"The Targeting Ten:" Basic Questions to Evaluate Personalization Tactics

June 21, 2016 | John Berndt

The number 10 surrounded by circlesCompanies around the globe are pushing marketing automation and software. But they are getting only one aspect right—that personalization can bring large returns for an organization by targeting messages, offers, and validation that advances the digital conversation or purchase process.

Unfortunately, the part companies don’t get right is that it is not easy. Identifying the best personalization tactics is tough; it’s challenging to do it correctly and to know where to bet the limited cycles of your digital operations. To counteract that grandiose tendency with a dose of critical realism, here are “the targeting 10”—10 points that will help marketing teams quickly evaluate the viability of specific personalization tactics. Read at your own risk! Side effects may include sober realism and a strong sense that you need more time to do this right to take full advantage of the benefits.

Marketers and digital teams should consider the following in relation to potential personalization tactics, in roughly this order:

1. Is there actual user traffic that meets the criteria?

If there isn’t, or you haven’t determined if there is, it is questionable to put the effort in.

2. Do we have access to the correct user data to drive the personalization criteria?

Related to #1. Sound obvious, but if you don’t, you don’t.

3. Is there ROI to be had here?

Related to the above. Is there calculable benefit from the tactic?  If it works, justify the time it takes to execute.

4. Will we really be able to track the impact?

Marketing tracking happens in a very non-linear, multi-attribution world, but it is still worth figuring out if we have a clear path to track results or if the tracking won’t be able to differentiate the impact of these tactics from those of other overlapping tactics.

5. Will we have the needed content?

Some personalization tactics require a lot of new content be written. Will we have all the content we need—and will we have it in time?

6. Will this tactic mess up the digital ecosystem?

A lot of personalization tactics are just larded on to existing websites, apps, emails and landing pages. Will the tactic in question clash with, or otherwise mess up, other aspects of the user journey that are well-supported by the rest of the digital experience? (Hint: to get to the answer here, you need to survey all the interactions of possible/likely content with the personalized experiences and other personalization.)

7. Will the tactic “over-personalize” the page?

Only a very fine line exists between effective targeting that seems sensible to users and a barrage of personalization that makes them feel over-scrutinized. See our blog on the “creepiness ditch,” which you should not fall into, for more on this consideration.

8. Will the tactic make sense in mobile or other form factors?

Don’t just evaluate the tactic on desktop. In mobile, and other smaller screens, users see fewer elements at the same time. This may change how we view the tactic in context if it is so targeted that it backfires when it is visually isolated, breaking overall context.

9. Is the tactic likely to create a self-fulfilling loop?

Personalization can generate user experience paradoxes. If personalization drives users a certain way and then analytics generate more of that interest, it can end up with users seeing too much of one type of content. Marketers need to mitigate this with careful personalization architecture.

10. Do you have the team cycles to support the tactic?

Tracking, both in the sense of keeping track of personalization of the site and assessing its impacts on user behavior, takes time and effort. Do you have the hours in the day with your current team to support and manage the tactic over time?

Keeping these 10 points in mind not only can save thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours of time, but they will hone your personalization strategy to increase conversions, sales, and revenue. Work smarter, not harder!

About the Author

John Berndt

I'm CEO of TBG and I've been thinking about the Web in creative ways since the year it began.

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