Please take it personally

“Don’t take it personal” is a common retort when an interpersonal interaction goes wrong (usually after having offended someone).  Or, at the very least, the communication was not interpreted as you intended.

As a result, you alter your communication language and tone, striving to minimize the instances you need to say “Please don’t take it personal”.  But, that seemingly simple approach can get complicated. Your interpersonal interactions have many nuances.  If the circumstances are more formal, you may use title and surname.  If the circumstances are informal, using a first name or nickname can downgrade the relationship to informal.  When you consider the form of your communication (channel: verbal, social, text, email, letter), volume and body language it gets more and more complicated.  Now layer in time.  Are you responding in real-time or following up on a historical interaction?  Maybe you are being proactive and trying to anticipate what’s next?

Without even realizing it, you are assessing and acting on all of these factors across your interpersonal interactions on a daily basis.  And, you probably get it right more often than not.

How do all these factors apply to marketing?

Marketing and customer interactions management has to walk a similar fine line.  If you’re afraid of being “personal”, you are less likely to be relevant.  As you know, your customers will tune out what is not relevant to them.  In the worst case scenario, they will get tired of the “noise” and opt-out.  If you do strive to be personal and the “Don’t take it personal” response applies (because you’ve offended them), you are clearly also not being relevant, making the chance that they opt-out even higher.  Even worse, your brand is damaged in their minds and they could even become a detractor influencing other customers’ perception of your brand.

OK, so what do you do?  The first step towards being more relevant is personalization.  Continuing our interpersonal analogy from above, what do the relationship and networking experts recommend?  Their advice usually boils down to three things:

  • Their favorite word – Someone’s name is supposedly their favorite word.  Appropriately and as often as you can, use their name.  If you know their nickname, use it.  It shows you are making an effort and that you care.
  • Study history – Remembering and asking about their history and situation encourages them to engage.  Their daughter is about to graduate from high school, what’s next?  They recently toured Europe, where do they recommend visiting?  Knowing their history shows them they are important to you. But make sure you use this information to deliver more personalized and relevant marketing interactions in the future.
  • Be concerned about their concerns – What do they see as top risks and priorities in their life?  Paying for college?  Saving for a transformative adventure?  Anticipating and trying to meet their needs shows them your relationship is much more important than this one interaction.  It proves to them that you are trying to build a meaningful relationship.

If your concern is relevancy-driven marketing, this approach resonates with you.  In our latest “5 Trends & 5 Insights for Financial Services”, personalization is the focus.  There are tangible next steps you can take that will allow your customers to “take it personally”…but in a good way.