April 4, 2019
At our most recent breakfast briefing, we were joined by senior digital and marketing leaders who contributed to a lively discussion – led by Tim Valmas, Head of Technologies and Operations at Numis - about personalisation and data. Perhaps unsurprisingly, they found they share many common challenges. We’ve created a summary of key themes that were discussed and have outlined them below.
What do we mean by ‘personalisation’? Agreeing a consistent definition can be challenging – and the differences can be vast. Are we merely talking about segmenting audiences and tailoring messaging to a specific industry or are we looking at hyper-personalised individual interactions? In the right situation, the latter can be extremely helpful, especially in the B2C world. But it’s not always the same in B2B – or even when we’re buying a coffee at the train station. It may be that we value recognition over authentication, but if everything is predicted for us, it can become spooky or just point us towards things that we’re not actually interested in.
The decision of when to take a personalised approach must, therefore, be tailored to the situation and the objective. It’s why there are multiple layers to an ABM approach – we make specific choices about who we speak to on a ‘one-to-one’ basis and who gets more generic ‘one-to-many’ content. It’s not a one size fits all decision – we shouldn’t personalise for personalisation sake.
In the same way we need to define what personalisation is, we need to understand what data is being collected, what already exists and what the purpose of using it is. Data enabled decisions are only ‘enabled’ if there’s a reason for using it and the flows are clearly mapped out – both in response to an action and when there isn’t an action. And the net present value of data is dependent on its timely usage.
But data governance – keeping it up to date, and even knowing whether it’s up to date – is a common hurdle to overcome. We need to know who is inputting the data, who is looking at it and who is using it, as well as having a central voice that helps manage this process. Tactics such as gamification can help make this easier (and more tolerable). Ultimately, the data is only useful if we can ensure its relevant to the business or communication goals.
If data capture is key, the systems that we’re using to capture it are equally important. The reality is that we’re not using just one system, and we’ve come a long way from the sales guy’s black book. The successful integration of these multiple systems is therefore paramount to achieving a single customer view. It means that the best system in terms of features and functions is not always the best system to live within an existing ecosystem, so technical involvement in the specification process is essential.
To ensure the foundations for effective communications are in place, technology, people and processes need to work in harmony. Does everybody understand what is being measured and why? The management and ownership of this has to go beyond the marketing team and requires embedding across the business. Yet by having both an internal and external focus, the marketing function can be the catalyst that drives this change, briefing and bringing together relevant teams, outlining business and tactical needs, and helping to steer cultural transformation.
The number of ways we can communicate in the B2B world seems like an ever-moving and ever-growing feast. From Slack to Zoom, to email to phone – even the old-school walk over and chat – knowing how to have a conversation internally can be complicated. But in the same way we learn the best methods to communicate with our colleagues, we need to apply that externally.
We may not be right first time, but we can learn to collect data and understand preferences – and this changes over time. Five years ago, LinkedIn wouldn’t have been used as a key communications channel, yet today, it can be the best way to reach some C-Level contacts. You can build a personalised message or offering, but if it’s not delivered via the right channel you are likely missing the mark.
Are we over-complicating personalisation? Whatever tools or segmentation methods are being used, the goal is to put relevant and useful information in front of a current customer, or prospect. Communication strategies have to be driven by the customer need. The only way to achieve this is by listening and understanding the motivations behind their actions.
It’s not just about hitting all of our brand phrases or driving our own ego by having 100 pieces of content that talk about what we want to talk about. We have to ask why we are creating content and how it helps the customer/prospect. The method of how we help people come across that content is then up for grabs – be it taking B2C conversational commerce approaches (think chatbots or AI), a website structure that allows users to simply navigate to what they want or by analysing past interactions to guide future recommendations.
The businesses that tend to do personalisation very well are often media owners (think Netflix, Spotify, news sites) or have a plethora of items to sell (think Amazon). They have a lot to talk about and need to understand behaviours to get you to consume more. Most businesses don’t have that level of variety in their products or the extent of Amazon’s budget or resources.
The extent of your personalisation journey needs to reflect how your customers/prospects interact and what they would expect of you. It also needs to be something you can deliver feasibly. Most don’t have an endless supply of data analysts, planners or content creators. An elaborate marketing automation strategy will still need to be planned, programmed, written, measured and optimised by your team. Knowing how to communicate with all six contacts within a target client, or having a consistent message across multiple channels, may be more valuable than a fully-scaled personalisation programme. Starting at a level that’s appropriate for your business needs makes it easier to understand the whole picture, and understand the impact that personalisation has on your bottom line.
We’d love to learn more about your specific challenges and look at how we can help you solve them. Give us a call on 0207 802 2626 or drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.