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Frustrations of a Marketer—Personalization vs. Customization

by Susan Koutalakis

As a marketer, my goal is to always get someone to do the intended action—whether that be downloading a paper, registering for a webinar, attending an event, reading a blog and the list goes on and on. But, that’s only one small piece of the puzzle.

 

The other piece is the user experience when they go to your page to take the intended action. Is it personalized for them or are they customizing their own experience? This might seem like a very basic question but it’s also an important one to ask. There are plenty of articles out there that describe the difference.  

 

Many people use personalization and customization interchangeably—yet they are not the same thing. At the most basic level personalization is using data based on prior behavior to make the content on the page personal. Customization is letting the user pick their preference. Think of customization as ordering your coffee exactly how you want it, and personalization as when you’ve ordered your coffee with cream and sugar before so that’s the coffee you get.

 

Now that you know the difference you are probably asking, what’s the point of all this? The point is that, as a marketer, I deal with it every day. Do I personalize or customize? You can do both—but to start, think about the experience you want your user to have. The key is to make it simple.

 

If you want a new user to get content relevant to them in, say, a nurture program—let them customize it. I expect you’ll see better engagement than if you personalize the pages on what you think you know about them. Over time as you get more data—then personalize. Doing both is important but understanding what you want the user to do first and what you’ll do next with the data is essential.

 

As marketers, we tend to overcomplicate things—myself included. When I’m stumped or stuck, I always think: simple, simple, simple. I remember when I was building out a program that seemed to be overly complex but it was me overcomplicating it. I had a discussion with my team about it and someone said, “Susan, this is the first time we are doing something like this, keep it simple, learn from it and then add in pieces.”  It was like a lightbulb went off!

 

In the end, it turned out to be a simple streamlined path with one clear distinct action.

 

What happens when you are faced with the pressure of trying to capture more data but then provide a bad experience for your prospect or customer? If you give a person too many choices, they don’t pick. No decision is indecision and you are no better off than when you started.

Frustrating, right?

 

 Think of yourself as the user and pick the experience that’s best for them. If you know anything about me, you know I’m a huge music fan so I’ll rip off a band for the inspiration—KISS, Keep it Simple. Think about the end goal. Then have fun seeing the results of your work. 

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