What Personalization is not

March 2nd, 2020

Personalization is all about knowing your audiences and providing highly tailored experiences that make them feel seen and heard. It allows more effective ways to engage audiences, and reduces costs caused by sending communications to the wrong people. 

But we marketers don’t always return the favor. Personalization is incredibly misunderstood. 

That’s likely why 63% of marketers say data driven personalization is the most difficult online tactic to execute, according to emarketer.com

In order to effectively use it, we have to understand what it really is. And maybe most importantly, what it is not. Here are some of the most common misconceptions that may be putting a wrench in your marketing efforts. 

#1 Personalization (in itself) is not a strategy.

Yes, you heard that correctly.  If your eyebrows just suddenly scrunched together in confusion, go ahead and relax them. It’s one of the biggest misconceptions we at FFW witness about the subject.

Personalization is not a strategy, just like “emailing” isn't. Rather it’s a tactic that should help you facilitate your strategy. It should spread across your chosen channels and help drive the overarching plan forward. The marketing strategy and goals should still be determined the old fashioned way, then personalization helps you get there.

In fact, one of the first steps in FFW’s 5 part process for navigating personalization (which you can download here) is to define what your strategy and goals actually are. This proven approach has helped clients effectively find a plan that works for their distinct needs, making the whole journey much less intimidating. 

#2 Personalization is not just about technology.

Is the technology piece important? Absolutely. It’s just not the only thing you should be concerned about. There are really five main pillars for personalization success.

One of the biggest focus areas should be about the user experience your personalization efforts provide. Improving user experience is the key to converting prospects and creating loyal, returning customers. 

Let’s focus on the importance of returning customers. Acquiring new customers is about 5-25% more expensive than retaining a current one, according to HBR. So investing in the user experience of current customers is maybe one of the most crucial ways you can invest in marketing.

If you’re a regular customer at  a local diner, you’ll likely start to expect they call you by name and remember that special way you like your toast made. The digital experience should be no different.

Another big mistake made is thinking you can invest in personalization technology, then let it “do its thing”. That’s an easy way to lose a lot of money.

Personalization should be approached much like A/B testing. There should be constant experimentation, hypotheses, discussions on your results, and pivoting goals and objectives based on your findings. It’s fascinating and fun work, but also work that can permanently be deprioritized if you’re not careful.

The technology aspect of personalization is very important for doing things at scale and maximizing your opportunities, but many businesses lose out when it’s their sole investment.

#3 Personalization is not just what you might think.

Many instantly think of Netflix or Amazon when hearing “personalization.” Their customer recommendations are definitely a form of personalization, but there are so many other great examples out there.

Here’s an amazing one. FFW has a Slack channel dedicated to our pets (highly recommended if your company doesn’t have one yet). One of our team members posted a card he received from Chewy.com, a dog food delivery service.

Chewy could’ve just sent a nice generic card out to all their customers, but instead they sent him a highly personalized oil painting of his dog. Not only did this delight him, he shared it with an entire company of animal lovers, who were equally delighted. 

B2B personalization can also be very different from what you’d expect with B2C companies like Amazon or Netflix. B2B tends to have much longer time frames when converting customers, and are typically focused on casting a smaller net than consumer marketing.

The sky’s the limit on how and what to personalize, and it’s all dependent on your own unique industry, brand, and overall business goals. What worked for one business usually can’t successfully just be copied and pasted to another. 

It's also not something you have to do alone.

Why is personalization so misunderstood? Because it’s complex, doesn’t work with a one-size-fits-all approach, and requires a lot of dedication. Much like the human beings we’re using it for! 

FFW can help you navigate the areas that evoke the most confusion, creating a clear pathway toward your business goals. Contact us anytime you need a hand.

Download our personalization guide to get started.

Click here to download our free, five part process on creating your own plan.


Kayla Eidenbrook

Kayla Eidenbrook

Marcom Specialist