How to Use Data and Personalization to Learn About Your Customers

Marketing Copywriter at EasyPromos

Latest posts by Corinna Keefe (see all)

If you want to grow fast, you need to understand your target market. Here’s how to learn more about your potential customers, while giving them a rewarding, interactive experience.

Take a look through some “end of the decade” marketing trend reports, and you’ll see the same word come up again and again—personalization. But there are two big obstacles in the way of truly personalized marketing.

First of all, you can’t personalize your marketing without data. And second of all, collecting data can be challenging, time consuming, and even expensive depending on what you’re tracking. Not to mention, it’s obvious to your audience when you’re trying to get more information about them.

Let’s talk about why personalization matters, how to collect relevant data, and how to make the whole process more rewarding for your audience.

Why Personalization (Almost) Works

Imagine that two customers walk into your store. One of them is just wearing an everyday outfit—jeans, sneakers, and a t-shirt—minding their own business. There’s nothing that necessarily stands out about them.

Then another customer walks in who looks pretty normal too, except they’re carrying a giant sandwich board. The sandwich board is covered in writing explaining their favorite color, favorite social network, whether they prefer card or cash, how many times they’ve visited the store before, and whether they’re more interested in a free gift or free shipping.

Now, which customer is more likely to make a purchase? That’s right—the one who shared more information with you. You know what they need, and how to sell it to them.

Want some statistics to back up that thought experiment?

  • 50% of U.S. consumers are happy to share data about their preferences, in exchange for better service.
  • 62% of U.S. millennials are interested in receiving personalized recommendations, based on their purchase history.
  • 89% of U.S. consumers will choose financial institutions—one of the most sensitive consumer choices—which offer a personalized experience.

But here’s the kicker: only 12.3% of marketers in the U.S. say they have a data marketing strategy that works. Even though they know that data-based personalization can improve sales and customer service, they’re not using it. So what’s holding them back?

What’s Missing in Growth Marketing?

Let’s start by thinking about what growth marketers want to achieve. The goal is growth, but not “growth at any cost”. You’re looking for growth which is rapid but sustainable, where the benefits continually outweigh the costs.

Now, every business has its own challenges, but in the last few months, I’ve seen three particular challenges come to the fore. These three points affect almost any business, and they are significant factors in sustainable, cost-effective growth.

The first factor is data quality. Throughout the 2010’s, marketers became accustomed to recycled data. It’s veiled by programmatic advertising, passed through a social media filter, or laundered through paid-for lists. But while these ways of getting information are cheap and accessible, the quality of the data is often poor. It can be out of date, inaccurate, irrelevant, or incomplete.

I firmly believe that—since every business is unique—every business has unique data needs. A list of email addresses that you bought from a contact in your spam folder just won’t cut it. 

Next, we have customer retention. Some growth marketers prefer to focus on new markets and new people, but it’s a simple fact that repeat customers spend more, contribute more to overall revenue, and keep costs down. So retaining customers, and harnessing the power of customer referrals, is key to your success.

The last challenge on the list is data legislation. Not that I think data legislation is a bad thing—I think we’ve made great strides forward during 2019. But some marketers are still catching up to the reality of privacy laws like the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). What’s more, regulators are getting tougher over time; even real-time ad bidding may be on the way out.

So, to sum up: growth marketers need high quality data, from loyal customers, with their full knowledge and consent. And marketers need to get all this, without boring their customers to tears.We’re going for a pretty idealistic goal here, but I have a few suggestions that might help.

4 Ways to Engage with Your Customers While Gathering Data

The basic idea is revolutionarily simple. If you want to know more about your audience, then just ask them. Obviously, it’s not that simple in practice. People are cantankerous creatures, and we require a lot of motivation to jump through hoops or share our email addresses.

So the trick is to fill your data collection methods with rewards. Offer a reward to get people’s attention. Make the data collection itself into a rewarding experience. Give a personalized reward at the end. Keep following up.

Let’s take a few examples.

