Individualization in the Online World

The Most Important Word in the Digital Language

Dale Carnegie famously said, “Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” That simple tenet was the foundation of his book How to Win Friends and Influence People.

Carnegie understood that using a person’s name is crucial, especially when we don’t see them face-to-face often. When we do something as simple as addressing people by name whenever possible, we stand a greater chance to earn their respect and acceptance.

Generations of Carnegie-inspired Don Drapers have mastered his system of building relationships in an old-school business world where sales were won and lost on golf courses and during three-martini lunches. The lessons Carnegie taught those deal-makers ring as true today as they did 80 years (and 15 million copies) ago.

But let’s not fool ourselves; in today’s world of mass digitization, individualization must go much further than slapping on a “Dear {first_name}” at the beginning of an email to earn respect and win the sale.

Netflix knows what we want to watch before we do. Amazon suggestions routinely tempt us to double our cart size by suggesting what else we need to purchase. Simply, we have come to expect an experience that’s all about us.

In the world of marketing automation, we often talk about delivering the right content to the right people at the right time. It’s the natural evolution of Carnegie’s name principle.

Imagine if:

The web page you just visited shows you the three closest places to buy this product – right now.

The email you just opened knew it was morning and gave you breakfast options – then when you open that same email in the evening you received dinner options.

It’s snowing where you are so a retailer’s feature product is a warm pair of boots instead of the sunglasses it is showcasing to a customer in San Diego.

Would you be more inclined to consider those offers?

According to Mindfire, individualized email consistently out-performs the run-of-the-mill, one-size-fits all variety – in all cases. And the good news is that, increasingly, it has become easier for contextually relevant information to be delivered on the promise of individualization.

Yet puzzlingly, only 17 percent of U.S. email marketers use individualization according to Mailjet.

As marketers, let’s make it our mission to grow the 17 percent. Let’s demonstrate to our prospects and customers that we know them, understand their needs and can help solve the problem they’re experiencing right now. It will be the one thing sweeter to their ears than hearing their own name. And we will build more and better relationships and win more deals.

I like to think, if Carnegie were alive today, it’s exactly what he would be doing.


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