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Noel Ward

Real World Digital

By Noel Ward

About Noel

Noel Ward is Managing Director of Brimstone Hill Associates, which specializes in marketing communications in the printing industry, including video production. He can be reached at 603-672-3635 or via email at noel@brimstonehill.com. His website is brimstonehill.com, and he has a YouTube channel.
 

Details Matter with Personalization

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I was perusing some comments on an auto enthusiast site I frequent and found a discussion thread about how some auto dealers and manufacturers are dropping the ball on personalized communications. Whether electronic or printed message, people were complaining about the inept use of customer data and even spelling and grammatical errors.

For instance, people who had sold cars two or three years ago were still getting offers from the dealer (where they had bought another car) and from the manufacturers of the cars that no longer lived in their garages. With people commenting from all over the country, it was evident that this is a common experience.

I joined the conversation, noting that this same thing happened with some of the airlines, rental car companies, retailers and credit card firms that I do business with. Others agreed, noting that even small mistakes make one question the credibility of the firm making the offers.

That’s incredibly important. If a company pretends to know about a customer and gets even some of the personalized information wrong, it risks alienating the customer and actually losing the opportunity to do business with them. And if the company is new to targeted marketing, the poor results of such snafus can sour it on doing more targeted programs—which ultimately impacts the service providers who are behind the printing, mailing and cross-media curtain.

So that got me thinking about who is ultimately responsible for the errors, especially the clueless use of customer data. Is it the companies making the offers or the firms that are handling the printing and electronic distribution? How is this responsibility being defined in service level agreements? Is it even a line item in statements of work?

There is a discussion thread elsewhere on LinkedIn about whether or not a print provider should make corrections to a customer’s document that will make it print and look better. Good question, but it’s kind of one from the last century.

But suppose your designer or production manager sees grammatical or spelling mistakes. Suppose you realize there are problems with the data being used on a personalized print or cross-media project. Suppose your experience tells you that the way a customer wants to use data in a campaign is less than efficient. What then?

Given the volume of stuff that lands in my mail box and e-mail inbox that is targeted but contains errors, these are not idle questions. As companies try to connect with customers in new and more engaging ways in print and electronic media, and as print providers try to make the leap to being marketing services providers, a new level of care and attention to detail is called for. This seems glaringly obvious, but it’s also obvious that some companies and their marketing firms don’t get it.
 

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