“One can never have enough socks," said Dumbledore. "Another Christmas has come and gone and I didn't get a single pair. People will insist on giving me books.”
As a mother of three teens – all of whom are sadly too old for Harry Potter now - I I have learned to have very low expectations of any Christmas gifts. This way, I can never be disappointed.
It’s a realisation that I think every parent experiences: you are likely to be the buyer, wrapper and giver, for everyone and on behalf of everyone, even your own presents, as well as chief cook and washer upper!
At Christmas, I often get the cheap perfume or slippers, but every now and then, I am bowled over by something so very thoughtful and personal. The gift doesn’t need to be expensive, in fact I’d rather it wasn’t. It’s the wine bottle stopper (good intentions but rarely required!), the Gryffindor socks, the left-handed potato peeler, the pretty picture frame with my daughter’s photo already in it – these are the things that melt your heart because you know someone has thought about it and made an extra effort to make you feel special.
As CEO of Firefly Communications, taking a personal approach is always at the front of my mind. A scatter-gun or blanket approach to PR rarely works, unless you’re lucky enough to be one of the few mega-brands that can still hold a press conference and get every reporter to cover it. After all, PR is changing quickly. ‘Broadcast’ campaigns rarely work and it’s vital to be personalised to cut through the noise. Even the media, and especially bloggers and vloggers, want something tailored to them and their readers or followers.
So how can a PR team personalise its multichannel PR and communications campaigns so that it doesn’t feel like a gift that someone picked up at a service station on the way to see you?
The challenge of 1:1 marketing
A while ago, it was very fashionable to talk about one-to-one marketing. However, unless you deal in very high value, high margin goods, it’s rarely practical.
However, good personalisation is simultaneously time-intensive, difficult and tremendously beneficial. According to research, 52% of online marketers hold personalisation as a central theme in their strategy. Furthermore, 71% claim that it has an impact on ROI.
So, how do marketers accurately personalise communications? Many content marketing brands are keen to discuss personas, but without in-depth and intelligent research, these can simply represent stereotypes. These stereotypes are exactly the poor frameworks which lead people to believe that I enjoy cheap perfume and slippers. And as David Ogilvy famously said ‘the buyer is not a moron, she’s your wife!’ so if you do use personas, please take care.
However, there are several other ways that you can gather the data necessary for personalised marketing. Few of them are ‘quick fixes’, but as most experienced marketers know, there are no silver bullets in our industry.
1. Know your customer: This is where it helps to have a solid relationship with the sales and account management teams. If you have the chance to attend a sales meeting, customer summit or check-in, you can garner vital information about customer preferences, why people buy from your brand and so on.
After all, there’s no point marketing your brand as Lamborghini if your prospects are Volvo buyers. Failing that, interrogate the sales team on what makes customers tick. What do they read? What do they watch? What events to do they go to?
2. Big data or not-so-big data: If you’ve been doing any kind of campaign activity so far, you will already have some information on your prospects. Mailchimp, for example, gives subscribers a star rating and allows you to view individual activity on each subscriber, including opens, click throughs etc. This information represents a goldmine of activity allowing you to tailor communications – or to reserve your mailings for highly engaged prospects!
This data does take time to gather and you must expect to make a few mistakes, like buying chocolate for your dairy-intolerant daughter-in-law. It’s important to remember that the plural of anecdote is not data, and to gather enough information to make a reliable and valid decision.
3. Retain your staff: This may seem left-field, but when you are dealing with analytics and marketing to a very specific audience, it takes time to build the necessary familiarity with your brand, content, style and what works. Furthermore, when marketers must also understand their brand’s audience and their content consumption preferences in turn, it’s vital to retain staff who understand this, rather than replacing and re-educating, which can set brands back by months.
4. Understand the purchasing cycle - if there is one: Not all companies and organisations work to a set purchasing cycle, but many more do. We find that there are a lot of technology companies whose financial years run by calendar years or the traditional April – March financial year.
This means they are generally planning their new budgets in November or February to be signed off the following month before the new year begins. An ill-timed approach can result in a ‘near-miss’ and a long wait before the year starts again! This means that a good CRM, which allows you to note when staff within organisations are likely to buy or be thinking about buying, is a crucial investment.
So, as you start to deck the halls with boughs of holly and pick up your festive gifts, spare a thought for all your prospects who are also hoping for a personalised communication this Christmas.
After all, they may really want a nice pair of socks (or a Harry Potter DVD) and when it comes to marketing and PR, a little personalisation and thought goes a long way.