Personalization versus standardization in digital marketing

Personalization versus standardization

As technology continues to make it easier for businesses to market online, there has been a fork in the road when it comes to automation. On one hand, many are pushing for a personalized experience, one that takes into account the individuals rather than the bulk. On the other other hand, you have those who believe that the things that work “by the numbers” are the tactics that marketers should use.

Personalization versus standardization

Who is correct? Should we automate or should we personalize? The answer to the question lies in the individual disciplines.


Social Media

This is the easiest one to argue in favor of personalization. By its nature, social media is personalized. People are on social media in order to establish a virtual connection between their lives and the lives of those they care about (or at least want to see). Businesses are generally not accepted in this realm as readily as individuals because it’s “play time” rather than “serious business time”.

The odd thing is that there is a growing number of social media marketing automation tools hitting the market. While monitoring at the enterprise level requires automation, the individual posting and advertising on social media should be a manual, personalized experience. To post bulk uploads of common popular material can spell disaster for an agency and they clients they’re trying to help.

Preferred Social Media Strategy: Personalization



As much as we all hate email spam, it’s still a pertinent part of digital marketing. One could argue that the personalization of email marketing is the only way to make it work to avoid the wrath of the spam filters, but that isn’t necessarily the case. In fact, those who try to continuously hand-type and add a sense of personalization other than inserting the recipients’ names can often trigger spam filters more easily than when automation tools are properly applied.

Some things get caught in filters and some things don’t. Standardizing the emails and running them through appropriate filters to test for spam-worthiness are necessary to reach the masses. More importantly, the messages themselves sometimes work and sometimes don’t. Unlike social media and other types of marketing, a “gut feeling” and using personalized marketing speech does not seem to have a positive benefit on the success of a campaign. With limited attempts before spam filters catch up, making every message count is extremely important.

Preferred Email Strategy: Standardization



For years, the winners of the SEO game were those who had the best bulk strategy. Black hat and grey hat techniques ruled. Then, Panda came out in 2011. Then, Penguin came out in 2012. Between the two, automation was pretty much killed, but for good measure Google released Hummingbird in 2013.

SEO automation is dead. It actually does more damage than good in today’s search world.

Preferred SEO Strategy: Personalization


Search Advertising

Oh, how different the two sides of the ball are in search. Unlike SEO where hand-written content and adding personality to a website (as well as the links and social signals attached to it) are keys to success, the paid side of Google and Bing are all about automation. Automated bid algorithms. Automated dynamic ad serving. Automated language for title and description.

PPC advertising on search engines are ruled by automation.

Preferred PPC Strategy: Standardization


Website Chat

This is the first one that gets into a little grey area. Those who understand about chat software and the centers that operate them know that there are two schools of thought here. One says that hand-types responses to chat inquiries make the most sense because you can personalize the responses. The other says that the things that work for most people work better for the whole, so the use of “canned” responses makes the most sense.

While nobody likes to think of canned responses as the right way to go, we have to lean in that direction. Particularly with sites that generate leads or sales, the idea of putting the personality of a chat operator into play to try to improve business might seem to be the best way to go on the surface, but the numbers don’t usually demonstrate this. Errors can be made. Word tracks can be botched. When standard replies are selected by an operator, there is, in essence, a personalization that is involved without the risks of saying thing that aren’t proven to be effective. It really comes down to quality of the canned responses. If they’re tested and proven, they are preferable to hand-types responses. If the canned responses are poor, then personalization is better. Assuming that the former is the case, it’s still a hard choice but we have to lean towards that.

Preferred Chat Strategy: Standardization


CRM Follow Up

One of the niftiest technologies to come out lately has been drip automation for CRM followup. “Cold case files” are the leads that have come to company that nobody is actually working anymore. Perhaps the customer went dark. Perhaps the customer bought. Perhaps the transaction was placed on hold. For whatever reason, the deal is on ice and needs to be revived.

This is another tough call. Automated systems that follow up on dead leads can often yield tremendous results. People will give up on a lead much faster than software, so putting the right system into place can make a huge difference. However, this is not preferable to having someone sending out the emails on a proper schedule and following up with them via phone. While software is often cheaper, the best results will come from a dedicated cold case marketer who is focused on reviving dead deals. In lieu of this person, the automated methods are necessary, but if a company can put a person or team to work on these files, then the results can actually be even better.

Preferred CRM Follow Up Strategy: Personalization



It all depends on the mentality and technique. Some marketing technologies make it easier to get the message out and draw in more business. Others are simply a crutch that may even hurt the overall marketing efforts. When applying it to your business, you have to make a decision on a case-by-case basis. Otherwise, you’ll fall into the trap on one side or the other.

What do you think?

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Written by Sal McCloskey

Sal McCloskey is a tech blogger in Los Angeles who (sadly) falls into the stereotype associated with nerds. Yes, he's a Star Trek fan and writes about it on Uberly. His glasses are thick and his allergies are thicker. Despite all that, he's (somehow) married to a beautiful woman and has 4 kids. Find him on Twitter or Facebook,

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