As part of our US per­son­al­iza­tion road show, I recently led a panel at Adobe’s Dig­i­tal Mar­ket­ing Sym­po­sium in New York City. The ses­sion was the sec­ond of two focused on a hot topic for mar­keters: per­son­al­iza­tion. Our ses­sion focused on the best prac­tices of per­son­al­iza­tion for the known cus­tomer and tips for lever­ag­ing data to enhance cus­tomer engage­ment, gen­er­ate rev­enue, and fos­ter brand loyalty.

The illus­tri­ous speak­ers join­ing me on the panel were Joel Lay­ton, exec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent at r2i; Chris­tine Hua, direc­tor of fan-centric mar­ket­ing for the NFL; and Thai Ran­dolph, vice pres­i­dent of con­sumer mar­ket­ing at GENERATOR from Sony DADC.

Each is a mas­ter of mar­ket­ing in their own right, and they had a lot to teach us about the known customer’s jour­ney and where per­son­al­iza­tion can play a sig­nif­i­cant part.

In “Blowin’ In The Wind,” Bob Dylan asks, “How many roads must a man walk down before you call him a man?” So our speak­ers were tasked with answer­ing a sim­i­lar ques­tion: How much infor­ma­tion must a cus­tomer give before you know the man, and what ben­e­fit does that know­ing provide?

I’d like to share some a sum­mary of the most pop­u­lar ques­tions and key take­aways from our pan­elists. You can also hear the full details and panel pre­sen­ta­tion here under Sym­po­sium Break­out Ses­sions II.

Q: What are the chal­lenges and oppor­tu­ni­ties around the known cus­tomer pro­file con­cept and using this data to opti­mize engagement?

Joel Lay­ton: The biggest chal­lenge from our per­spec­tive is how do you truly engage with them the sec­ond, third, or fourth time? Even though they’re already a cus­tomer and you’ve engaged with them in the past, there’s no guar­an­tee that they will open a new email or look at a new prod­uct rec­om­men­da­tion. Every­one needs to keep experimenting.

Chris­tine Hua: One of the biggest chal­lenges for the League is cen­tral­iz­ing all of the data across all of the dif­fer­ent busi­ness units’ silos. It’s mak­ing that con­nec­tion across all of the League’s data to pro­vide rel­e­vant mes­sag­ing. What’s the point of Big Data if it’s not actionable?

Thai Ran­dolph: One of the big­ger chal­lenges is encour­ag­ing the con­cept of pro­gres­sive pro­fil­ing, the ini­tial sign up and where we should stop. We have to learn how to re-approach the cus­tomer and pro­vide expe­ri­ences that get them to vol­un­teer more infor­ma­tion though chan­nels like social or email.

Q: What are the high­lights of the dif­fer­ent tech­nolo­gies you see?

Joel: The ele­men­tary level and first step is email. Your customer’s email address is prob­a­bly the most valu­able asset you have. Mar­keters should com­bine email and other known data in their con­tent mar­ket­ing sys­tem to deter­mine and serve up the best expe­ri­ence. The under­pin­ning behind that is ana­lyt­ics to really make sure it’s all falling together through test­ing and mea­sur­able to guide results.

Chris­tine: Com­ing from the data­base side, we bring a vari­ety of data to cor­rectly seg­ment our audi­ence and use audi­ence man­age­ment in order to tar­get fans through ad dis­play on dig­i­tal and non-digital chan­nels. We focus on deliv­er­ing rel­e­vant NFL​.com mes­sages that would dif­fer based on the pro­file. For exam­ple, we’ll tar­get for fan­tasy foot­ball sign ups if the cus­tomer is new, but not if they already down­loaded our app.

Thai: We can’t over­look device tar­get­ing and how to find the right media to deliver the right mes­sage to that device. I think a true mul­ti­chan­nel mar­ket­ing plat­form is crit­i­cal now. The next place we’re look­ing is at more advanced seg­men­ta­tion and enhanced on-site experiences.

Q: What has the ROI been for you and your clients?

Joel: While the propen­sity to con­vert the new vis­i­tor to a repeat vis­i­tor is typ­i­cally 5x, this rises to between 10x and 15x through known per­son­al­iza­tion. Per­son­al­iza­tion has now become a sta­ple and has the abil­ity to cre­ate a per­sonal con­nec­tion with your cus­tomer that can push your revenue-to-spend ratio into the stratos­phere at 10, 12, or even 15:1. This “found money” lets you move the nee­dle and you can use this to do fur­ther test­ing and opti­mize further.

