Be Relevant or Be Ignored

Yesterday I received a music recommendation from Spotify to listen to Valerie June, a new artist that combines country, blues, Americana and world-beat in a very innovative and compelling listening experience. The artist describes her work as being “organic moonshine roots music.”  However it is described, I immediately liked what I heard and it looks like Spotify’s new Discover recommendation engine is now working effectively. Hopefully, I will not be getting any more recommendations from Spotify to listen to Coldplay, Taylor Swift or other mainstream recording acts that I have zero interest in.

The Spotify and Netflix recommendation engines got me to thinking just how far technology has come in the past few years and how we now expect relevance in all communications that are pushed to us. As marketers, the sophistication of this technology has opened up broad new vistas in how we can (and must) communicate with our customer base.

The number of emails, ads and messages that consumers are bombarded with these days is akin to being hit in the face with a fire hose. Google’s Gmail recently initiated a new email folder system that makes it very easy for consumers to ignore promotional emails. High frequency, generic web advertising has resulted in a high degree of “banner blindness” among web users. To be successful, marketers must now deliver messages that are not only highly relevant to the individual consumer, but also to where they are at in the purchase cycle.

This level of personalization is driven by data collection. Face it, everything we do on-line and much of what we do off-line is being captured, analyzed and utilized to target products and messages that are relevant to your individual likes and needs. This data includes the obvious such as your purchase behavior, geo-location, demographics and past web search activity. However, some of the more not-so-obvious data includes information pulled from your Facebook or Twitter activity and even information from your personal emails. Called “social listening” this data goes deeply into customers’ personal information. While Facebook, Twitter and Google claim to be very protective about individual privacy regulations, information is being caged that helps to build a more detailed description of who you are as a consumer.

The use of data has seen Acxiom, an “enterprise data, analytics and software as a service company” become one of the most powerful forces in marketing. Working with more than 7,000 clients worldwide, Acxiom specializes in delivering relevant engagement with customers that is grounded in data and matched with the ability to deploy that data in real time across all sales and marketing channels.

Acxiom has segmented the population into approximately 80 different customer cluster groups. Titled Personicx, the groupings are based on 21 primary groups (e.g. Family Focused, Aging Upscale and Beginnings). These primary clusters are broken down even further into even more specific detail (e.g. Soccer and SUV’s, Still Truckin’ and Rural Everlasting). While I may hope to be described as a “Fun and Games” member of the “Our Turn” group, Acxiom probably includes me in a “Downtown Dweller” member of the “Modest Means” these days. But, as marketers we always need to focus on the aspirational needs and desires of our customers, so, I guess I can dream anyway.

In addition to this data, marketers are also tracking where in the sales continuum customers are at and in real-time tailor the messaging accordingly. Each time you visit a site, marketers track what you are shopping for, what is important to you and – utilizing dynamic content – deliver messaging that is most relevant to you at that given time.  At its most effective, this optimized creative uses simple design, minimal copy and images and messaging that will match up perfectly with the customer and where they are at any given time in the purchase cycle. Also, existing customers who return to the site may be untagged and delivered new messaging designed to engender loyalty rather spark an initial purchase.

If we wish to be relevant and valued to our customers we need to provide them with information they can use. It is no longer an option to serve up generic, one-size-fits-all marketing messages. We now have the tools to determine what really matters to our customers and prospects — insights that can drive deeper engagement and incremental transactions with your brand.

The brands that will rise to the top are those that maximize the efficiency of their marketing budgets and value to their consumers by using these new tools of technology.