Why Telco marketers should strive for true personalization

11 min. Read

Effective personalization should be the goal for any marketing campaign. Generic, mass-market efforts often fail to engage with customers and offer a very poor return on investment. Indeed, the majority of consumers say they won’t engage with any marketing communications that don’t speak to them on a personal level.

The telco sector is no exception. Yet where these organizations differ from many others is they have access to a huge wealth of resources in the form of their first-party customer data. This means that, with the right tools, these businesses have a great opportunity to go far beyond superficial personalized marketing efforts and forge deep, truly relevant connections with customers.

What is true personalization?

The first step to any successful strategy is understanding the difference between ‘personalization’ and ‘true personalization’.

In many cases, what companies refer to as personalization is actually fairly broad, with customers segmented into relatively large groups based on a few high-level characteristics. A top-down approach, for example, can see customers classified as ‘music lovers’ or ‘digital nomads’ based on observations of past activity. But these tend to be large, generalized segments that don’t tell telcos who their customers really are, and can lead to incorrect results.

True personalization, however, goes much deeper. It works by looking at the totality of a customer’s activities to derive insight into not just what their interests are, but what their future drivers are and how their individual traits translate into behavior.

Telco marketers armed with this information can create much more detailed customer segmentations and create behavioral tribes, built from the bottom up, that can be targeted with highly relevant messaging. It’s also important to note that good personalization isn’t just about knowing what best to say – it’s also about how you say it and when you do so. If you’re missing any of these elements, your campaign will lack relevance and won’t have the intended impact.

Where can true personalization help the most?

The benefits of personalized marketing can be seen across multiple areas of a business. According to McKinsey, for instance, true personalization leaders can boost revenue by up to 15 percent, as well as increase the efficiency of their marketing campaigns by as much as 30 percent, by triggering the right messages on the right channels, at the right time.

Personalized customer experience can also reduce churn rates and boost customer loyalty. For example, among millennials, personalized marketing communications can increase brand loyalty by 28 percent, while 70 percent say they are frustrated if they receive irrelevant emails.

How does true personalization work?

To be effective, a personalized marketing strategy depends on first-party data, and this is where telcos have a major advantage over other sectors. Unique, first-party behavioral data such as weblogs can give vital insight into human-like interests, traits and desires of a customer base that can be used to inform your marketing focus and spend.

Good use of this data also lets marketers make connections and identify potential opportunities or risks where they can deliver unique messaging. At a high level, for example, a superficial approach to personalization might identify which of your customers are passionate about music. 

But a true personalization solution, one incorporating weblog data, goes much deeper, not only narrowing it down, say, to the genres they’re interested in, but how they listen to music, which services they already use and understanding the semantic meaning of these multiple insights. In turn, this can tell you more about their personality, their brand affinities and specific interests. 

For instance, do they prefer big festival experiences or classical concerts? Do they already have a subscription to Spotify? These factors can be used to improve everything from the type of imagery you use in an email or social media message to the types of brands you partner with to provide offers or exclusive discounts that will appeal to them.

What are the biggest misconceptions most businesses have about true personalization?

There are several misconceptions businesses may have about true personalization. A common myth is that it is intrusive or creepy, and as such is something customers will not be receptive to. But this is not the case. 

In fact, Statista notes that 90 percent of consumers find marketing personalization ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ appealing, while research by Epsilon notes that 80 percent of consumers are more likely to make a purchase from a brand that provides personalized experiences. 

However, it’s important to note that ‘personalization’ is about more than moving away from generic campaigns. It’s about creating communications that have greater relevance to the individual consumer at every touchpoint through their customer journey.

There is also an idea that true personalization is difficult or impossible to achieve in a highly privacy-regulated environment where regulations such as GDPR and CCPA require active consent and place tight restrictions on what you can do with personal user data. But again, with the right tools, your first-party data can be used to provide powerful insights without compromising on user privacy.

Examples of true personalization in communications

Truly personalized marketing communications are about more than tailored offers. It’s about ensuring that the experience the individual customer receives is best for them and fits into their expectations of a brand. 

