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 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.