#1 Incentivize social media engagement 

In the last couple of years, social media giveaways have spiked massively in popularity. There are some obvious reasons why: they’re quick, cheap, and easy.

But those are just the reasons you write down in your marketing budget. The actual reasons why people love social media giveaways are because they’re fun to join, without being too challenging, and they offer the reward of online engagement in addition to a potential prize. 

Consider an Instagram photo contest, for example. You decide to offer a free year’s subscription for the follower who posts the best themed photo. Every contestant enjoys the process of selecting a photo, sharing it, campaigning to get more likes and comments. Maybe they’ll even see their photo featured on your page. By the end of the process, the main prize is almost irrelevant: the contest itself has been rewarding.

Oh, and by the way, you’ve collected user-generated content, social media contact details, and permission to use contest entries in your own marketing materials. 

Another emerging strategy for social media is chatbots. This is especially well-developed for Facebook Messenger, although Instagram and Twitter are beginning to catch up. Once you’ve set up a bot which can answer some basic questions, it can record customer preferences and make product recommendations.

Sounds efficient, right? There’s a lot of potential in this area, but with one caveat: not everyone likes buying from a bot. Chatbots may be a good way to triage customer service requests, or learn more about site visitors, but don’t lose sight of the human element.

#2 Tap into mobile gaming trends

Social media marketing doesn’t work for everyone. If you prefer to reach customers via other channels, or you’re looking for more immediate contact details, then social media contests are less effective. But you can still create enjoyable experiences for your customers that harvest the right kind of data. 

A good rule of thumb is to do what your customers are doing. If they love Pinterest, use Pinterest. If they live in a cabin in the woods, then send them letters by pigeon post. And if, like the vast majority of Americans, they like playing mobile games, then give them mobile games.

It’s easier than ever to create a quick word search, memory game, roulette wheel or quiz. Use a quick promotion builder so that you can share your game via mobile, desktop, or embedded in an email marketing campaign.

There are lots of different ways you can turn a mini-game into a marketing vehicle. Just like a social media contest, you can offer incentives such as discounts or free gifts for people who take part and fill in a contact form. With some smart design, you can also use the game to improve brand recognition and product awareness. Finally, you can build your image as a brand that puts the customer experience first.

#3 Personalized surveys

If you want to go beyond simple contact details, then surveys and quizzes are probably the best way to get more fine tuned information about your target market. But we run into the same old challenges: how do you make the survey experience entertaining, from beginning to end?

The answer is to start using personalization in real time. The second someone shares an answer with you, you can plug that response back into the survey to offer a targeted reward. For example, if they tell you that they are more interested in coats than shoes, then you can send them a specific coupon for your ecommerce store.

You can use survey information to follow up later, too. Choose a survey and promotion builder which can be integrated with your preferred CRM, so that every time someone shares information with you, you can build up that customer’s profile.

Focus on the data which is most relevant and useful to your business, whether that’s contact details, social media handles, shopping history, or budget.

#4 Rewards for referrals

Last of all, I want to finish with a recommendation that’s especially designed for fast-growing, agile businesses. Marketers have always known that word-of-mouth is the most powerful way to send a message. And now, the internet has made customer referrals even more powerful.

Asking for customer referrals adds more fuel to any other form of data collection, whether it’s an online contest, game, or survey. Once again, you can offer rewards to encourage users every step of the way. Keep track of who’s referred whom, so that you can target and reward specific customer groups, gradually using individual connections to build a strong community around your brand.

Key Takeaways

We started this piece with an emphasis on personalization. Hopefully, you’ve seen how much potential this has as a marketing strategy—and how it must be based on a foundation of accurate, relevant, and freely-given data.

Most importantly, personalization should be a positive experience for consumers, all the way through. The process of collecting data from people should be just as thoughtful, enjoyable and interactive as the personalized sales journey itself.

This is one area of growth marketing where we are still figuring out the possibilities and developing strategies. If you have even more ideas for innovative ways to learn more about your customers, I’d love to hear them in the comments!

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