Driving Customer Advocacy Through Personalized Marketing

The year was 1981. A 16-year-old named Michael took a summer job selling subscriptions for The Houston Post. In his words, “At the time, the newspaper gave its salespeople a list of new phone numbers issued by the telephone company and told us to cold call them. It struck me as a pretty random way of approaching new business.”

Michael soon noticed two common threads when making sales calls. New subscribers tended to have just moved into new homes or had just married. Armed with this realization, Michael hired two friends to find people getting mortgages or getting married. He used a personalized marketing letter for these prospects and sold thousands of subscriptions, earning Michael $18,000. To put it in perspective, that was more than his high school economics teacher made the entire year.

Why did this work so well? Michael uncovered the core ingredient of customer segmentation, which is knowing your customer and connecting with them on a personal level. A few years later in his dorm room at the University of Texas, Michael would start a company that disrupted the computer industry. It was called Dell.


Dell leveraged a concept called info-sense. Info-sense is “the ability to utilize data to really understand customers as people and personalize their service.” Coined by TrendWatching.com, it enables companies to learn more about individual customer needs and put that insight into action in real time. Companies who embrace info-sense can provide customers with exactly what they need right when they need it.

Today’s customer expects their needs will be addressed with precision and expertise at every touchpoint. Companies that leverage info-sense can expect increased customer loyalty and advocacy. The penalty for non-performers is more than just a lost customer, as social media now provides a platform for any unhappy consumer to broadcast their bad experience globally.

There is no doubt that consumer expectations have changed. They expect each innovation to be faster, smaller, smarter, and more accessible than the last. The same expectations apply to your business. Your customers expect faster response times, shorter wait times, more value, and less cost all at once. The companies that figure out how to serve this modern consumer will thrive. And the others? Their days are numbered.

Here are three examples of companies creating a personalized marketing experience:

1. Verizon “Rep Guidance” helps offer personalized service

Verizon personalizes its service through a desktop solution called Rep Guidance. The system shows reps detailed customer information such as how much data they use, what shows they watch, and which TV equipment they use the most.

Rep Guidance allows call center representatives to foster more intelligent, better-connected conversations with customers on a single screen. Over 100 Verizon customer representatives worked together with internal customer experience and technology teams to build the solutions.

“We’re trying to use data to be predictive and anticipate what the problem is. We realized that when a customer is calling in, they assume we know all the details about their situation.” says Miguel Quiroga, executive director for Verizon Telecom.

How does it work? For example: A customer calls in to talk about their account. They inquire about upgrading their TV package or available speed upgrades. Rep Guidance provides meaningful insight about the customer, allowing the representative to right-size their TV viewing and broadband needs.

According to Tami Erwin, Verizon president of national operations, “This cuts down on those moments where one family member would call to switch their video package, only to find out later that their family member or loved one will lose some of their favorite channels. Or a customer calls to save money on their bill, our reps now have true insight into their preferences to provide guidance.”

2. Well Fargo ATMs adapt to your personal preferences

Using predictive analytics, Wells Fargo’s automated teller machines (ATMs) present customers with an array of touchscreen buttons all based on their previous transactions and preferences.

The solution provides a layout that’s faster and easier for customers to use. The ATM interface has been completely redesigned, featuring a sleek, modern design.

When a Wells Fargo customer inserts their card into the ATM and successfully enters their PIN, the customer’s account balances appear automatically on-screen. On the main screen, the ATM presents two green buttons, both customized specifically for each customer based on previous transactions. If, for instance, a customer makes frequent deposits into their family checking account and opts for no receipt, that becomes one of the green buttons. If the customer always withdraws $60, that’s a button, too. Immediately below the two big green buttons are three more black buttons, also customized to reflect each customer’s common ATM behaviors. Putting buttons right on the homepage for what customers do most is smart UX, and it saves consumers time.

“We redesigned our ATMs based on what customers tell us they want – quicker, easier, and more convenient,” said Alicia Moore, head of Wells Fargo ATM Banking. “The ATMs really know you better. It’s not just about putting colors together and putting a design together. It’s about creating, and continuing to create, an experience.”

3. Pep Boys develops a system for personalization

Pep Boys sought to personalize their marketing. The first step involved creating a simple tracking mechanism. Through a partnership with Acxiom, Pep Boys set up a system for capturing data. The process involved deciding which data to collect and the method for organizing it. They then moved into designing the rewards program and building the system.

According to CMO Ron Stoupa, “Once we had the data, the fun started. We were able to start running tests and building different models. The key was to get into ‘surround sound marketing.’ It is about the voice the customer wants to hear, the vehicle they prefer, the offer they want and the day/time to deliver it. We had the mechanism to really understand the consumer and a strong team to build a relationship with them.”

Going forward

The rate of innovation in personalized marketing is ever increasing. What would seem like a giant leap 50 years ago appears more like a small step today. These innovations are changing the average consumer. In a short time, we’ve gone from a world where connected technology is mostly a dream to such ubiquity where more humans have mobile phones than access to working toilets.

Smart companies are using technology, data, and analytics to improve customer experience. Technology brought us these increasing expectations, and it’s the only thing that can save our businesses from them.

Stan Phelps is the founder of PurpleGoldfish.com, a think tank based at the Frontier in Research Triangle Park. He is a TEDx speaker, Forbes contributor, and IBM Futurist focused on customer experience and employee engagement. Throughout his career, Stan held many marketing leadership roles with adidas, International Management Group, PGA of America, and Synergy. He’s the author of six books: Purple Goldfish, Green Goldfish, Golden Goldfish, Blue Goldfish, Purple Goldfish – Service Edition, and Red Goldfish. They all focus on the little ways to drive differentiation, increase loyalty, and promote positive word of mouth. Stan holds a JD/MBA from Villanova University and a Certificate in Achieving Breakthrough Service from Harvard Business School. He lives in Cary, North Carolina, with his wife Jennifer, two boys Thomas and James, a blind Tabby named Ginger Baker, and Glen of Imaal Terrier named MacMurphy.

Source: THINK Marketing