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3 ways to get personal with your customers

At first glance, it seems like an impossible task: digital marketing today is all about connecting with customers on a personal level. Yet, with thousands upon thousands of consumers to reach and limited time and resources, the job of building mutually beneficial, long-term relationships can seem very impersonal.

"It's not as hard as you think," says Wacarra Yeomans, Director of Creative Services at Responsys.

Although getting personal is different for each company and for each message, there are three core principles that can guide you when engaging your customers in a conversation.

1. Recognize that individuals are part of a group

Once you've identified your target customer, understand that she belongs to multiple groups. For example, if a prospective customer lives in Chicago and is pregnant, you know she belongs to two separate groups: Chicago residents and expecting moms. This personal information is enough to make a connection with her.

"It's important that when you think about talking to your customers as individuals, you remember that they're also in groups," Yeomans says. "If you can pull together the right groups the message remains personal."

Next, make sure you adopt the appropriate tone when communicating with customers. Always deliver positive messages and images to specific groups, and be smart about how you design your email. For instance, make sure your product is always featured at the base of the message so that reformatting isn't too time-consuming.

2. Trust your gut

Companies have different methods for finding target customers and reaching out to existing ones. Some rely on propensity models built into their databases; others heavily value past purchases. Whatever your strategy, Yeomans says that it is just as important that you listen to your inner marketing voice when segmenting customers and developing a message for them.

"You have to trust your gut as a marketer and try to balance the combination of art and science," Yeomans says. "You have the data piece and then you have your intuition. Your intuition will let you know what will be the right fit and then you test and find out if you were right."

3. Incorporate real-life themes

Data is useful, but you can't rely on it exclusively, Yeomans says. Data helps determine which products to sell to different groups, but you also have to make them "real" for every customer.

"You can have the perfect algorithm to figure out which person in which city is going to like this product, but you still have to do the job of marketing the product to them" says Yeomans, "It's important to focus on a problem that the specific consumer is feeling -- and how that product is the right solution for them."

Relationships start when people feel a connection. Tying products to real-life themes and avoiding the hard sell is key to engaging with customers. Try to educate your customers and help them see the value of your products. Then it's easier to make that personal connection and to build the long-term relationships you need to succeed at marketing today.

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