• Although personalization is important, it should not be used to justify data collection practices that fail to respect customer privacy
  • Data alone does not indicate understanding; without true understanding, meaningful customer engagement is impossible
  • Not all customers want to interact with providers at the same rate – and bombarding them with personalized marketing is not going to change that

When I speak to B2B demand marketers these days, the hot topic is always personalization. That doesn’t surprise me – a recent SiriusDecisions study showed that 71 percent of U.S. and European organizations report using personalization as part of their marketing activities, and 37 percent are using personalization as part of their sales activities. What does surprise me, however, is the extent to which personalization is used to justify data collection practices that risk eroding customer trust. 

At first, it was just account and contact data that marketers wanted to collect, but this quickly expanded to include social data, activity data, financial data and more. In fact, in a very short time span, data has become the primary fuel for a marketing engine. What marketers don’t yet understand, however, is the catch-22 nature of this data cycle. The more data we collect to help us market and sell our offerings, the more suspicious our customers become of our actions and intentions and the less inclined they will be to buy. If left unchecked, this cycle can lead to a downward spiral of trust and declining revenue growth.

person typing on laptop with locksLuckily, it’s not too late to turn things around. Marketers must start by coming to terms with the following four truths:

  • Respect and relevance go hand in hand. It doesn’t matter how badly we need customer data to drive relevance. If we fail to respect their privacy, customers will increasingly withhold the data that marketers so crave. 
  • Data does not equal understanding. Even if we collected all the available data about our target customers, we would still not be able to guarantee 100 percent relevance or ensure we fully understand the type of relationship customers want to have with us as providers. Data alone does not equate to understanding, and without true understanding, meaningful engagement is impossible.
  • Sometimes less is more. More personalization is not always better. For example, customers who receive hyper-personalized marketing from a vendor they’ve never interacted with may see the message as intrusive or even creepy.
  • Silence can be golden. Marketers have been hardwired to believe that more interactions per customer means better conversion rates. As a result, we have tuned our analytics engines to look for and amplify spikes of activity and ignore the wealth of customer insights hidden below those thresholds. Not all customers want to interact with providers at the same rate and bombarding them with more personalized marketing is not going to change that. This doesn’t mean that these customers don’t want to buy – it means we have to listen harder.

Coming to grips with these four truths will help B2B organizations move beyond personalization to a more holistic view of customer respect and relevance. This view will go beyond marketing to include all three revenue engine functions – marketing, sales and product. It also opens the door to thinking about respect and relevance as a continuum rather than a tactic – starting with data privacy compliance and encompass the delivery of personalized, dynamic, interconnected and ultimately, effortless customer interactions focused on delivering what customers need in concert with what providers want.

However, this shift won’t happen overnight, and it can’t happen without a clear corporate mandate that drives change across all functions. B2B organizations embarking on this transformation must understand how to create a marketing, sales and product plan to guide investments and maintain operational alignment as customer interactions move between functions.

At this year’s U.S. Summit, Peter Ostrow and I will reveal a new model and playbook to help companies start down this path by identifying the key roles, priorities and responsibilities required to make this shift a reality.  We hope you’ll join us in Austin on May 5-8!