As an infant in your mother’s arms, one of the first sounds you ever heard was her voice softly repeating your name. The sound of your name is so deeply embedded in your psyche that, according to researchers, brain activity in your cerebral cortex increases immediately whenever you hear your name being called or see your name written down. Recognition. Familiarity. Just like the theme song from the popular TV show Cheers says, you want to go “where everybody knows your name.” Human beings have a core need for connection and a basic desire to be recognized and respected.
Maslov’s Hierarchy of Needs
In 1943, Abraham Maslov wrote “A Theory of Human Motivation” which identified stages of development in human growth. He referred to these as a “hierarchy of needs.” In these stages, he detailed specific human needs and expressed them in the form of a pyramid with the most basic needs at the bottom and the loftier, higher human aspirations at the top.
There’s no question that the first and most basic need of any human being is survival. Maslov placed biological and physiological needs (air, food, water, warmth, shelter, sleep, etc.) and safety (protection from the elements, security, stability, law, order, freedom from fear) at the foundation of his pyramid. However, it’s interesting to note that immediately after the most basic human survival needs are met and an individual’s safety is assured, the next most critical needs are psychological — love, belongingness, and esteem. Could it really be that simple and straightforward? As human beings, we’re programmed for belongingness from the day we are born. and we have an innate desire for recognition, esteem, and respect.
Belongingness needs include friendship, trust, acceptance and affiliating — in other words, being part of a group. Maslov detailed esteem needs as achievement, prestige, self-respect, and respect from others. Another major component is cognitive needs, central among them are knowledge and curiosity. Curiosity plays a major role in all of Maslov’s writings because he believed innate curiosity is what drives human beings forward throughout stages of development and within every aspect of life.
How Maslov Relates to Marketing
If you accept Maslov’s theories and relate them to marketing, you quickly realize that most human beings are hard-wired from birth to be extremely curious, to seek connection and affiliation, and to desire status and respect. Putting those ingredients together, it’s obvious that personalized marketing connects to multiple basic human needs. When you factor in technological advancements of the last few decades, you realize personalization is where marketing is headed.
What Is Personalized Marketing?
One of the hottest buzz words in marketing today is “personalization.” To personalize marketing, companies gather information and analyze data regarding individuals’ likes and dislikes. Once there is an understanding of clients’ preferences, messaging and marketing tools can be tailored to meet the distinctive, individual needs of specific customers.
In recent years, technological advancements in digital manufacturing have enabled most channels to be uniquely identified based upon specific data. Browsing, website choices, and internet purchases are being tracked, evaluated, and acted upon. Even in something as simple as choosing the music you listen to, algorithms (such as the iTunes Genius algorithm) can track your prior listening choices and make suggestions as to other artists and songs you may enjoy. That’s personalization.
The fundamental element to personalized marketing is using the information gathered to create data-driven marketing that enhances the overall customer experience. Higher levels of customer satisfaction lead to the number one marketing tool of all time — word of mouth personal recommendations, as well as a positive impact on your bottom line.
Cutting Through the Clutter
There is an old saying in radio, “You’ve got to cut through the clutter.” To say that the current marketplace is crowded is an extreme understatement. With the growing number of mobile devices we use in our lives, the barrage of daily ad exposures is increasing at a steady rate. At one time, advertising was limited to TV, radio, print (newspapers and magazines) billboards, and direct mail. You were able to turn off your TV and tune out the world whenever you wanted. With the advent of the digital age, people are plugged in 24 hours a day. New platforms for advertising are being created all the time. To put it mildly, we’ve got ads everywhere — ads on the internet, ads on our phones, ads in our emails, ads in text messages, ads on Instagram, we’ve even got ads on the floors of stores, etc. With the overwhelming number of ads coming at us each day, what will help your message stand out and cut through the clutter? The answer is personalization.
Find a Way to Make It Personal
The human brain is an awesome supercomputer and has an incredible capacity to sort through thousands of messages (visual, auditory and sensory) being received each moment of the day. The ability to prioritize and categorize large chunks of information enables us to function effectively. One way for marketers to cut through the clutter and be noticed and remembered above the sensory bombardment is to personalize the message. Call out the name of the intended recipient. Refine the messaging. If you want to succeed in marketing, you have to make it personal.
Source and Identify
The first task in personalization is taking the time to really get to know your customers. Sourcing data and identifying buying habits and preferences of your customers helps you to understand the choices they are likely to make in the future. One way to do this is to mine your own CRM data for customer cues and clues. What are your customers’ purchasing patterns? Are there items they are buying that you could make recommendations to further improve their overall experience or to upsell or cross-sell? Are you staying current in notifying them of updates or customer care agreements? Have you sent a personal card to thank them for their purchase or a birthday card with a gift certificate?
Many times, when companies do follow-up calls on customer care agreements, it can lead to other purchases. Just being in touch with a customer to let them know about an upcoming private sale or to do a check-in call can have a positive effect on the overall customer experience. It helps to create opportunities to be in touch with your customers for positive reasons, not just when something goes wrong.
What Is the Best Way to Interact with Your Customers?
These days, customers receive ads and marketing messages in a myriad of ways. The key question is what is the best way to reach them? Do they prefer email? Text? Chat? Social media? What is their preferred method of being in touch? This is important information to retain.
Tips on How to Go from Generic to Personalized
Companies interact with customers in a variety of ways. To individualize your marketing, you have to find ways to go from broad-based to highly personal. When possible, it can be beneficial to eliminate one-size-fits-all programs. Start encouraging your customers to get more involved in their interactions. Here are a few ways to make this happen.
It’s important to track traffic on your website to determine to whom you should be marketing. Not only can you determine customer profiles, you can gain insights into what they’re specifically interested in learning more about and what propels them to take the next step in the buying process. With this information, you can begin to refine messaging and campaigns to better meet your customers’ and prospects’ needs.
• Social Media
Like with websites, you have the ability to access valuable analytics on social media channels. With this information, you can begin to refine messaging. From there, you can leverage messaging apps and other methods of communication to generate a personalized experience that will propel the customer to take notice.
• Direct Mail
Technology is now beginning to enable highly personalized direct mail campaigns. With improvements to printer capabilities, the future of direct mail will inevitably lead to higher open rates and greater return on investment.
The Future of Personalization
Back in the days of early television, Americans’ TV viewing choices consisted of three networks; ABC, NBC, and CBS. In those days, the vice-president of programming basically controlled everything and made most of the decisions regarding which shows would get on air and which series would be canceled. Millions of viewers had little or no say in the matter. Today, there are hundreds of channels producing thousands of programs each year. People purchase cable or satellite packages and have access to thousands of movies or TV shows on demand. The amount of change that has taken place in the entertainment industry over the last 20 years is breathtaking. This is where marketing is heading, as well. With greater personalization to customize messaging, marketers will gain incredible opportunities to not only reach specific audiences, but to speak to them in exactly the way that will resonate with them. The result is greater brand awareness, more sales, and ultimately a positive impact on the bottom line.