How is communication becoming personalized in modern business?

Today’s telcos, as with retailers and ecommerce businesses for example,  have no choice but to invest in personalization if they want to be successful. Almost three-quarters of customers (72 percent) won’t engage at all with marketing communications unless they’re personalized to them. 

Being able to meet people where they already are with a timely message – whether it’s a product recommendation, an exclusive email marketing campaign or an SMS to their device – ensures you’re able to connect with people in the way that matters most to them.

Good personalized messaging is not just what you say, but how and when you say it. Matching the tone of a campaign to a customer’s personality plays a major role in how successful it will be. For instance, customers who are naturally more cautious – which you can glean from their weblog data and the types of services they use – may be less receptive to certain language within a marketing message, while those who display ‘fear of missing out’ traits can be targeted more directly.

What are the different types of true personalization?

True personalization is an effective practice in marketing campaigns that supports a host of  use cases that can enable marketers to inject relevance and timeliness into their activities. By creating more adaptive campaigns that are tailored to the specific interests and behaviors of defined segments, you can greatly increase your chances of a conversion.

For example, it can enable you to be smarter about when and how you’re reaching out to customers. This may mean reaching out at a stage of their lifecycle when you know they are likely to be targeted by competitors. You can also ensure you’re choosing the best communication channel based on how well the customer has engaged with various options in the past. 

When it comes to partner offers, this also opens up more opportunities for successful return on investment. For starters, you can ensure these campaigns are targeted to those customers who’ve demonstrated behavior that indicates a genuine interest in the partner’s service. But you can also improve your campaigns, for example, by making sure you aren’t sending ‘new customer only’ partner offers to customers who already have subscriptions.

Find out more about how true personalization from data insights helps telcos grow their business.

Customer reactions to true personalization

Getting personalization right brings a number of benefits, but overall, it promises to build stronger relationships with customers, deliver greater loyalty and provide a higher return on investment for campaigns. 

Why telcos are well-positioned to benefit from true personalization?

Telcos have a unique opportunity to benefit from true personalization by tapping into their weblog data to learn more about their customers’ actual behavior, not just what their CRM data or billing data have indicated. But this is not easy. It isn’t a simple case of web categorization. Related web, phone and app behavior must be semantically understood and validation is a challenge.

But weblog data is incredibly difficult to use. Until now, it has been easier to shy away from using this data. However, some telcos are now starting to use this data to deliver them a competitive advantage. With the right tools such as the Intent HQ platform, these telcos can overcome the difficulties inherent with managing billions of website visits across millions of customers to activate insight.

Within this, there are opportunities for every part of an organization to benefit. When it comes to upselling or cross-selling products and services, for example, being able to understand a customer’s personality and interests is vital in knowing which offers will be most effective, as well as when to send them. 

Elsewhere, retention teams can better segment their churn risk customers.  For example, knowing someone is likely to churn due to their financial situation would avoid the risk of targeting them with a shiny new iPhone upgrade at a time when they are more likely to need help and assistance. Financial teams benefit from minimizing the amount of customer debt in the business. 

Why do customers respond well to true personalization?

Customers today are constantly bombarded with messages from various brands, so naturally many of these will simply go ignored as people are time-poor. Personalized messaging not only ensures they feel as though their desires and interests are being understood, but gives them a reason to stick with a provider if they are offered products, services and bonuses that resonate to them.

This can be particularly important for communication service providers. This is traditionally a sector that has not had a strong reputation for customer experience, and where many consumers have a fairly transactional relationship with their provider. By understanding your customers’ needs and interests at a human level, you can start to talk to them on a level that goes beyond commodities such as speeds, tariff plans and upgrades. 

Adding true personalization at every stage of their customer journey can help build long-term relationships that last for many years and greatly improve overall customer value, through understanding real human behavior and offering relevant, timely messaging.

