How to successfully pitch personalization to your boss
A common hurdle to personalization adoption is often achieving buy-in from a strong executive sponsor. It's time to turn yours into a champion for the cause.
In a study on The State of Personalization Maturity, 96% of executives and marketers shared a belief in the value of personalization. That number, up 4% from 92% in 2018, reaffirms the importance and benefits of an individualized approach to the larger business strategy – now, more than ever before.
However, despite growing recognition for the practice of personalization, prioritization remains low, with 39% of companies claiming they have not allocated resources to it. While the reasons for this are personal to each organization, in a field still so new for so many, one of the most common hurdles to adoption is often achieving buy-in from a strong executive sponsor.
This individual is essential to creating a culture of personalization and supporting the company’s vision, a role involving proper internal advocacy and education about what’s required for success, as well as the orchestration of relationships between various stakeholders and departments.
With such a massive responsibility to a program, how do marketers turn their bosses into champions for the cause?
For those well-versed in the world of A/B testing, where an experiment-heavy mentality may already be a part of an organization’s DNA, this task may come easier. Though, it is not free of its own set of challenges.
Whatever the situation, it’s important to remember that convincing the boss doesn’t just happen overnight. Receiving buy-in is a process – one that entails a significant amount of selling. In the rest of this post, I’ll outline everything you need to instill a sense of passion and commitment as you prep for your personalization pitch.
Start by framing the vision of personalization
It’s time to put the wheels in motion and start modernizing your company’s digital strategy. But in order for your vision to become clear and eventually shared, you’ll have to know your audience before diving into the details.
Depending on how familiar your boss is with personalization or even their management style, you’ll have to alter your pitch accordingly. He or she may be lacking critical knowledge or even holding on to misconceptions about the field that may affect decision making later down the road.
The six boss personas of personalization
In our experience, there are a few characteristics and personality traits we typically see emerge.
A popular term used to describe someone who behaves in an obsessive or overexcited way, this breed of senior-level management gets easily wrapped up in flashy technologies and stories. More commonly referred to in the industry as shiny object syndrome, new ideas quickly wax and wane – meaning you’ll more than likely pique their initial interest. Though once primed, the real trick will be to focus them on the long-term efforts needed to achieve sustainable success.
It’s hard to imagine with its rise in popularity that some individuals still have their head in the sand when it comes to personalization, but they do exist. Likely found within (though not limited to) legacy organizations who have been slow to begin their transformations into more customer-centric and digitally native brands. These folks will likely react stronger to the dangers of not personalizing and threat of becoming completely irrelevant in the eyes of consumers as more progressive companies begin to differentiate themselves as leaders in customer experience.
Familiar with A/B testing and CRO, those who fall into this category are no stranger to improving performance through experience design. But while you may not have to sell them on the importance of experimentation, you will need to school them on the intricacies of personalization, which involves a unique set of KPIs, applications, and complexities. Addressing these issues head-on is vital to conveying a sense of understanding for what has to happen to cross the bridge into unchartered territories.
For some, the concept of tailoring interactions to each user is intrusive and the potential to negatively impact the relationship between a customer and a brand, a very real concern. Whether a personal belief, projection of their customers’ feelings, or just a downright cop-out, this ideology continues to stifle blossoming personalization programs. Hit this group with the cold hard facts – that customers appreciate the benefits of and have come to expect personalized experiences, so long as they provide real value.
Lovers of new ways of doing things and contributing to change, these individuals understand that great reward only comes with truly special ideas, dedication, commitment, and actual results. A smart proof of concept and a bit of explanation about how they can get involved and the ways in which it benefits their goals will make for a fruitful conversation. Just be sure your pitch includes all of the resources involved, as their participation means they will likely forgo one of their own visions to share yours.
Your standard protectors of the status quo, the risk associated with taking on a new initiative like personalization seems way too high for managers of this variety. They are aware of what others are doing to individualize the customer experience but would rather chalk it up as a passing trend. When pitching, speak directly to the fears holding your organization back and demonstrate that the real risk is not getting on board. Because in a few years, personalization will become omnipresent… built into everything we do and no longer a nice-to-have.
Any of these sound familiar? Maybe your boss is a mixture of one or two different personas – regardless, now that you’ve got an idea of what resonates with them, you’ll be able to better build your argument.
Then, kickstart the conversation
It might be tempting to bring up the topic of personalization in person, but without your manager possessing all of the information they’ll need for negotiation, you run the risk of your pitch falling on deaf ears or even scaring them away prematurely.
