Imagine if you could give every visitor to your site an experience targeted particularly to their interests. Doing so might be easier than you think. You don't need to write special content catering to various demographics and interests. And you certainly don't have to write personally tailored posts.
All you need is a bit of information about your readers. From there, you can start targeting your posts to their idiosyncratic content consumption habits. Here's how to thread the needle between custom-tailored content and creepy intrusiveness.
Tell Your Users What You're Doing
Consumers hate it when they feel tricked by businesses, whether it's the merchant who collects email addresses and responds with spam, or the website that covertly tracks web usage or installs software. Don't conceal what you're doing from your audience.
Instead, consider the example of Facebook, Buzzfeed, and other popular sites. These sites actively solicit input from users, and tell them they tailor the user experience based upon this input. When users voluntarily engage with your site, using the information they provide isn't creepy. It's helpful.
Seek User Feedback
Many consumers relish the chance to provide feedback on how they use the web, what they purchase, and which content they most enjoy. After all, if you want to get someone talking, you need only ask them about themselves. Find ways for users to engage, that offer you information about your site.
User surveys are one of the most direct ways to do this, but there are also more subtle options. Try offering feedback icons similar to Facebook's “like” button. Encourage users to comment, and allow them to rate one another's comments by voting them up or down. To ensure this information is actionable, require users to create an account before commenting.
Try Different Versions of the Same Content
You don't have to write 50 different articles to target a few dozen demographic groups. But you should consider serving up a few versions of the same content. No, this doesn't mean rewriting the same article. Instead, try changing the lead on a piece, altering the preview you post on social media, or changing the photo. For example, if you want to target young mothers and male college students, you might point to the stresses of childrearing in the introduction to one version of the same article. In a second version, you might talk about blowing off steam after finals or recovering from a night of drinking.
Tailor Social Media Advertisements
You can get more versatility out of the same piece of content if you construct several different social media advertisements pointing to the same content. Simply draw from your user data, then create targeted ads highlighting how your product, service, or content aids specific demographics. Then -- and this is critical -- target each demographic with customized content. Suddenly you've customized your offerings without having to spend a fortune on diverse content.
Don't Spam or Stalk Users
Want to be creepy, annoying, and alienate customers before they ever consider making a purchase? Then stalk them and spam them.
The old school approach to marketing highlighted undifferentiated lead generation, where every email address was equally valuable, and each user was endlessly spammed with every site update, sale, or news item. Your customers are busy. They value their time. And they want to feel special. If they get an email from you every day -- or worse, even more frequently -- they'll quickly learn to tune you out. To quell the ire of customers who are sick of endless marketing emails:
- Only email customers with information that your data suggests might be relevant to them. Consider Amazon's recommendations. The site only contacts users with information relevant to previous purchases and browsing history, and it only does so rarely. There's a reason Amazon's so successful; be like Amazon, not like an annoying club promoter spamming everyone whose contact information you've ever gathered.
- Don't automatically opt users in to marketing emails. Ask them to opt in, and ask them which specific messages they want.
- Use previous browsing data to suggest useful content and products to customers. Most media sites now suggest news stories based on previous engagement. You can do the same by serving up recommended content and products that keep your readers on your site and engaging. Just make sure you regularly check your analytics to sure that the content you recommend is content your readers actually want to see.
- Don't be overly familiar, or make assumptions about your customers. Not every young woman is obsessed with fashion or her appearance. Not every mother spends all of her time thinking about her children. If you play to stereotypes rather than actual data, then your personalized content is worthless, and potentially even offensive.
Analyze and Tweak Your Data; Rinse and Repeat
In the world of customized marketing, there's no such thing as set it and forget it marketing. You will need to continually analyze the results you're getting, then make steady tweaks to your content. Some questions that can help you intelligently change your strategy without overhauling everything or spending a ton of cash include:
- Are some segments performing better than others? This suggests you either don't have enough information about poorly performing target markets, or that you are misusing the information you have. For example, you might not realize that most of your young female customers have children. Alternatively, you might mistakenly believe that you must talk about their children for your content to succeed. Stereotypes are rarely accurate, and can even alienate your target demographic.
- Are segments that once performed well, tanking? You might not be evolving with your customer base. Or it could be that your content isn't continually offering something new and different. Complacency is the enemy of success.
- What do viewers do after clicking on a page? Remember that it's not enough to get someone to read your content, or even to purchase a product once.You should be creating a loyal following. If clicks aren't translating into business, or business isn't translating into brand loyalty, it's time to solicit more feedback to figure out where the breakdown is.