“Hi Virginia” or “Does your personalization suck?”

“Hi Virginia” or "Does your personalization suck?"

Greetings, friends, and welcome to another Must Read. Thanks for all the wonderful feedback from last week’s snarkfest.  Some of the funniest comments I received were stories of personalization fails, from {fname} to misspellings to automation screw-ups (such as trying to sell a product to someone who literally JUST bought that product 🙄)  At the same time, the 5forests team has been nattering on about marketing wine to millennials (the topic of my speech next month in Sonoma*), and, as a result, I got to pondering how personalization has missed the boat, and how humanization was lost to technology.

Just because we could.

Technology, data, and the interwebs gave us an ability to “personalize” content, which many businesses took at face value: add a name here or there, automate emails based on what someone’s bought or visited, remarket elsewhere to the same people; but, for the vast majority, it simply meant adding someone’s first name to an email salutation. Digital services made these integrations so easy that we jumped in feet first…without stopping to consider the actual objective of the exercise. Which was to make and keep customers for life.

Let’s be friends.

Many of you will know that I equate good marketing to being a good friend. If that’s true, then the kind of personalization described above is like being a common acquaintance. Either for lack of time or interest, you know little beyond the superficial basics. And that’s fine! We aren’t required to be good friends to everyone we meet (just like we aren’t the right product for every wine drinker out there)! The point is that we haven’t taken the time to get to know them, to understand what kind of people they are, what is important to them, what gives them joy, and what makes their lives meaningful. And without that insight, they will never move from acquaintances to GOOD friends.

(Cue the discussion of authenticity). The thing about acquaintances is that both sides understand that it’s a foundation-less relationship that’s going nowhere. And the same holds true for those superficial efforts at personalization. Customers know when a business has not taken the time to really “get” them; they desire something more.

Data + Giving a Shit = Relevance.

Being known to someone is handy, but being meaningful to them is unforgettable. Who cares if you know their name if you can’t answer their needs, help them solve their problems, or provide joy?! Just like a good friendship, we must MATTER to our customers, and that requires more than just dropping a merge field into a database.

  • We must determine what we stand for, so we can have meaning.
  • We must clarify our message, so we can earn their trust.
  • We must step into our customers’ shoes, so we can empathize with what they think, feel, hear, see, say & do.
  • And then we must use this knowledge to speak our message to the right people at the right time, so that they feel like they belong.

I’m not going to give you the answers to these questions, because success lies in discovering your own uniqueness. But, fwiw, if you had to ask me the single biggest weakness I see in wine marketing today, this is it. It’s not tech or weed or legislation… or the millennials. It’s that wineries are too overwhelmed, or too entrenched, to explore these questions with honesty and bravery.

You can do it. I’ve got your back on this.

Happy Sunday.

*Oh, hey! I’m headed to Sonoma in October! If you’re in the area, email me and let’s get together for wine and food (And can someone recommend a good chili relleno in the area, because it’s my favourite food and I only get them in America!)

[Photo: Tom Fishburne. I love this guy.]