Initial discussions should instead, stem from a well-thought-out email, allowing your boss to simmer on the idea before you sit down to have a larger conversation.
Here’s a template you can use to ensure things get off on the right foot:
Incorporating personalization into [BUSINESS NAME’s] digital strategy
I’ve spent a lot of time evaluating [BUSINESS NAME’s] digital marketing efforts and thinking about how we can better engage our audiences, increase conversions and revenue, as well as improve the overall customer experience. After a substantial amount of research on industry trends and viable technologies in the market, what I discovered is more marketers than ever are investing in personalization to differentiate themselves and meet the needs of their customers.
Fifty-six percent of marketing leaders have increased their personalization spend in 2018 (Gartner) because in an increasingly connected world, this is what consumers have come to expect. In fact, 80% of consumers are more likely to do business with a company that offers personalized experiences (Epsilon Marketing).
If we can incorporate the delivery of tailored interactions into our digital strategy, we’ll be opening up [BUSINESS NAME] to significant impacts on a variety of key business metrics while developing more meaningful relationships with those who matter most to us.
There’s a lot to unpack here, which I’d love to do if you are open to discuss the topic further.
Can I put a meeting on the calendar for us?
Appreciate your consideration,
Relaying the impact on ROI
Aside from personalization being seen as a “valuable” element of the customer experience, what objectives or goals can a program help the business accomplish? Management will want to hear about this up front, and early on into the game.
Here are a few very significant stats you can open a presentation or meeting with:
Additionally, many organizations are still unsure of how to justify the business case for personalization as they lack a true understanding of how to evaluate ROI. To that end, your next step should be to demonstrate how a wide variety of personalization use cases pay off across a plethora of KPIs.
Based on the work we’ve been doing with hundreds of brands across the world, here are just some of the positive results we’ve seen generated due to delivering more tailored interactions.
|Sephora||Beauty & Personal Care||Deploying personalized recommendations on product detail pages||6X ROI|
|Ocado||Food & Beverage||Adjusting product recommendations based on the stage of the buyer journey||8X CTR|
|Cabela’s||Athletics & Outdoors||Providing real-time content recommendations for various user groups||+ 68% Transaction Rate|
|Hallmark Channel||Media & Publishing||Recommending relevant videos based on prior content consumption||+ 43% Views-Per-User|
|Lamoda||Fashion & Apparel||Targeting 160 visitor segments with personalized offers and messages||+ $15M Gross Profit|
|Winner||Betting & Gaming||Personalizing landing pages per visitor according to various parameters in real time||+ 25% Conversions|
|Chal-Tec||Consumer Electronics||Providing a dedicated experience across the entire site to certain user segments||+ 28% Overall Conversion Rate|
|Juniqe||Home & Furniture||Optimizing content, page layouts, and experiences for visitors coming from paid search||+ 20% SEM Campaign Revenue|
|Jewelry.com||Luxury & Jewelry||Implementing recommendations on the homepage based on behavioral interactions||+ 39% Revenue Per User|
|SnapAV||Business to Business||Serving product recommendations on all product pages||+ 40-60% CTR|
From improved revenue to increased conversions, deeper engagement, higher average order values, reduced customer acquisition costs, boosted media efficiency, and more, personalization has the potential to impact key financial metrics within a host of industries.
Whatever the needs of your business, be sure to zero in on the opportunities personalization presents in addressing them.
Finally, diffuse the objections
There’s no getting around it – every manager worth their salt is going to play devil’s advocate to ensure he or she is making the most informed decision about whether or not to make the investment in personalization. So, if you want your vision to see the light of day, you’ll have to learn how to overcome their objections in order to effectively tip the scales in your favor.
Here are a few that frequently come up in the discussion around personalization:
“It can wait”
In its research entitled Predicts 2018: Brand Relevance Under Fire, Automation on the Rise, Gartner estimates that “by 2018, organizations that have fully invested in all types of online personalization will outsell companies that have not by more than 30%.”
And as time goes on, not only does the likelihood of increased revenue loss to other players in the space who have already begun, or will shortly begin, prioritizing and deploying individualized experiences continue to grow, so too does the opportunity cost associated with maintaining the status quo.
Points plotted along this graph indicate the value extracted when it comes to personalization, with time running along the x-axis representing the continued opportunity cost the longer experiences aren’t personalized and the y-axis representing revenue projections.
The harsh reality is the longer businesses wait, the farther behind they’ll be on the personalization maturity ladder – customers don’t wait for companies to catch up despite their sincere efforts to modernize, they simply grow more demanding with each day. In order to satiate their needs, this means a firm commitment to innovation that will never end.
