CRM – Personalization vs. Customization

CRM and other business automation tools typically allow you to personalize the messages you send to your prospects and customers. This is usually done using some sort of field code and mail merge process. You create a template that looks something like this:

Dear {Name},
{Company} will love our latest widgets…

And when the message is processed, this is what is sent:

Dear Bill,fie
Rebar will love our latest widgets….

This technique allows you to create a message once, while giving the appearance that is was created specifically for that person. Personalized messages are a nice touch and can help you connect with your prospects more quickly.
Personalization is well suited for fairly generic messages that are sent out automatically, such as an auto-responder series that is sent out when after someone downloads a special report from your web site. Personalization works well at this point of the relationship, when you want to connect personally but you don’t have a lot of information (basic contact info) about the message recipient.

Service based companies, who rely on building relationships to grow their revenues, need a different kind of personalization in their communications – I’ll call it customization to distinguish the two. Customization is different from personalization. Personalization uses data about the recipient (name, company, location) to personalize your message. Customization uses information (industry news, knowledge of family, people they would like to meet) to personalize the message.

As you build a relationship with a customer or prospect, you learn more about them. They also learn about you. They also know what you have learned about them. Because of this, sending “canned” messages with minor degrees of personalization can actually damage the relationship. Have you ever received a letter or e-mail from a company of which you had been a customer for years that sounded like you had never met them before? How did that make you feel?

We need systems that behave differently based on the stage of the relationship. As the relationship progresses, we need to move from sending messages automatically to a system that prompts us when to communicate. We want tools that help us create messages quickly, but they need to change from complete pre-written messages to templates and snippets that we can arrange and edit as needed. As the relationship grows, different mediums of communication become more appropriate (letters vs. e-mail vs. phone call vs. text messages, etc.).

As our relationships grow, not only do we need tools to help create and manage relationships with our customers, we also need tools to help us manager the relationships we foster between our customers.

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