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Personalize Content by Knowing Your Audience
Increase engagement through more relevant messages
Posted Oct 7, 2011
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It’s getting harder and harder for marketers to engage consumers despite having more means than ever to do it—Web sites, email, mobile, and social media as well as traditional media. Why is this? Despite tremendous investments in gathering insight, large amounts of money are wasted as targeting methods fail and consumers ignore those messages. How can marketers increase engagement through more relevant personal content that also reaches a higher percentage of the right audience?

Nobody knows more about your target audience than you do. Brands have spent tens and even hundreds of millions of dollars detailing who customers are, how they buy and use their products, yet this is often the first thing that brands give up as they partner with agencies and media companies. This goes straight to the heart of the matter of trusting and using your own customer personas and segments to best identify which target audiences to focus your content efforts on as well as helping to understand which audiences you should not even deliver an impression to in the first place.

With the goal of personalizing and coordinating the right content in the form of an offer or creative copy, how then can it be tailored to specific audience segments at the right time and through the right channels? Here are a few tips that marketers should use when they seek to deliver the best possible personalized content when reaching out to their target audience.

Marketers have oodles of value trapped inside that they must unleash to improve the results of their customer engagement efforts. The database is no longer just the direct mail, telemarketing database but rather is the single best view into what customers have done and what they need. It’s not just for delivering better email (which is great by the way, but it’s only one piece of the puzzle). It’s for selecting the audience you want to reach out to. You’ll have used your proprietary analytics skills to identify your best customers and look-alike prospects who comprise the most profitable segment of your customer base, so why ignore it? It will also identify those who are the least profitable or don’t even buy in the first place. It’s up to you to know who they are and the differences among them. When brands can’t accurately reach their intended audience, they overspend on low-value customers and underspend on high-value opportunities.

Don’t Ignore Your Own Analysis

Part of your database is insight that describes customer segments, lifestyles, demographics, preferences, behaviors, and much more that will inform your personalization efforts. As you already know with your data set, different customers have greatly disproportionate value. This needs to be a primary dimensional value of your decision making when you want to make an impression or when your system can tell a customer is ready to engage with the brand. You want to use your database when you fuse insight to media because your media partners won’t be able to.

Know When to Suppress Impressions

This brings up a strategy to consider: Should you even deliver an impression in the first place? There are some audiences you don’t care about because they cost you money, won’t buy from you in the first place, or at best will break even. This will help you narrow down the types of content you’ll want to personalize as it relates to the price and value of a customer. Rather than presume that personalization means one message to all, start by asking “Should I even deliver this impression? Who do I want to target?” If only 20 percent of impressions reach their intended audience, what’s the value of boosting that number by 5, 10, 15, or 30 percent? Where you may not want to deliver an impression at all, you may want to triple down on the top 30 percent of your most high-value audience that mean the most. What’s more important—suppressing the impression you don’t want delivered or delivering a relevant impression to the audience you do want to reach? Maybe you’ll want to personalize content to your top audience and use a one-size-fits-all approach for the rest.

Gain Insight from Media Publishing Partners

If 37 percent of advertising and 80 percent of digital impressions are wasted, then someone else’s representation of the audience is wrong a significant amount of the time. If you defer the definition of your target audience to someone else, then you’re ignoring your most critical asset—your own customer data and insight. Media partners should be augmenting the brand’s audience instead of vice versa. When working with media partners, do you get response information back so you can recalibrate your marketing efforts? If not, then fusing insight to media in real time when a customer engages with your brand doesn’t matter. Did the person do something? Did the person not do something? Did your target audience even see the message, or did they just ignore it? Inaction is just as important to know as action.

If people didn’t respond to it, you can’t presume they didn’t get a message because your media partner is reusing that information to optimize the yield and is collecting insight (which leverages your own insight) that it may not be sharing with you. Demand that your media partner share this insight with you so that you own the insight of your media spend. It’s not about just knowing the activity of those who clicked on something. You’ll want to know about those who never clicked so you can optimize what works and doesn’t work. Did someone see it and choose to not engage? Then maybe next time a different message will yield a different result. Over time, you’ll adjust your content efforts based on what works and what doesn’t.

Personalized and coordinated experiences are the essence of true customer engagement. Dynamic, real-time content fulfillment is more of a nice-to-have than a must-have if you’re optimizing the wrong thing. Start at the beginning, identify the right audience, and set in motion a best practice to recalibrate your efforts to adjust your marketing and advertising initiatives after seeing how they perform. Leverage deep consumer insights to personalize and then coordinate experiences over time. Advanced audience selection without scalable personalization of the offer and creative is like trying to applaud with one hand—it’s impossible to generate the desired outcome. A personalized offer and/or creative, in contrast, can drive a fourfold improvement in conversion. Deemphasize unproductive reach efforts to fund these personalization efforts.


Tim Suther is Acxiom’s chief marketing officer and senior vice president responsible for the company’s global marketing, strategy, and business development activities. He has more than 28 years of experience driving transformational results at the intersection of data, marketing, and technology.


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