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Drawing the Line with Personalization

drawing the line with personalization

You’ve probably been there, catching up on emails and suddenly you're confused and alarmed. It’s that moment when you realize companies are somehow obtaining and using a lot more of your personal and sensitive information than you would like. With this uneasy, yet familiar feeling in mind, one can only think: are the personalization tactics that marketers use helpful or detrimental?

While personalization was put into practice to support inbound marketing efforts, strict personalization boundaries must be set in order to help a company succeed in their inbound marketing strategy. As a marketer, you walk a fine line between providing value via personalization and triggering a switch that results in a customer running fast and far in the opposite direction.

The Importance of Personalization

The goal is not to discourage personalization. After all, HubSpot reported that 40% of consumers buy more from companies who personalize the shopping experience. Including someone’s first name in the subject line of an email, for instance, can be perceived as thoughtful, even encouraging. Simple personalization efforts, such as this one, can allow recipients to feel as if they are being communicated to directly. This perception creates a positive personal connection between the individual and the company. Therefore, do not stray away from using personalization, rather think through the consequences and reactions you might receive when putting this method into play.

The Dangers in Personalization

Unfortunately, personalization has the potential to create the opposite effect marketers want. Rather than moving an individual further along the Buyer’s Journey, personalization, when executed poorly, can spark a range of negative emotions and drive people to cut off communications. People might question why and how a company used and received the specific personal information that it did, leaving them feeling confused and violated. In the world and age we are living in, people are justifiably hesitant and protective when giving out their personal information. Therefore, in order to provide more help than harm, personalization must be used strategically, perhaps even more strategically than other marketing tactics.

Walking the Fine Line of Personalization

As a marketer, one must consider the fine line between good and bad uses of personalization. While we want to ensure that our personalization efforts are being noticed, ultimately creating unique and meaningful connections with a prospective customer, we don’t want to spook someone by knowing just a bit too much. 

For instance, while using someone’s company name in your content may be appropriate, displaying someone’s annual salary might cross the line. Personalization should be incorporated with the goal in mind being to create value. It should be used to support a company’s efforts in moving someone through the Buyer’s Journey. In the case that a company knows sensitive information about an individual, their personalization strategy should be considered carefully, as using sensitive information can come at a major cost.

Your Personalization Checklist

Despite knowing that a fine line exists between diminishing and creating value using personalization, actually putting personalization into practice can be tricky. Use the following guide to help maneuver the ins and outs of using personalization properly:

  • To begin, be sure to have a strong contact database, acquired fair and square.
  • Ensure that your contact lists are built out and segmented appropriately. Use our Buyer Personas Guide (offered at the bottom of this page) if you would like to create and segment by buyer personas.
  • Use HubSpot's method in determining whether or not to use personalization by gauging the sensitivity of the personal information being used. If the information is at all sensitive, leave it out.
  • Put yourself in the shoes of the individual when considering their personalized experience; would you be comfortable with an organization having and applying the information you are considering in your personalization efforts?
  • Take HubSpot's advice and use personalization sparingly. Do the personalization tokens within your content have a purpose? If not, say goodbye.
  • Analyze the results of your personalization efforts. Figure out what the problem is, if there seems to be one, and learn from it!

Simply put, personalization can be a worthwhile addition to your marketing strategy. It’s a technique that can make your potential customers feel as if their needs are being addressed on an individual basis. With this being said, don’t overdo it, use this method in moderation and ensure you are using it in a way that contributes to and supports your marketing goals. Ensure that you can back up your personalized material with legitimate data rightfully received from willing individuals. The last thing a marketer wants is an email recipient feeling unsure as to why and how a certain company obtained their personal information.


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