Why the personal touch is a marketer’s most important KPI

Whether your company is B2B or B2C, you’re still marketing to people who make personal decisions and then rationalize them. You may be marketing the food a home chef will use making family meals or a master chef will use to serve specialties to customers — either way, relevance and personalization matter more than ever — because putting a human touch on your marketing is what leads to the ROI you’re under pressure to deliver.

Jorge Urrutia del Pozo, head of fan audience strategy and engagement for the National Basketball Association, Jay Dettling, vice president of global partners at Adobe, and

Hilary Murdock, iCrossing’s vice president and head of strategic planning, met at Good Housekeeping’s “Kitchen of the Future” to discuss why it’s time to leave behind B2B-versus-B2C thinking and, instead, focus on real-time interactions with people that drive long-term results.

“Personal advocacy is more important than the distinction between B2B vs B2C,” Dettling says. “We see this every day [among] brands trying to drive more consumer engagement and loyalty…by personalizing experiences.”

One of the main challenges these companies face in doing so is customers’ ever-increasing expectations. “No matter what category you’re in, consumers’ expectations are being set by companies outside that category,” Murdock says. “It’s not, ‘What are your competitors doing?’ It’s, ‘What kind of experiences are Netflix and Amazon providing… and how can you achieve that level of personalization.”

Brands need to know who their customers are, why they’re visiting their brick-and-mortar location or website or app, and their history. This will allow brands to be proactive and provide relevant interactions, she added.

For Urrutia del Pozo and the NBA, that means being brand stewards for their fans. “We as marketers need to be comfortable with the notion that we’re no longer owning the brand. We are the stewards of the brand. Take the NBA. We stand for the best basketball in the world. But through our players and our fans and the media, our brand has evolved and now crosses over with fashion, music, and social impact.” That means the NBA brand means different things to different people, and the organization needs to steward all of that.

“We need to obsess over getting to know our fans and then work backward to surprise and delight them,” he said, adding that it’s essential to understand the whole ecosystem of how fans experience games, from the mobile app to watching with friends in the local bar.

When brands have that level of understanding, they can meet current and prospective customers at the right time with the right content — content that’s additive rather than intrusive, Murdock says. “It feels relevant… and hopefully moves the needle for the brand, as well.

Measuring that success, and making sure that they’re delighting the customer, is as personal to each brand as the experiences they deliver.

The ideal KPI “is in the eye of the beholder,” Murdock says, adding that marketers can measure almost anything. “The most important thing is making sure the personalization and relevant experiences that you’re providing are in service of delivering those KPIs.”

Dettling recommends breaking down the customer journey to better understand what customers are sharing, and then setting and measuring KPIs for the key points within it. Look at the opportunities along the journey and use data to personalize and deliver more relevant experiences, he advises.

The NBA’s approach is to go beyond traditional KPIs such as lifetime value, Urrutia del Pozo says. “We go deep into fans’ minds to understand what they care about and create experiences based on that insight,” he says.

That level of understanding is what personalization in marketing is all about.

Ultimately, Dettling says, personalized experiences transcend the notion of B2B versus B2C, because marketers are trying to communicate with a person. “We think of it as business to everyone,” he says, “because everyone wants personalized experiences.”

View the full conversation on personalization in marketing here

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