What is effective personalized communication?

Marchai Bruchey, CMO at Thunderhead discusses why it’s important not to forget the offline marketing channels when marketing to customers.

“Customers are key” is a statement bandied around boardrooms and offices globally. A cliché, yes; but true none the less. You could have the most sophisticated and innovative product or service, but without customers you’re a company with nothing.

However, it is one thing to acquire customers, yet quite another to keep them. This is especially true for businesses that haven’t got a physical asset in the hands of their customers. Perhaps they provide a service that is driven more by necessity than of want? Banks, insurance providers and utility suppliers are relied on by their customers, yet their brands are rarely front of mind.

The main ‘face’ of these organizations is the correspondence they have with their customers. This can provide a great customer experience but only if managed correctly.

The landscape for communication is changing. Customer relationships were traditionally based on face-to-face meetings. But, whereas people used to pop to their local high street branch and speak to their bank manager – who knew their name and their children’s names – today most interactions with a bank are done online or over the phone. Consumers no longer expect, or have time for, face-to-face meetings. And in most instances there’s no need.

So the question for these organizations is, how can the old traditions of customer engagement be transferred to new technologies? With customers demanding the same high level of personalization in all correspondence, whether in the marketing materials they receive or a letter about their policy or account, companies need to act now.  

To make the most of digital marketing channels, organizations need to use them to build a two-way dialogue with their customers, rather than serving as another means to push out irrelevant marketing materials. With this in mind, social and digital media should be integrated into a company’s overall customer communications strategy, rather than looked at in isolation: a customer’s online activity will not provide a 360 degree view of their relationship with the organization.

To ensure organizations are ready to deliver this level of personalised correspondence, information about individual customers must be accessible by all departments – siloed data is a wasted opportunity. If, for example, a customer emails their insurance provider to complain about the amount of letters they receive, and their next correspondence is sent via post, they will feel ignored, undervalued and irritated. Whether communication takes place online or offline, this context must not be lost and technology needs to be put in place to ensure this information remains visible to those creating the correspondences. 

However, ensuring that internal IT systems are ready to deliver personalized materials is just the first step. Some consumers, despite their familiarity with email, will tread carefully with marketing they receive online, treating it as a potential security threat or spam, and will therefore not engage. This highlights the importance of tailored marketing materials which refer to the context of individual interactions.

A marketing email that is sent acknowledging a customer’s recent visit to their bank, and offering a service as a result of that meeting will inevitably be far more successful than an email sent with no reference to it. There will, however, be consumers who are happy to receive marketing materials online, therefore the key to succeeding in personalized marketing is to understand each consumer is different and reflect this in the context and channel used in each interaction. There is not a ‘one size fits all’ answer.

In short, organizations shouldn’t run away with the digital tide – print and offline communications still have value. Undoubtedly, as consumers become more accustomed to communicating with organizations online this will filter through to their acceptance of marketing materials delivered this way, so long as they are personal and relevant to them.

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