Up Close and Personal

Boy oh boy… the responses I got from last week’s column made me feel like a dentist doing a root canal with a butter knife: I hit LOTS of nerves! But my lousy metaphor breaks down when you look at the kinds of responses I got: 100 percent positive! All I can say is: Thanks, people. I’m desperately trying to respond via email to everyone.

But this week’s gonna be a little bit more down-to-earth and a bit more applicable to your daily grind. Not that I don’t have a whole bushel o’ vitriol left… it’s just that Ann’s coming down on me hard about the amount of feedback email she’s had to forward to me, and I’m feeling a bit guilty.

Personalization’s a huge issue these days with existing and wannabe online retailers and web-based businesses. Everywhere you turn, companies are touting that their software’s The Next Big Thing that’s going to help you learn everything about your customers from their zip codes down to their shoe size… all while delivering the ultimate in customized content tailored to their DNA.

And if my client requests and the RFPs I’ve seen lately are any indication, the trend toward sites wanting to include personalization is increasing. Everybody wants it, but – as I’m rapidly discovering – very few people know exactly what it is and how to apply it to their web sites.

So, I decided to do a bit of digging to find online personalization resources, sites where schlubs like you and me (well, at least like me) could go to find the information we need to make an informed decision as to what type of personalization software to recommend to our clients or implement on our own sites. We all know we need to know about it, but it’s tough to know where to go. Hopefully, today’s Leading Edge will provide you with the links you need to get up close and personal.

Probably the best site at which to start your personalization journey is the aptly named Personalization.com, a one-stop source for links, vendor information, commentary, and discussion on the ins and outs of implementing personalization technologies for the web.

While the site is underwritten by Net Perceptions, a leading personalization vendor, editor Chris Locke seems to keep their corporate influence in check with nary a shameless plug to be found on the site.

Locke (also known as RageBoy by his friends) is probably one of the most interesting and insightful e-biz geniuses out there. His regular rants make my spew last week look like a benediction. Co-author of “The Cluetrain Manifesto,” Locke has a contrarian vision that provides an incredible reality check to the hype-machine so much of the personalization industry grooves to.

While the articles by Locke, Allen and Kasanoff all help put the state of personalization in perspective, I found a lot of useful information in their links section (which has plenty of pointers to good web resources) and in their vendor section linking to a big list of the top personalization vendors on the web. You’re sort of left to your own devices when deciding which ones to check out, but it’s a good start.

If you’re looking for objective ratings of the best personalization software available, look no further than Accelerating.com, brought to you by Accelerating 1to1 (a spin-off of the Peppers and Rogers Group).

Accelerating.com not only provides a huge feature-comparison matrix of all the top personalization software, but also serves up heaps of commentary and articles to help you make your decision.

One of the most interesting features of Accelerating.com is its ongoing survey that strives to help you put your own company’s personalization initiatives into context with what others are doing. As part of the sign-up process you need to go through to get into the site, you simply fill out a less-than-five-minute survey and then see how you’re ranked against others in your industry. It ain’t earth-shattering stuff, but it is interesting. Check it out.

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