital Asset Hub
In order to market to your customers individually, you have to be able to provide enticing and relevant promotional materials instantaneously. This requires you to find the right balance between having nothing prepared — which obviously doesn’t work — and sending out boring form letters that don’t speak to the unique customer you’re targeting. The best way to straddle this line is to have a digital asset hub with everything you need to make an instant appeal to a customer on the verge of making a purchase. Often, assets are scattered throughout the various systems and martech tools a business uses. There’s Google Drive, Dropbox and even Excel, but individualization requires a more cohesive and structured approach to corralling all your creative assets.
Just as it’s important to organize your personal files or your various assignments at work, digital asset management (DAM) is of the utmost importance when it comes to individualized marketing. An organized approach is the only way to go here, and your customer base demands nothing less. If you don’t know where to find the materials that really move the needle, you have no chance of reaching your customer at their decision point. However, if you have your materials organized as part of a streamlined system that speaks to your marketing automation systems, your job is that much easier. It’s the ultimate combination of marketing automation with the personal touch that makes your marketing really stand out to the recipient.
One of the best things about DAM is that it enables you to specify the tools you’d like to use to complete your most important tasks. You can tag all of your materials so you’ll know exactly where they are and when to use them. Whether it be a video, a GIF, a meme, or a particular catch-phrase, having your DAM organized will help you to push the right buttons at the right time. And since you’re only as good as your last communication with a given customer, you need to be on point every time.
Identify Consumer Patterns
Without a thorough understanding of your customers and the actions they typically take on the path to purchase, there’s no such thing as truly individualized marketing. There’s just a series of canned communications that are pushing a product rather than providing the consumer with a chance to tell their story. That’s why it’s so important to stay on top of your audience's’ behaviors — even if you know what they typically do now, their path to purchase might be completely different in three months’ time.
Fortunately, there are plenty of resources to help you in this area. Google Analytics is a free service that gives you access to Behavior Flow, a visual representation of how people interact with your site. This allows you to see exactly how people arrive at your site and what they do once they get there. Better yet, these behaviors are separated out by the number of times each person has visited your site, giving you an idea of how many visits it takes for someone to finally become ready to make a purchase.
The benefits of Google Analytics don’t end with the Behavior Flow report. Google Analytics also has a Universal Analytics tool to help you to piece together activity across multiple devices from an individual consumer — for example, an individual who finds out about your site on their phone, then goes on their laptop to make a purchase. This tool eliminates a lot of the guesswork regarding what a multi-faceted path to purchase looks like.
Of course, you can’t rely on Google or any other CRM software to do all of your work for you. As you get a better idea about the different paths to purchase that exist within your customer base, you’ll have to try different marketing tactics to appeal to each of those segments. These different audience cohorts are the building blocks of individualized marketing.
Understanding the differences among your audience segments, as well as how to reach each of those segments in a unique way, will help you to know exactly what to do when a member of one of those groups approaches a potential purchase.
Most businesses like to think they’re well-organized. Individualized marketing is the ultimate litmus test regarding how organized you really are. And that’s why having a digital asset hub is so important.
Your digital asset hub must be appropriately categorized and tagged so your marketing automation platform can quickly pull the necessary image and copy to create a unique marketing piece. If you’re starting out, it’s best to start with a simple structure: one parent category with two child categories. The metadata will be where you can control which asset will be used for creating an individualized marketing piece.
For instance, say you are planning an individualized catalog campaign for the upcoming Holiday Season. Each catalog will feature around 75 products from the possible 3,000. Let’s think about how the existing assets could be categorized and broken down.
- Campaign: Even within the Holiday season there are various smaller campaigns that require unique strategies and planning. (Holiday, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Pre-Holiday Sale, Weekly or Daily Promos)
- Audience Cohort: Understanding who’s making the purchase will allow you to match the messaging to the product of interest. (Senior parents buying for adult children, adults buying for co-workers)
- Product Category: Creating smaller, product specific catalogs helps create an individualized experience without crossing the line into too-personal.
- Basket Affinity: Basket affinities can help you increase the total spend. While someone may be looking at a French Press, they may also be interested in whole bean coffees, coffee flavoring syrups, personalized coffee mugs and/or your consumer insights could show these people also typically look at gourmet cheeses, sauces, and wines.
- Budget Shoppers vs Full Price Shoppers: Sending a budget shopper a catalog with full-priced items will have limited success, but sending them an individualize catalog with sale items in the product categories they frequently shop will get them online or in-store.
- Channel: Some creative assets can be used across multiple channels, but there are some that work better in print and others that work better on social media.
These are by no means the only way to categorize and sort your creative assets. It’s important to remember what being organized actually means in this instance. We’re not talking about having folders for everything on your company network. Instead, we’re talking about knowing your audience well — knowing exactly what they’ll do next and when they’ll do it. Additionally, you have to know exactly what to send to each of those individuals, which device to send it to and when it should be sent.
Test, Review, Refine
As stated earlier, the path to purchase is always subject to change. The same applies to your marketing. Someone who preferred email marketing five years ago has since gotten a smartphone and might now want a push notification from your mobile app. Five years from that, the same consumer might want an email again because they’re sick of their phone going off all the time. And the only way to know any of this is through dedication to testing and revising your marketing in light of consumer behavior.
Although customer preferences change all the time, the one thing that should never change is your commitment to excellence. Test your marketing materials to make sure they resonate with your audience. After you get your initial feedback, keep testing to stay on top of current consumer trends.
Technology is changing all the time. So is marketing. And by staying in the past, you run the same risk as all of those companies that time passed by without warning. Staying on top of your marketing tactics is a must, especially since you have the data necessary to do so at your fingertips at all times.
Plan for Continued Growth and Excellence
Internal organization and understanding the path to purchase are critically important to individualized marketing, but they’re only half the battle. What you do after you possess this knowledge will ultimately determine how successful you’ll be at individualized marketing.
The possibilities of individualized marketing are limited only by your company’s inability to get organized and use consumer data to its fullest potential. Using tools like Google Analytics to identify audience segments and create paths to purchase is a great way to work towards individualized marketing. From there, use digital asset management to fully organize your content and have it ready for any situation that may come your way. Continued dedication to organization and innovation will see your marketing reach new heights in the months and years to come.