Make it clear that next quarter isn’t an option, you have to start moving now if you want to reduce the learning curve and start seeing results.
It’s a dated argument, but one which has received a bit more shelf life due to the recent concerns around the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR. Some marketers became afraid that if the content they served was “too” personalized, users might get paranoid about their data usage, making them more likely to unsubscribe and less likely to engage or convert.
What we know now, from a survey of over 7,000 consumers worldwide, is that 58% of consumers say it’s absolutely critical or very important for companies to provide a personalized experience. Additionally, that 52% are likely to switch brands if a company doesn’t make an effort to personalize communications to them.
But in a new era of data protection, lawmakers, businesses, and individuals have certainly become more critical of how personal data is being collected and used. Recognizing this is a critical piece of combating an objection of this nature, as is providing assurance and information about properly vetted vendors in the market who take data protection and control seriously.
“It’s a trend”
Personalization may well be trending, but that doesn’t make the benefits of providing an individualized customer experience any less real. In fact, its spike in popularity can be seen as direct causation of personalization’s positive impact on businesses growth – a correlation unable to be drawn only a short time ago.
Gartner’s Hype Cycle for Digital Marketing and Advertising in 2018 plots personalization on the cusp of the Slope of Enlightenment, the sweet spot where businesses will continue to experiment, understand and reap the benefits of the technology before entering the Plateau of Productivity, where high-adoption occurs.
With the introduction of unified platforms, essential data on user behavior historically trapped in siloed points solutions were freed, becoming more and more actionable. And now, along with machine learning algorithms, all user data and signals can be constantly collected to serve the best variation to each individual user, ultimately making businesses more money.
No longer a pipedream, personalization is being absorbed into digital strategies across industries and verticals. Much like the evolution of CRM, five years from now personalization will be omnipresent, with nowhere to go but up.
“It’s a tactic”
Customizing the *|FNAME|* in the body of an email is a tactic. Deploying advanced targeting, behavioral messaging, dynamic content and product recommendations, as well as onsite/in-app personalization is a full-fledged discipline that involves lots of moving parts.
Even beyond A/B testing, which has long been relied on for producing massive uplifts in conversion and revenue for those who properly identify the best possible variation for site visitors, these experiments often don’t take into consideration the unique conditions of individual audiences.
With various potential applications that transcend marketing channels, personalization is at the top of the food chain when it comes to enhancing the customer experience as one-to-one supersedes a one-to-many approach.
The greater the investment in operationalizing around the practice of personalization, the greater the results from ensuring the most relevant content gets served to the right audience segments.
“It’s too involved”
A natural argument after learning that personalization requires a lot of time, effort, and resources, managers will need answers for how to grapple with each if you want to keep the conversation moving.
Thankfully, employing the right personalization tool not only helps automate elements of a business’s existing workflows, particularly in the areas of data analysis and testing/optimization, but also makes it easier for teams to create experiences, launch, and scale campaigns more quickly. And with a proper onboarding plan, you can ensure those marketing dollars are well spent and retrieve your investment on personalization in the shortest amount of time.
When it comes to coordinating a new set of responsibilities, many organizations leverage existing talent to tackle a host of fresh potential use cases and applications. In some cases, project ownership and responsibility is moved from one team to another, where current members of the org can come together to oversee personalization activities.
The necessary roles found within any functional, well-oiled personalization team outlined in Vision to Reality: The Resources, Processes, and Cultural Mindset Required for Personalization Success.
As personalization becomes increasingly crucial to the functions of the digital marketing and customer experience roles, organizations should be transforming traditional, rigid working silos into structured teams that promote effective facilitation between the different stakeholders and marketing departments.
Solidifying its worth
By now, you should have the ammunition you need to effectively persuade any boss about why personalization is so important, how now is a better the time than ever to get started, and what impact you can expect from investing in the right tools and organizational changes.
Because personalization can require a significant change in cultural mindset, don’t be discouraged if the buy-in process doesn’t move as quickly as you’d like – continued education and conversation around the practice is necessary to fostering acceptance and commitment.
With a little time, patience, and persistence, good things will come.
For more resources on personalization, find free guides and access other educational materials, including case studies and tools, via our resources section and throughout the blog. And if you’re ready to evaluate platforms, we’ve created a free Personalization RFP template designed for B2B and B2C companies to have a base set of questions to ask enterprise-class vendors as part of your company’s selection process.