Thai: From an ROI per­spec­tive, it’s being able to gen­er­ate sig­nif­i­cant incre­men­tal rev­enue through cross-promotion. Through per­son­al­iza­tion based on pre­vi­ous pur­chase behav­ior, we’ve seen well over a 10-times con­ver­sion rate in dif­fer­ent sce­nar­ios. Being able to seg­ment cus­tomers prop­erly has been hugely suc­cess­ful and essen­tially gen­er­ated found money.

Chris­tine: For the NFL, hav­ing a known user is over 30x ROI. It’s very big for us because it’s how we can tar­get and pro­vide fans with a bet­ter expe­ri­ence. With­out shared infor­ma­tion from the user, we can only share generic NFL ads and not those around your spe­cific team.

Q: Does found money influ­ence dig­i­tal media buy­ing? To what extent?

Thai: It does sig­nif­i­cantly. We use per­son­al­iza­tion and the insights it dri­ves to lever­age tools like social mod­ules to remar­ket to con­sumers. This includes known cus­tomers in our data­base as well as those we’ve found on Face­book to do look-a-like tar­get­ing to pur­sue peo­ple sim­i­lar to them. Con­ver­sion rates have been sig­nif­i­cantly more effec­tive with more enriched profiles.

Q: Can this tar­get­ing ever be too personal?

Joel: Ten years ago we would have all been more wary of this tar­get­ing than we are now. As we’ve emerged more into the dig­i­tal age, we’ve become more accept­ing of this tar­get­ing. There is a creepi­ness fac­tor ini­tially, but it will always wither away as peo­ple gain more and more com­fort with shar­ing. Is there a point where it goes too far? Prob­a­bly, but I don’t have a great feel­ing for when that is.

Thai: Every time we go deeper into per­son­al­iza­tion there will be a creepi­ness hur­dle we have to over­come. When you think about how many things were creepy a few years ago but are nec­es­sary now, like location-based tar­get­ing, you can see a nat­ural pro­gres­sion. Con­sumers are will­ing to accept what is use­ful if you tell them why it’s impor­tant. Con­text is crucial.

Chris­tine: Rel­e­vancy at the right time takes away the whole creepi­ness fac­tor. Birth­day emails required you to give up some infor­ma­tion at one time and you may not even remem­ber when, but when you see it and it’s rel­e­vant, then you’re okay with it.

Q: What’s the biggest les­son you’d like to leave the audi­ence with?

Thai: From a per­son­al­iza­tion per­spec­tive, it really is about hav­ing a robust sin­gle view of your cus­tomers. This enables you to take action on the data that you have.

Chris­tine: Mar­keters need to get together as much data as they pos­si­bly can and cen­tral­ize it. The NFL’s lack of data some­times ham­pered us, as did the use of three dis­parate data­bases. Get your data in one place and let it tell you a story about your customer.

Joel: “With great power comes great respon­si­bil­ity.” Com­pa­nies have access to a moun­tain of data but they need to prop­erly use the right data at the right time and get it to the right audi­ence. This includes proper dis­clo­sure of the poli­cies that are in place. Over­step­ping or get­ting too per­sonal will result in a back­lash that can get you crushed in social media.

Per­son­al­iza­tion in the Field

Per­son­al­iza­tion for known cus­tomers can bring major ben­e­fits when the con­ver­sa­tion between the brand and the con­sumer is done in an open, hon­est man­ner that pro­vides a real ben­e­fit to both par­ties. Our panel of excel­lent mar­keters pro­vided a lot of action­able help with what cus­tomers really do and the great gains that can be found in personalization.

One thing our panel addressed, how­ever, is still a major stick­ing point for most brands: over­com­ing the creepi­ness factor.

For help with under­stand­ing why things are creepy and how you can best avoid becom­ing a brand that peo­ple turn from and pre­tend not to see, check out the webi­nar we did recently with the Pep­pers & Rogers Group. We answer some of the pri­vacy con­cerns and can help you start in cre­at­ing a strat­egy to reach cus­tomers with valu­able, per­son­able offers that don’t cross the line.

I’ve put together these great resources for you and hope you’ll take action so you’re not just blow­ing in the wind.