Targeting and relevancy: equally important yet very different

As marketers get better at targeting and engaging their customers, it’s important for them to remember that targeting and relevancy are not the same thing. With targeting, it’s easy enough to figure out that a certain group of people (say, Boston Celtics fans) should be included in a certain campaign, but which item to promote (Rajon Rondo game jersey? Kevin Garnett t-shirt?) should be tied to past purchase history.

The opportunity for marketers here, however, isn’t just about product recommendations. This approach can be easily applied to an email subject line, a salutation on a mailed piece, a display media placement or virtually any other form of communication. The more relevant, the more engagement.

What has prevented wide-spread success using certain approaches to targeting and relevancy has been a lack of data and analytics. Folks started dabbling with algorithmic black boxes in the late 1990s, but were stymied by computing-power ability to process large sets of data in required response times. Today, however, these problems have been addressed. In the age of Big Data and massively scalable distributed computing (Hadoop), the power of the data can finally be unleashed. Over the next two years this area will be a key point of innovation. The masses are clamoring for relevant communications, and technology will be central to delivering it.

Tip: Personalization is the behavior of a service changing based on personal information. Here are three rules for “good behaviors” that will banish those eerie feelings of being followed:

  • Relationships — Personalization doesn’t work well with strangers. However, if a site or a service establishes a relationship in the form of registration or an opt-in, then it is perceived positively.
  • Transparency — Make it clear why the customer is seeing the specific action or recommendation. Don’t be mysterious.
  • Customer control — Allow customers to modify “presumed” attributes. Maybe things have changed, or maybe someone else last used their computer or maybe they are buying for someone else. If personalization is done right, more people will be willing to take off the mask of anonymity and share a bit of themselves in order to get a more relevant, valuable online experience.

There’s a lot of data and insight around this topic and other marketing areas in our newly released 2012 Digital Marketer Report. Please download a copy and enjoy. Would also love to hear your thoughts on the topic of targeting and relevancy in the comment box below.