The dangers of getting true personalization wrong

One of the most common errors telcos make when attempting to add personalization to their marketing is failing to understand who their customers really are, or what the implications of their data may be. For example, classifying customers by age or data usage doesn’t tell you anything about what their interests or affinities are. 

In some cases, even the most basic data can be very wrong. For instance, a brand may determine a customer is a male in their 50s based on billing and CRM data – but the weblog data may show unexpected results, such as heavy use of TikTok and fashion sites. The conclusion may be that, while the phone service is paid for by a father, it’s used by his teenage daughter. This is something that traditional data sources won’t pick up, but it plays a crucial role in any personalized messaging you send.

Other mistakes can further end up frustrating or alienating customers. For example, one way to use weblogs may be to see if they are interacting with sites such as credit rating agencies or financial comparison sites. This may be a sign they’re preparing for a life event such as buying a home, and therefore indicate it may be a good time to try and cross-sell a home broadband deal. 

However, this is not the only reason they may do this. If they are also looking at job boards or advice services, it could indicate they’re actually experiencing financial difficulties, in which case an upsell offer is unlikely to succeed and may even backfire.

This is where deep, human-level understanding of customers is vital. Get it right and deliver a relevant timely offer, and you can secure customer revenue and loyalty for years to come. But draw the wrong conclusions or overextend your messaging so it crosses the line into being creepy, and you can equally drive people away.

Find out how Intent HQ’s customers have leveraged true personalization to boost their customer relationships and improve their bottom line.

How to get started leveraging true personalization

A good true personalization strategy is nothing without data, but having access to the right data is just the start. If you don’t have the right tools to turn this into usable insight – and then activate it in the right way – you’ll fail to see a return on investment, yet you could invest millions trying.

How should you choose the right personalization tools?

Powerful artificial intelligence (AI) based data platforms will be an essential part of a good marketing strategy. However, it’s vital these are intuitive and easy-to-use in order to ensure everyone in the business is able to query the data and understand the results.

While data scientists may be familiar with handling large sets of information, marketers and customer service professionals are not. A simple platform that allows them to drag and drop criteria in order to ask questions of the data, and to view the results in a visual format, will be essential. 

This democratizes access to data and ensures that even people with limited technical or specialist analytics knowledge can apply true personalization to their activities. This is vital as, while a data scientist may understand how to manipulate and interpret data, they may not necessarily know marketing well enough to apply their findings. By contrast, while marketers may understand customers and know what to do with the data, they often lack the technical skills to analyze it for insight in the first place. Therefore, you need a tool that eliminates this trade-off.

Find out how the Intent HQ platform delivers all the tools you need to start using personalization across your marketing efforts.

What time and resources can you dedicate to true personalization?

Developing a big data solution for true personalization from scratch can be a hugely costly and time consuming process. From initial planning to production can take years, and even then, the idea that the solution is ‘finished’ will be wishful thinking, as you’ll always have to keep updating the solution to keep up with evolving technologies and customer demands.

For many telcos, this will not be a practical or economic use of their limited in-house resources, and the specialist knowledge might also be lacking. However, with a complete customer analytics solution, you can be up and running in a matter of months rather than years, and instantly get the insight you need to activate higher performing, personalized marketing campaigns.

How can personalization keep you relevant to your customers?

It’s clear that no telco marketing campaign can succeed without a true personalization strategy, but getting this right can be highly challenging. At the heart of any program should be ensuring you’re delivering relevant communications to your customers and forging deep connections in today’s commoditized market.

The telco market is highly competitive and saturated, and competing on price alone is not a recipe for long-term success. Offering truly personalized messaging that’s relevant to customers at every stage of the journey, across marketing, customer experience and more, ensures you can stand out from this noise with a unique offering that sticks in consumers’ minds. 

With access to data such as weblogs, you can draw out much more useful insight and build customer segments from the ground up, to be sure you’re targeting your campaigns to the right consumers, at the right time.

In an environment where volume is still a major consideration, creating connections with customers at the moments that matter to them lets you deliver relevant products, services and marketing campaigns that actually fit.