As the competition heats up in the business landscape, more and more companies are realizing they need a personalized approach toward acquiring and retaining customers. This requires data, but building the human connection is about more than just numbers.
Humans are necessary to glean important insights or patterns that are crucial to a personalized approach.
The Problem with Just Numbers
Numbers – data – aren’t sensitive to context. Marketing relies on messaging that’s attuned to the customer.
The response a customer has, even if it’s just choosing between two dishwashing detergents or similarly “boring” products, is influenced by constantly evolving factors. Whether they’re hungry or just ate, the way their day went, the quality of sleep they got the night before, their current mood, the weather, the background music (the list goes on) all play a role in the response.
Numbers can’t capture all of this. Numbers and algorithms work within a handful of variables, which puts a lot of weight on those variables, and the contextual information can get lost in the shuffle.
Consumers are also inherently suspicious of algorithms. Privacy concerns are at the forefront and trust is at a premium, so there’s a fine line between personalization and marketing that’s too “creepy” for customers’ tastes.
Another problem with the data and algorithms is that it can encourage complacency. If you have a wealth of tools at your disposal to capture seemingly never-ending information about customers, quantify their behaviors, and measure their responses, you can ignore your intuition.
You may limit your marketing activities to what can be measured and performs adequately, or worse, develop ineffective campaigns based on inaccurate customer assumptions.
Bringing the Human Connection into Data-Driven Marketing
There’s a high demand for customer-centric communications. Data, analytics, and algorithms allow marketers to create targeted and personalized campaigns, but they need to be contextualized and based on human interpretation and a solid understanding of the customers.
Customers are seeking information that’s useful to them. Campaigns should be targeted toward their needs, rather than what the company thinks they need. Data can help you gain information about your customers and provide a consistent omnichannel experience, which is ultimately shaped by the brand impression you want to convey.
Also, humans should be interacting with humans at key touchpoints. Algorithms can help relieve the burden of a lot of the process, but humans need to be there for the parts that require empathy and connection.
Algorithms should never replace humans on marketing channels. Chatbots, autoresponders, and other automation tools are helpful for increasing engagement with leads, but without humans in the mix, it can border on the “creepy” algorithm experience.
A hybrid option works best. Use data to determine your most effective channels and which messaging works best for them. Then, algorithms can take over some of the communication, but make sure there’s a human behind the wheel to foster authentic engagement with leads and customers.
For example, right before the holiday season our content creation studio page experiences a spike in online traffic. After research, we concluded that the increase of traffic was the direct result of companies preparing for holiday season promotions.
So far, there’s not a technology tool that can replicate human creativity. Content needs to be created by humans, no question. Data and tools can be used to tune into customer needs, fix grammatical errors, and improve the overall experience, but humans should still manage the creative process.
Direct customer feedback offers highly valuable data that can be used to inform business and marketing strategy. Customers aren’t always eager to complete surveys, but they’ll be more inclined if the questions are specific (read: not boilerplate or vague), and they can see that their feedback is used to improve their future experience.
You can also offer coupons, gift cards, discounts, exclusive content or access, and other incentives to encourage customers to complete surveys.
Also, don’t discount the value of feedback that comes from simply interacting with customers on social media. Most people aren’t shy about voicing their opinions in social media messages or comments, and you can learn a wealth of information about your customers this way.
According to Harvard Business School professor Gerald Zaltman, 95% of purchase decisions are subconscious – they’re emotional. But as humans, we view our emotional decisions as irrational and irresponsible, and seek logical bases for them. Then, in retrospect, we develop reasons to justify those emotional decisions.
So, if you want to influence how a customer feels about a product, you must appeal to emotion or provide an experience that creates a desired emotion. The best marketing campaigns may provide facts, features, or benefits, but they connect on a deeper human level with emotions first.
Even with the most comprehensive data, marketers have experiences and intuition that come into play. These don’t need to be tossed out in favor of data – instead, the two can work together.
The multiple-idea mindset emphasizes testing in the creative process. So, instead of writing one CTA, write four and test them against each other. This can be used to not only validate your assumptions, but to have some fun with data.
Bring Some Humanity to Data
Modern businesses can get numerous benefits from data and algorithms, especially with time and resource constraints. But we can’t get complacent with the availability of data – humans are still necessary to the marketing process. We should be data informed, rather than data driven.
Kyle Johnston is a Founding Partner and President of award winning brand, content creation & creative agency, Gigasavvy. After spending the last 20+ years in Southern California, Kyle recently moved his family to Boise, ID where he continues to lead the agency through their next phase of growth.