From personalized to humanized marketing Marketing by GABRIEL SWAIN February 25, 2020 Over the last decade digital marketing opened new communication channels, adding more opportunities for personalized marketing. But as consumers got used to personalized messages and customized brand experiences, companies began to look for new ways to nurture lasting customer relationships, build trust, and stand out from their competitors. So, humanized marketing emerged. While both personalized and humanized marketing depend on access to customer data and ability to convert data into actionable insights, they are two different practices that require distinct strategies and tactics. In this post we explain the differences between personalized and humanized marketing and dig into the benefits of humanizing your brand. We wrap things up with a list of best practices for digital marketers. Marketing personalization Personalized marketing is the practice of using customer data to include personal elements in marketing communications. If you use a customer relationship management (CRM) system that includes CRM, sales, and marketing capabilities on one, unified platform, you can store loads of customer data as well as carry out marketing campaigns and measure their performance. All customer data—typically behavioral and demographic—is captured through customer and prospect interactions with your company. Marketers use that data to personalize marketing communications. Using a recipient’s first name in an email greeting is an example of personalization. If your CRM system is tracking the product pages your prospects and customers visit the most, you can send personalized messages to them about those products. Because personalization is data-driven, it’s not as personal as it sounds. Essentially, prospects and customers are treated as pieces of data, not live human beings. However, that data collected for personalization facilitates humanization, making it an essential building block for humanized marketing. Marketing humanization Humanization adds the human element across all stages of the customer journey and product lifecycle. It involves getting to know your customers on an individual level. It requires you to interact one-on-one with customers and prospects, know them by name, and understand their unique challenges, goals, pain points, etc. As marketers, we must shift our thinking away from achieving our goals to supporting our customers in achieving their goals. A customer-centric approach to marketing is essential to humanizing your marketing efforts. You must show customers and prospects that you’re investing in their success and forming closer interpersonal relationships with them. But how do you benefit from forming those relationships? Below we unpack the key benefits marketers gain from humanization. Key benefits of humanizing your brand When customers and prospects feel your employees and your company are taking a vested interest in their success and in learning about them individually, many benefits reveal themselves. And these benefits are all interconnected. Better customer experience Today’s consumers care more about their experience interacting with your brand than ever before. And these interactions include identifying common values. Customers today want to know what your brand stands for. This is particularly true with millennials. A better customer experience leads to happier customers, a better brand reputation, and increased revenue. To put things into perspective, research indicates that companies that adopt a customer-centric mindset and deliver a stellar customer experience are 60% more profitable than companies that do not. (1) Customer loyalty A better customer experience generates loyal customers. Loyal customers recommend your brand to colleagues, friends, and family, which amounts to free advertising. In fact, 73% of consumers claim the customer experience is the biggest deciding factor in their purchase decisions and brand loyalties—ahead of product quality and price. (2) Customer satisfaction and retention Satisfied customers stick around longer and purchase more. This increases customer retention and recurring revenue. Consider that customers who report a positive customer experience spend 140% more on your products or services than those that report a negative experience. (3) How to humanize your brand There are many tactics you can use to make your brand more human. The best practices below are at the core of humanizing your brand and will help you to get started. Get to know your customers To humanize your brand, you must forge strong, interpersonal relationships with customers. You can accomplish this by collecting and using personal data. But collecting personal data today is more difficult than in the past. Emerging data security protocols, like the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), require businesses to receive explicit consent from consumers before collecting and saving their data. This relieves the anxiety and discomfort many consumers experienced in the early days of personalization when data collection was less regulated. How you use data also matters. Marketers should always err on the side of caution when using customer data, out of respect for the customer. This means not sharing your data with other businesses, customers, or any other entity. With a deep understanding of a customer or prospect, any interaction with them comes across as more human. One of the most effective ways marketers can use customer insights is via social media. More on this below. Request and implement customer feedback Your customers want to know you are paying attention to their needs and listening to them when they run into challenges. They can provide insight into your performance and product or service quality that you can’t obtain anywhere else. There are a few easy ways to leave customers feeling acknowledged and valued. One is to send them customer satisfaction surveys. This will help you identify areas in need of improvement. Another tactic is to create an online forum that is closed to the public and only available to customers. This gives them a venue to ask questions and suggest product enhancements. You can also develop a customer advisory board, which is a small group of customers that represents the voice of your entire customer base. You coordinate the board’s meetings. But you should let customers do most of the speaking so you can gain maximum insight into what they love, what they need that they currently don’t have, etc. Once you collect customer feedback, it’s imperative that you use it to implement changes. And it’s crucially important to share those changes with your customers via a newsletter, social media, or any other channel you feel is most appropriate. Your CRM solution can help you maximize the ROI of collecting customer feedback. Turn employees into brand advocates Satisfied employees are more inspired and motivated and, as a result, deliver a better customer experience. One key tactic for maintaining satisfied employees is to develop employee engagement initiatives, such as employee volunteer programs and matching charitable donation programs. Data from a recent survey shows us that businesses with engaged employees outperform the competition by as much as 147%. (4) Also, companies that spearhead initiatives to improve the customer experience see employee engagement levels rise by an average of 20%. (5) Now we start to see the interconnectedness of it all. Satisfied customers boost morale among employees, and engaged employees help increase revenue and drive business growth. Once employees are satisfied—and you should survey them regularly to ask if they are—they often start to promote your brand on social media and to colleagues and friends. In short, they turn into brand advocates. Internal brand advocates improve your brand reputation, reduce employee turnover, and grow your brand recognition. Use social media to engage your audience Social media is a great venue in which to engage your audience and humanize your brand. However, it must be done properly and with a strategy in mind. Using the profiles of your employees to engage your audience adds the human element to your social media marketing efforts. Consumers want to interact with people, not logos. While it’s important to maintain a company profile on social channels, it doesn’t help humanize your brand. When your employees follow customers’ and prospects’ public profiles and interact with their posts, they put a human face on brand interactions. Over time this will humanize your brand and facilitate stronger customer relationships. If you heavily engage customers and prospects with employee social profiles, you will slowly create more brand advocates. Customer brand advocates help put your content and brand in front of a much wider audience. This is because when you tap into their follower base, any post of yours they share is seen by new potential customers. The final word on humanization Now that you have learned how powerful humanizing your brand through marketing can be, it’s time to put some of these best practices into action. Interested in more digital marketing tips and best practices? Check out Insightly’s blog series on digital marketing: How to perform a digital marketing audit & sequence opportunities Preparing for a successful launch How to convert a solid plan into a successful digital marketing program Sources: 1. Wealth Management Digitalization Changes Client Advisory More than Ever Before, Deloitte, 2017 2. Experience is Everything: Here’s How to Get it Right, PWC, 2018 3. The True Value of Customer Experiences, Deloitte, 2018 4. Gallup Q12 Employee Engagement Survey, Gallup Inc., 2016 5. Customer Experience: New Capabilities, New Audiences, New Opportunities, McKinsey & Company, 2017 Brand management | Customer Journey | Customer Relationships | Digital marketing GABRIEL SWAIN Gabriel is a content and digital marketing strategist, avid CRM blogger, and business growth consultant. Having spent years working with CRM providers, he has a deep understanding of users’ needs, challenges, and objectives. He uses that knowledge to provide growing businesses with educational content that allows them to maintain insight into emerging trends and retain a competitive edge.