Christine Martin, marketing director EMEA at GES, discusses how the live events industry can get ahead of the mass customisation curve.
Marketers have been obsessed with personalisation since the dawn of digital.
Our customers, both B2B and B2C, are increasingly demanding and sophisticated. Their expectations of personalised brand experiences have been raised by the leviathans of the digital world – Amazon, Netflix, LinkedIn – who use algorithms to anticipate our behaviours, wants and needs. This is an everyday, almost unremarkable, fact of modern life.
The business imperative to individualise the customer experience is also hard to ignore. By 2018, international technology research and strategy company Gartner predicts that B2B firms with effective personalisation will outsell their competitors without this capability by 30 per cent.
Mass personalisation is now mainstream, and it is going well beyond an A/B test or a subject line testing tool.
So how does the live events industry get ahead of the mass customisation curve?
The ability to personalise our marketing at scale and with relatively modest marketing budgets has proved as elusive as it is tantalising. But we ignore the trend at our peril.
At GES, we have just launched a marketing automation platform that promises to match dynamic, personalised content with relevant customer types (personas), segmented by business type, geography, or however we choose to slice and dice our data.
We are at the beginning of the journey, and while I am genuinely excited at the possibilities of creating compelling, customised communications across all our channels, it’s been an arduous process and not without its challenges. The early results are positive and we are only scratching the surface, so there’s much more to do and functionality to exploit.
In the meantime here’s what we have learned so far:
THE D WORD
It will come as no surprise to fellow marketers that the key to unlocking the personalisation code is data. It has always been the foundation of any successful DM campaign, but now the depth and integrity of the data you hold will prove vital to ensuring the personalisation you do is relevant, appropriate and targeted.
The more data fields you collect, the more personalised your campaign content will be. Sort your data first; marketing automation platforms are expensive, and without a strong data foundation your investment will not be realised.
CONTENT OR CLICKBAIT?
Content, and high quality content at that, is essential to a successful mass personalisation programme.
For many event organisers who either began life as publishers or continue to run publishing assets, the primacy of content plays to our strengths. To really connect it needs to be more than just clickbait, and customers are already too savvy to fall for a half-researched whitepaper. Databases of ‘value added’ content that can be tagged by persona, business segment or geography are pure gold for the automation process – and will enable content to be identified, extracted, packaged and delivered by machine in real time.
The reports of the death of email have been exaggerated, it remains one of the most important channels we use. However, as a company, and perhaps as an industry, we have been over-reliant on this as our single route to market. The mass personalisation opportunities on the web and social media mean we can extend our reach and connect with customers using integrated campaigns that work cross channel and devices.
The customised offer can extend beyond targeted buying advice, repeat offers and serving related content to letting customers decide their preferred platform, choose when they want us to connect with them and even dictate the UI of the campaigns we deliver. In effect, they get to design their own individualised customer journey. According to Deloitte, 22 per cent of consumers are happy to share some data in return for a more personalised experience, so it’s a goal worth working towards.
MAGIC AND MATHS
If all this talk of algorithms, data and machine-driven marketing sounds like a dose of double science, then bear with me. The key takeaway is for you. Over-personalisation is already a very real problem; when a customer or prospect feels stalked, the whole process becomes more creepy than creative and you’ve crossed the line.
A quick scour of Marketing Week and you’ll see detractors as well as advocates of the data-driven model.
To be successful we need to add value and enhance the brand or buying experience, not simply bludgeon prospects into submission, a truism that applies to any marketing activity. The magic of genuinely connecting with customers, and nurturing them pre-, during and post-sale, is as critical as ever – and we need to bring both art and science to the table. The challenge is to find the balance, and this will take time, testing and real, live people to get it right.