Marketing has never been easy, but it used to be much simpler.
- "Buy our brand of vegetables (no matter who you are) because we produce the best-tasting ones!"
Messages such as this did not require demographics as they could be delivered to virtually anyone, anywhere and at any time. However utilizing demographics, required altering the message, often delivering a different message for different groups.
- "Our brand of frozen vegetables give you more time to spend on important matters." (This message could be "tweaked" to appeal to parents of young children as well as childless couples involved with their careers or recreational activities.)
- "When only the best will do, buy our brand of vegetables." (Depending on circumstances, this message could have "snob appeal" for consumers in a certain income range, or it could be targeted to those who were health-conscious, quality conscious or proud of his or her culinary skills.)
When marketers wanted to make a consumer feel "special," they could mail out a form letter with each customer's name inserted. (Of course, the message was identical for every customer, and the greetings could sometimes prove counter-productive, especially if the database had incorrect information. Think of the offer of burial insurance mailed to a woman who had been deceased for several years or the gentleman who was inundated with catalogs for women's clothing addressed to "Ms. Dana X.")
Such "personalized" messages made their way to the Internet in the form of email marketing campaigns. Inboxes were flooded with so many irrelevant and unwanted offers that people lost their curiosity and began to delete these messages without ever opening them.
Enter Content Marketing
Marketers are good at adapting to change. Once they realized that traditional methods were not producing the results they needed, they looked for new techniques. They discovered that they could have better results if they engaged consumers in a meaningful way. The era of content marketing had arrived.
At its most basic level, content marketing is engaging customers without delivering a sales pitch. It is a strategy that focuses on creating, curating and delivering valuable information in the hope of altering customer behavior. It is the belief that when a brand can keep the attention of consumers, they will eventually reward the brand by purchasing their products.
Personalized Content Marketing
Content marketing is good, but personalized content marketing is better. Consumers today are inundated with marketing messages. Every time they turn on the radio, watch a television program, open a magazine or drive to work, they are bombarded by marketing. Most websites are filled with ads, and even a simple online search can provide an annoying wealth of ads.
Consumers have adapted to the constant barrage of marketing. They have become quite adept at ignoring these messages. They record television programs and fast-forward through commercials. They barely glance at print ads or billboards. They set their spam filters on their email accounts and seldom check their spam files. When visiting a website, they can focus their attention on the relevant information in a split second. In short, they have learned to hear without listening and see without acknowledging.
However, if the message is personalized, they are more likely to give it their attention. Personalization, though, is much more than just inserting a name. It requires a knowledge of your customers that tells you how they have behaved in the past and allows you to predict future behavior. For example, if you know which content a visitor has clicked, you can determine the content to offer that is most likely to appeal to the specific visitor.
Personalized content marketing also requires you to know a great deal about the context in which customers interact with you. How are customers interacting with your content? Are they using mobile devices? Are they clicking through from websites to visit your Facebook page? When are they interacting with you? Is it immediately after they make a purchase or during the early stages of their purchase journey? Is there a specific day or time of day? Finally, you will also need to understand why they are there. Are they looking up information on trouble-shooting a product you sell or seeking relevant (but tangential) information?
Content personalization will play an important part in the future of marketing. However, it can be tricky. You must find the proper degree to which you can personalize your marketing efforts. If you do not go far enough, you will not reach your audience — but if you go too far, you could make them feel that you are "stalking" them. If you master the art of delivering personalized content that is relevant to each recipient, though, you can be rewarded.