Wouldn’t it be wonderful to receive only commercial communications that were tailored to my needs at every moment? No more gaming-bundle special offers addressed to ‘Dear Mr Schueler…’ – even though I am a woman who has been a client at this telco for more than seven years and who has never done any gaming in her life, with no intention to get started any time soon. Or those hopelessly generic sales emails from a luxury department store that do not include a salutation at all, with no link to my own interests and needs.

The remarkable thing is that in these two examples, the senders are major companies that manage giant user databases. Is it me, or should it have been easy for them to send me messages showing that they actually know who I am? If they had, I would have been a happier, more enthusiastic client. On the upside, they can apparently better their ways: I am now no longer assumed to be a man.


Knowing your clients

To build a meaningful relationship with your (prospective) clients, you have to make sure that they recognize themselves and feel a relevant connection in the messages you send and in the medium you choose. As a sender, you have to know who you’re talking to and what drives them. Statistical guesswork won’t get you there.

These are the steps to follow:

  1. Build a database of behaviours and interests.
  2. With this information, set up one or multiple client profiles.
  3. Create the content based on each individual client profile.
  4. Monitor and evaluate the profiles, and adjust them to changing client needs.

The first step can be a challenge if the target group is not very active online. In that case, personal contacts between manufacturers, resellers and the sales force are paramount. Market research can be helpful as well – but you can also organise client surveys or interviews yourself.


The desired effect

Will personalised communication boost your brand loyalty? Well, yes and no. It can help to personalise your communication with a targeted salutation and by customising the content of the message. But if you try to personalise the communication and get it wrong, that may be counterproductive.

Guda van Noort, Director at SWOCC (Foundation for Scientific Research into Commercial Communication), explains that scientific studies have shown that personalised content will increase the degree to which people feel connected to the message: ‘If the message is relevant to the individual, they will simply pay more attention to it and think about it longer.’ On the other hand, she says, ‘That extra attention also means they will review the communication more critically. If you say something irrelevant, they will notice it even more.’


The bottom line

So… if you tailor your shop offerings or emails with a special salutation but do nothing to target the actual content to that individual client, it may even backfire and have a negative impact on how your brand and proposition are evaluated.

The best way to get it right, in my view, is to do it for the right reasons. If you want to personalise your commercial communication messages just because it is ‘the thing to do’, because you’ve heard that this is what clients expect, you are bound to make mistakes. But if you choose to go the distance, if you really care about your clients and want to build a stronger relationship with them, then you’ll be motivated to get it right every time. Because it matters to you.

And that’s the kind of commitment and honesty that your clients will recognise and reward.


Muriël Schueler



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