Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Personalization More Important Than Ever

As customers -- especially younger ones -- come to expect rich and personalized online experiences in their leisure hours, they will expect it of their services and solutions providers as well. Findings from ITSMA’s recent survey, How Customers Choose, demonstrate that personalization is a factor in the degree to which customers value the emerging digital media offerings from their B2B providers. Though many of these tools are crude and experience and expertise in deploying some of them are limited, marketers who don’t personalize their marketing will miss out on an opportunity to reach customers more directly -- and with lower costs -- than more traditional marketing vehicles offer.

Perhaps the clearest evidence of customers’ hunger for more personalized information from providers is their clear rejection of traditional, undifferentiated one-to-many communications. Of the 346 technology buyers surveyed by ITSMA, 83% said they no longer read unsolicited e-mail. Okay, so maybe that’s not very surprising. But here’s where personalization plays into the picture: Asked if they would read unsolicited marketing materials that contain ideas that might be relevant to their businesses, such as success stories, research reports, and Webinar invitations, 75% said they would.

Now, here’s the interesting part: Asked if they would pay attention to these marketing materials even if they were from solution providers they had not previously done business with, a whopping 92% said they’d take a look. Think you can take your loyal customers for granted by giving them generic marketing campaigns? Think again.

Today, email is the dominant channel for delivering personalized digital marketing strategies, mostly because it’s relatively simple to automate the campaigns. But personalized Websites (a.k.a. microsites) and customized landing pages for customer -- both of which have much more potential to build and maintain customer relationships -- are gaining momentum. They are held back by the relative lack of tools for automating the process, though such tools are becoming available.

It’s important to begin experimenting with online personalization, because one day, online interactions are going to approach the kind of intimacy and value of in-person executive meetings -- at a fraction of the cost. But even today, customers are increasingly looking to the Web to make their purchasing decisions, and when they do, you need to make sure they find exactly what they are looking for.

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