It was way, way back in 1993 that Don Peppers and Martha Rogers published ‘The One-to-One Future’. For marketing practitioners everywhere, it was (and arguably still is) essential reading – introducing concepts such as ‘mass customisation’ and encouraging us to manage customers rather than products or services.
We were promised that One-to-One marketing would increase the value of our customer base by establishing a learning relationship with each and every customer. The premise was simple, they tell us what they need and we customise our offering to meet it – in the process maximising ‘share of customer’ - building loyal and profitable relationships.
So fast forward 18 years, you’d have hoped we would be living the dream, wouldn’t you? So why does the One-to-One Future still seem like wishful thinking?
Back then we had excuses. We loved our PCs packed with powerful Intel 386 processors and running Windows 3.0 - but CRM software was very much in its infancy. The Internet was a laughable yet exciting modem screech. A cookie was something you ate.
But now technology has caught up. There are marketing automation systems galore promising to help us read an individual’s digital body language so we can target the right message at the right time. There are behavioural targeting systems that allow us to fine tune our targeting based on past behaviour. There’s the analytics software to help us gain new insights into our customer data – enabling us to build sophisticated profiles to micro-segment and target individuals rather than markets. There’s even low cost, high quality variable digital print capability to ensure our old media is as personal as we want it to be.
So why for many b2b marketers, is one-to-several thousand still the default, rather than One-to-One?
I can just about buy the ‘we can’t afford it’ argument, as some of the systems can look scarily expensive. That said, what’s the cost of all that wasted marketing effort? If the average response rate to direct mail is 3.5%, that’s potentially 96.5% who didn’t respond. Well over 9 out of 10 people that you failed to connect with because your communications just didn’t cut it.
I’ll swallow some of the ‘technology not built for b2b’ argument, particularly when it comes to some of the behavioural targeting systems that can’t really cope with niche, low volume b2b audiences. However, on the other hand, I’d argue it’s the b2b marketers who are ahead of their b2c counterparts when it comes to embracing marketing automation.
But beyond that I think the excuses wear a little thin. True One-to-One marketing may seem like a pipe dream yet it should arguably be the direction of travel for all marketers.
Getting upfront and personal
Marketing technology provider Neolane recently identified five degrees of marketing personalisation. It serves as an interesting way to benchmark your approach – to identify where you are now and where you should be heading:
> No personalisation – preaching to the masses, the marketing equivalent of carpet bombing
> Superficial personalisation – where messages are personalised only with the recipient’s name, otherwise the content is identical
> Segmentation-based personalisation – where all customers or prospects belonging to the same segment get the same message
> One-to-One personalisation – where content is specific and relevant to each individual recipient, based on past purchase, preferences and interaction history
> Interactive One-to-One personalisation – applying the principles of One-to-One to inbound channels, such as web and mobile, and using the very latest profile and behavioural data to ensure the best content is selected, personalised and rendered in real-time
The majority of marketers are probably firmly in the ‘segmentation-based personalisation’ camp – perhaps tailoring their communications based on criteria such as the audience role, function, size of business or industry sector.
Unfortunately, when it comes to customer marketing, organisations tend to be even further behind, with ‘superficial personalisation’ commonplace. Come on admit it, we’ve all been party to those lazy, one size fits all customer e-newsletters, personalised (at best) with just the customer’s name.
But what’s the benefit of upping the ante – and moving to One-to-One personalisation? My own experiences show it can pay dividends. Whilst it makes for more complex campaigns and requires a high degree of data integrity and insight, campaign response rates can be in excess of a rip roaring 60% . What’s more, audience feedback is highly positive, with targets valuing the effort that’s been made to tailor content to their needs and communicate with them using the channels of their preference.
Although mass personalisation is nearing reality, there’s a looming spanner in the works – the privacy issue. In Europe for instance, there’s been an added amendment to the EU privacy directive which now requires organisations conducting online marketing campaigns in the member states to receive explicit permission (or opt-in) consent, to track individuals’ actions online.
It not only means better practice on the part of marketers, but will demand that the content and messages we deliver have a perception of value to secure that permission. So what happens if and when your competition gains that permission and you don’t? What happens when they can personalise their engagement with customers – and you simply can’t? That’s where the cost of being too late to the table will really kick in.
One-to-One may still look like theory 18 years on, but practically speaking isn’t it time we all took note?
This exclusive guest post was written by Paul Hewerdine who is the Partner & Planning Director of Earnest Agency. For more information, you can follow his blogs onhttp://earnestagency.wordpress.com, follow him on twitter at twitter.com/earnestagency or also visit his company’s site www.earnest-agency.com.
Image Courtesy: zomby