Balancing 1-To-1 Marketing Vs. 'Being Creepy'

Data-driven marketing is a hot topic, but how data-driven should you become?  How granular is granular enough when it comes to targeting?

While in years past, marketers dreamed of one-to-one targeted marketing, some one-to-one marketing is still considered “creepy” by customers and is prohibitively expensive in many cases.  Very often a marketer starts out with no targeting and evolves to segment-based audience targeting.  Targeting based on segments provides granularity at scale, ensuring messages can be delivered to large enough groups to be scalable, but you have to be sure the increased performance of that messaging warrants the additional costs.  It’s simple math, and most marketers have determined the point of diminishing returns at which the additional costs outweigh the increased ROI, but does that analysis translate across categories and verticals?

Segment granularity requirements can be formulaically planned.  The variables are clear: you have to determine the size of the total addressable audience that you have to work with, and the lifetime value of those customers.  The next variable to consider is the sales cycle, or how long it takes to drive someone from prospect to customer and how long after they convert do they convert again and start generating incremental, repeat revenue.  The last set of variables is the cost of implementing the granular targeting and message delivery. There are dynamic creative optimization tools, but none of those are adept at literally creating messages on the fly based on targeted information.  Most of them require a library of assets and copy to match up with using rules-based algorithms.



Segment-based targeting is effective for outbound communication.  You can group like-minded or like-behavior customers into audiences and deliver messages based on what you know about them and their previous interactions. I recommend keeping the messages higher level and intended to drive someone deeper into the funnel of engagement one step at a time.  Asking them permission to contact them again or creating a fair value exchange for additional information are excellent ways to maintain trust while getting more personal.

Once a customer has asked for more information and supplied something personal, or once they’ve become a customer and made a purchase, the inbound interaction is where you can engage 1-to-1.  For example, a customer who visits your site should be welcomed and provided with conversion-based messaging rather than acquisition messages.  If they have converted, treat them as special and ask them how they like the products they purchased. During that session, work to create a personal relationship, but once they leave your site, be aware that continued 1-to-1 targeting can be viewed as “creepy.”

As an example, retargeting works, but if you retarget too aggressively, you risk annoying the customer.   Sometimes they need the space and they don’t want to be surrounded.  It’s like that old adage, “If you love something, set it free. If it comes back to you, it’s yours forever.”

Marketers are smart people, but sometimes we get a little too excited. We need to be reminded that we’re consumers, too -- and no consumer wants to be hounded.  If you take for granted the exchange of personal information that comes from interaction, you can easily be mistaken for creepy rather than a valued brand.  Examine how you are implementing your 1-to-1 marketing efforts and objectively determine if you might be laying it on a little thick.  Think if maybe, just maybe, you might be a little bit “creepy.”

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