The Last Word on Personalization (for Now)

If you have been reading these articles for the past couple of months, you know that I have been talking about methods and tools to help marketers effectively collect, manage, and utilize data. One of the manifestations of the intelligent use of data that I’ve focused on has been personalization.

In my last article, I discussed a few different types of personalized interactions that marketers can use data to create. The most complex and, arguably, most compelling is rules-based personalization: using data to predict the needs/behavior of unique customers and providing unique sales opportunities, service, and support based on the relationship history.

The needs of each marketing organization are going to vary considerably by industry, product, and campaign. Universally, though, we can consider customer acquisition and retention as core drivers of any marketing effort.

Customer Acquisition

Acquisition is clearly the most critical activity in any relationship. The challenge is twofold. First, marketing must define what the event means. Then it must ensure that the event occurs. Is acquisition defined as the first purchase, or does it occur prior to that? Is a customer acquired only once?

Let’s suppose that acquisition is an event based on a discrete interaction such as registration, purchase, or inquiry. Assuming that it is unlikely this event will occur on the initial web-site visit, you should have the opportunity to learn at least a bit about a customer’s interests. By collecting click-stream and search data you can begin to identify key drivers for each customer. By remembering customers through cookies you can recognize them on subsequent visits and provide interactions (content, ads, product promotions) pertinent to them.

Customer Retention

Here’s a maxim to market by: Retaining customers is far cheaper than acquiring them. This will probably always be true. Automating the personalization of relationships can reduce this cost while increasing the responsiveness of the organization to the customer. Each interaction a customer has with your organization should provide incremental knowledge about that customer’s preferences, needs, and service disposition.

Leveraging this information to provide pertinent and timely interactions with customers is the hallmark of personalized service. How many organizations do you know that are effectively doing this? How loyal would you be to a company that was responsive to all your needs?

Your own customized product catalog. Comprehensive billing history. Proactive communication about delivery, production, and shipping problems. All these types of activities are possible once you know what your customer needs.

Solutions

Let’s take a look at some of the commercial solutions that exist and their applicability to B2B marketing. The two that I perceive as leaders in the space are Art Technology Group’s (ATG’s) Dynamo Scenario Server and BEA System’s WebLogic. Personalization Server.

Dynamo Scenario Server. The latest version of ATG’s Dynamo product suite incorporates the Dynamo Scenario Server. The server allows managers to craft and manage scenarios through which it can engage customer segments and individual customers. A pretty powerful way to manage relationships, this solution allows managers to define a unique interaction with a customer based on a list of variables (time, segment, conditions).

BEA WebLogic Personalization Server. BEA’s Personalization Server provides a robust set of templates for designing personalized content and transactional interactions with customers. A tightly integrated solution with the WebLogic E-Business Platform, the Personalization Server also allows the development and management of highly targeted promotional and marketing campaigns. As an overall personalization solution, it is comprehensive in the tools it provides for marketing, sales, and content.

Though they are different solutions, both enable organizations to define the manner in which and the conditions under which you can market to and manage relationships with your customers. These are not the only solutions that exist, however; they are the more robust solutions to the challenge of effective rules-based personalization. I encourage you to explore these as leaders in the market.

Your needs may not require such investment. Refer to the types of personalization I discussed in my last article and make your technology choices based on the needs you have. Complex personalization requires not only upfront capital costs but ongoing management costs as well.

And, as always, please let me know how successful your efforts have been.

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