Personalized marketing and the tendency for companies to cross the line during their targeted outreach campaigns is all the buzz lately. From what works, to what people consider creepy, to that downright annoying ad that won’t disappear from your newsfeed. All the strategies surrounding personalized marketing and the new ways to target customers using big data has begun to beg an even bigger question: Where exactly is the line between “personalized vs. creepy” marketing and how can marketers be doing it better?

On April 29th at the recent San Francisco Chapter Dinner, CMO’s came together for an important roundtable. Led by Marc Dietz CMO of Retail Next and Elisabeth Charles, CMO of Athleta, they problem solved the issues surrounding personalized marketing and brainstormed ideas to improve best practices moving forward. Here are the key takeaways from that roundtable.

  1. Use Data to Improve Not to Creep People Out – Using data that is gathered from personalized marketing campaigns to effectively leverage targeted outreach efforts should be a big part of any personalized marketing strategy. However, there are instances when using all the information you have on a customer can creep them out instead of impress them. For instance, knowing your customer recently had a baby and then targeting them with your discount for diapers is good use of your information. However, sending them a package in the mail containing a product you think they would find interesting based off a conversation they had with your customer service department might be considered creepy. There is no room for a one size fits all approach.
  2. Add Value – Make sure whatever you chose to push to your customers adds value to their lives. Adding value should be a main component in all personalized marketing campaigns. For instance, if you know your customer recently visited PetSmart to purchase dog food, then it wouldn’t make sense to send that customer an email with a coupon for cat food. This is where knowing your data, and using it the right way makes all the difference. Study the data and make sure you use it to target people with exactly what they are looking for, at the exact time they are looking for it.
  3. All or Nothing – Don’t attempt personalized marketing halfway. It will end up causing the customer to be annoyed which does more harm than good. It’s better to do nothing. You have to be in a position to target the consumer, see if what you’re pushing to them is effective, and then be able to change your strategy accordingly.

We’ve come a long way in perfecting personalized marketing, and everyone is at a different point in the process to use data in personalization. While there is still a long way to go, what’s most important is learning from mistakes and knowing where the line is between what adds value and what is just plain creepy or even worse, irritating.