InsightsCustomer experiencePutting the “personal” in personalization

Putting the "personal" in personalization

How your business can be personal yet practical and build valuable customer relations

30-second summary:

  • Personalized marketing is non-negotiable
  • While data is essential, the keys to building authentic connections and unlocking optimal results lie with empathy, understanding, and personalization
  • Michael Collins, CMO and Managing Director at CFA Institute discusses how a personalization mindset can drive business value even across 160 countries

Let’s get personal, or personalized, to be more accurate. Personalization is no longer a “nice to have” strategy as today’s customers demand personalized marketing and won’t settle for less. Whether it’s through empathy, a relationship, or other messaging, personalization must go well beyond addressing your customer by name within an email campaign.

At CFA Institute, we rely heavily on data to improve our targeting and personalization efforts. However, as much as it’s part of our decision-making process, it doesn’t necessarily lead to direct connections with our customers and partners. That’s where empathy and understanding come in, both of which are key to building authentic connections and unlocking optimal results.

Why is genuine personalization important?

As more organizations make personalization a priority, chances are they will experience a positive impact on their business, especially when it comes to sales growth and customer retention.  In fact, studies have shown that people are more likely to use a company’s services and develop a deeper connection with a company when they feel like they’re understood. In this way, personalization can make a significant impact on long-term customer experiences and loyalty.

Research shows that 57 percent of online buyers are happy to exchange personal data in return for personalized offers or discounts. A further 58 percent say personalized experiences are important when buying from a company.”

At CFA Institute, we have a unique mission for engaging our audiences. As a global association, we are focused on leading the investment management profession worldwide by promoting the highest standards of ethics, education, and professional excellence for the ultimate benefit of society. We do this for our over 400,000 candidates and members across 160 countries.

When it comes to marketing to our audience, our efforts may look very different than companies that sell software or medical equipment, or who do not work on membership-based initiatives. But in terms of connecting with our audiences on a personal level, there are more commonalities than what meets the eye.

Looking at Coca-Cola’s strategy

Just look at one of the most well-known consumer-facing personalization campaigns to date: Coca-Cola’s ‘Share a Coke’ campaign. After realizing that more than half of teens and young adults in Australia had never tasted Coke, the company figured out how to personalize their most general and massive consumption product.

The objective of the campaign was to boost its popularity in Australia and recover its strong market position while reconnecting with the audience. After printing 150 of the most popular names on cans, the campaign went viral and achieved its marketing objectives within three months. In addition to increasing consumption rates, their Facebook traffic increased by 870 percent, and earned media yielded over 12 million media impressions. Everyone started looking for a Coke that can with their name on it!

Share a Coke - Adding personal to personalization

Source: Ogilvy

Coca-Cola didn’t reinvent the wheel for this campaign. They simply made a change to their label without using any data, algorithms, or cookies to personalize their product. However, this felt very personal for their consumers which they made it fun and easy to share online. To me, this is a great example of how personalization can have such a tremendous impact on the consumer and directly translate to revenue.

Capturing the essence of personalization to add value

It’s important to understand that the best personalization efforts are rooted in finding the biggest moments of receptivity. In other words, how are you able to deliver the right message to the right person at the right time via the right channel? How can you make sure that these “rights” add up to meaningful and unique engagement that actually matters to the person you’re targeting?

While this can sound like a tall order, delivering these moments are definitely possible. It just requires having these elements in place:

  • Clear personas that reflect a deep understanding of your target audiences – their wants and needs, including how these vary by segments across geography, career level, life milestones, and other factors
  • The ability to be hyper-focused on your audience with the help of marketing automation and advanced analytics
  • A commitment to moving away from scattershot bombardment across any channel
  • Responsibly setting the intent to find unique ways to deliver focused key messages that are consistent across mobile, digital, local channels and resonate with the consumer’s journey

A practical approach to personalization

In my mind, creating deeper and more meaningful moments with our audiences should seed from practical applications. This is true for any future digital transformation efforts on the horizon, including eventual forays we may make into artificial intelligence or robotics, for example. And as these disruptive tools continue to mature, we will all benefit from the ability to create more meaningful and intimate experiences with our audiences.

Today more than ever, brands must act on personalization and ensure that they are providing responsible, valuable, and personalized communication, content, and offers – without creeping their customers with over-personalization. Businesses need to learn to walk this fine line or risk losing potential customers who may start looking elsewhere, which would negate the very point of personalized marketing.

Which ideas are you working on to make personalization a reality in your marketing organization? And how are these efforts leading you to create deeper connections with your customers?  I’d love to hear your insights. Feel free to make them as personalized as possible!


Michael Collins is CMO and Managing Director of CFA Institute.

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