In honor of May the 4th, we thought you might like to see how Digital Engagement can easily go wrong in any galaxy. We got a little choked up creating this one.
Seriously though, personalization can be a very powerful tool for engagement, but it can also backfire. With great power comes enormous responsibility to do what is right. Marketers today have more power than ever before, but they need to use that power intelligently and cautiously.
Sending diaper samples to an expecting teen at home (before her parents know)… investment ads targeted at life changing events (including the loss of a family member), display ads showing diamond rings on a shared computer (when the boyfriend is thinking of proposing)… these are all examples of personalized marketing gone wrong.
We’ve all said something at one time or another that was inappropriate or badly timed. When we realize it, we immediately felt embarrassed and learned from it. The problem with marketing automation is that the systems rarely learn from these mistakes. It often takes a large PR incident for a company to even notice that they have done something wrong.
What to do
Companies need to take the extra effort to make sure that they have strict guidelines in place (including restricting some data from automated systems) and having humans review and test their automation rules with real data. Some of the steps are basic, but others require a bit more discipline.
Step 1) Know your customers
This seems simple but for companies with a diverse customer base, this can be difficult. Segmentations, personas, demographics… all of these can help, but at the core of your business, you should really know who it is you are targeting.
Step 2) Be sensitive
Start simple and put yourself in your customer’s shoes. A good marketing agency can be great at identifying with your customers. Make sure not to market a product or service that could offend. Also important, make sure that you are offering something relevant.
Step 3) Protect the data
I can not state how important this one is. As a Digital Engagement consultant, I love big data. The more we know about the user, the more we can do and personalize the engagement. However, in practice, we actually need to protect that data and not always share it, even within our own groups. This is standard in financial and health care industries, but even within those industries, data can slip out. That is why marketers sometimes find it difficult to get the data they need. Realistic data policies need to be in place and there should be an advocate within the company that works to educate others on these policies (not just the what, but the why). Data policies should be reviewed and others should have input into what they are and how they can change. When marketing and sales feel they have a voice in the policies and are listened to, they are less likely to go rogue (do first and ask permission later).
Step 4) Test the automation
Too often, testing marketing automation rules simply means “did it work.” Did the process you set up actually run as expected? What about the things you did not expect or consider (like the expecting teen mom). Marketing rules should be run and tested against your actual data source and reviewed. There are tools to help with this, but this testing process cannot be 100% automated. Real humans with the right skills need to be involved and review the results.
Step 5) Learn
Mistakes will happen. So will surprises (the good ones). Learn from them and continually revise segmentations, personas, policies, and automation rules. This is perhaps the number one mistake made in companies. Most people get excited about the next big thing (branding, creative, campaign, etc.) and have little time to get it all done, so revising past work and learning from it gets put on the back burner and often forgotten. If you take one thing away from this article, remember to always learn and revise.
And remember as D. Vader says in his book, “Have faith. We have it in ourselves to grasp that which is around us and move mountains.”