4 Ways to Leverage Personalization to Build Your Business and Improve Your Product

Your customers expect you to recognize their uniqueness — in their clothing, their diets, their lifestyle choices, and, in some cases, even their DNA. It goes without question that we live on the cusp of a world in which personalization and customization in products and services will be the accepted norm. This personalization can take many forms, though it’s safe to say that in almost any business — be it B2C or B2B — the ability to personalize your services to reflect the individuality of your end user will be key to your future success. To that end I’ve come up with a short set of five guidelines to help you make that jump to product or service customization. Remember, it’s not a matter of if your market niche will adopt personalization, but rather a matter of when. Better to build for tomorrow than be a casualty of yesterday.

I. Solicit Information About Your User

Chances are, your customers are not likely to offer up personal information voluntarily without a clear idea of what they’re getting in return. However, when it comes to providing personal information to help improve their experience with a service or a product, most people are happy to oblige. Meanwhile, the more you are able to personalize your business for your customer’s needs, the happier the customer will ultimately be all driving into a higher lifetime value. That is, the more a customer recognizes the product or service they are getting is specifically geared towards their individual needs, the less likely it is that they will consider switching over to another product that likely doesn’t know the customer as well. Better yet, you can get to know a customer over time through your relationship with them and collecting data about their usage and behaviors. This creates a significant barrier to entry for any competitor since the data can only be acquired with a significant investment of the customers capital and time. Some competitors will compete with larger war chests but fortunately for you they cannot buy the learnings and data that come with time. Since this can have such a profound impact on customer churn it is oftentimes worth soliciting information from customers even in those rare cases where it may have an adverse impact on your conversions over the short term. In fact, it will almost always be outweighed by the substantial gain in long-term value.

II. Leverage Data to Your Advantage

Depending on your business, there is likely an enormous amount of data out there about your customer. Here at WellPath (www.gowellpath.com) we are constantly evaluating where the quantified self movement will go next, and how the vast amounts of data acquired through these methods can be interpreted by our algorithms to build custom nutritional products for our customers. For us that means remaining abreast of the latest in wearable tech and blood, DNA and microbiome testing, among other things. Of course, every business is different, and as such, data sets must be, as well. It is crucial to spend time researching and figuring out what data sets would best serve your business and who owns them.

The fact is, we are at an inflection point where most individuals and businesses have far more data than they can ever hope to interpret and apply. If your business can step to the fore and say “We’ll do the heavy lifting for you and use all this great data you have in a way that is helpful to you,” then that serves as an incredibly compelling message in an era when everyone is drowning in information. To that end, for a startup you’re well served by going out and find API’s with which to integrate — many businesses welcome partnerships where by virtue of using their data they are able to offer more value to their own users. By way of example consider Fitbit — the more nutritionists, doctors and health professionals who are comfortable integrating the data from Fitbit into their own practices the more owners of Fitbit see real value in it beyond just a device for their own personal information consumption. Find the right data providers for your business and figure out how to integrate with them.

III. Personalize Your Communications

While your business might aim to serve a broad demographic, there are likely many archetypes within that target audience. Take a gym chain, for example. They are serving people who want to be fit and in better shape; this is their broad demographic. Yet each individual within that demographic is wildly different. One may be a 35 year old just getting back into the gym after a long hiatus while another may be a hard-driving young professional who is looking to hit new personal goals. They’re both ultimately going to work out, but what may be compelling to them from a marketing perspective will differ depending on their individual goals and experiences. The 35 year old may value affordable trainers who will help him with motivation while the young professional may only care about all the great classes on offer. Similarly, one may value radically different content than the other. And to that end the sort of products that should be marketed to one versus the other likely differ significantly.

This is why the key to successful customer communication is to compartmentalize your different types of customers and understand when and how to deliver your message to each in order to maximize their long-term value they get out of your business. This is the basis of personalized communication, and the more personalized you can become through the use of consumer data and analytics, the better your customer experience.

IV. Personalize Your Product

By this point in the process, you should understand the nuances of your customers well. Now, whatever the product or service that your business provides, the real test is whether or not you can personalize an end product for consumers based on the data you’ve collected; a product that delivers value well above what they could get from an off-the-shelf solution. Naturally, personalization will look different in every industry, and the trick is finding where it has a place in your own. In some industries, personalization has an obvious role. Few people would ever question why a personalized diet makes sense, for example. We all eat differently, exercise differently, have different habits and different genetic predispositions, so it’s not surprising that our diets should reflect that. In other industries, personalization may not be such an obvious option, but has a role nevertheless. Shoes, for instance. Whether we’re interested in custom insoles or in choosing the colors and design of our shoe to reflect our personality, there is a certain value that comes with getting an end product that not only fits you, but was actually made for you.

Further, there are degrees of personalization, even in industries where personalization has existed for some time. Take, for instance, men’s custom shirts and suiting. In the early aughts, custom suiting transitioned from something that was reserved exclusively for the very well-heeled to being more broadly democratized and something that just about everyone could afford. Even so, to get a great custom shirt, a man had to go to the tailor, get his measurements taken, wait a month, get some more measurements taken, wait some more and only then would he get his finished product. Now, companies like Proper Cloth and it’s founder Seph Skerritt (www.propercloth.com) have managed to build simple algorithms that can, with a high degree of accuracy, create shirts for customers that fits nearly as well as if they had gotten their shirts custom-made by a tailor. Best of all, they deliver it in under half the time.

Tying It All Together

Reading through these guidelines, you’ve probably felt there is some degree of overlap between each of the different steps. That’s for good reason, as they are deeply interrelated and work in tandem. In tying each of these facets together, you marry the qualitative information you solicit with the quantitative data you acquire to build a personalized marketing plan that delivers a unique, customized product or service. Ultimately, each of the aforementioned steps should be viewed as the four legs to a stool: neglect one and the underlying integrity of what you’re building is damaged. All happen in concert — understanding the ultimate product you’re trying to deliver will dictate which data will be important to you. If done successfully, you’ll breed meaningfully higher customer loyalty as you foster customers who appreciate the fact that you’ve built a solution for them and them alone, one which celebrates their individuality as opposed to attempting to shoehorn them into some one-size-fits-all solution.

You can see more about a couple of the businesses I’ve mentioned in this post here (full disclosure: I’m a founder in WellPath).

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