Adobe stresses personalization at digital marketing conference

Experts recommend taking time and making the most of data to market digitally.

Adelphi University hasn’t had trouble marketing its undergraduate courses to young people through social media. It’s the older crowd that’s harder to find on social channels.

That’s why Nana-Adwoa Karlsson-Ofori, a Web content manager for the Garden City, N.Y., university, attended a digital marketing conference hosted by Adobe Systems Inc. last week. She hoped to leave the event, held at Lincoln Center in New York, with ideas on how to better promote the university’s graduate programs to older people who typically leave more scattered social media footprints than younger generations.

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Sure enough, a thought struck her. Karlsson-Ofori wondered if Adelphi could get a better handle on its own Web advertising, SEO and social media.

Karlsson-Ofori wasn’t sure how her idea would be received at the university, but it could be the sort of bold action that would have pleased many of the event’s speakers, who offered tips on how to make the most of digital marketing as well as publicize Adobe’s digital marketing suite.

More than $100 billion will be spent this year on digital advertising, said Matt Langie, director of product marketing for Adobe. “It’s no longer about the Web. Now it’s search, display, social, mobile, video games,” he said.

Organizations now need to market to the “digital self,” Langie said. That means companies need to figure out how they will deliver highly personalized experiences, according to Langie and several other event speakers, including executives from Brooks Brothers, Facebook and entertainment company Live Nation.

A key first step to personalizing a customer’s Web experience is to not overthink it, said Kevin Lindsay, who is also a director of product marketing for Adobe.

“Don’t think of personalization as an end-all and be-all,” Lindsay said at a small panel discussion. “It’s about generating more leads, getting people to sign up to loyalty programs.”

Personalization in digital marketing shouldn’t have a look; it shouldn’t be obvious, especially to the customer, he said. Marketing messages should be natural, seamless attempts to target customers, he said.

Concerns about privacy have all but disappeared, meaning customers will give a little information as long as they get something personalized in return, according to Lindsay.

“That level of transparency is a good indication of why they want certain experiences, and that tends to make a difference,” he said.

Personalization can improve customer experience
There’s no rule book or list of best practices for digital marketing personalization, Lindsay said. It essentially amounts to a balance between what businesses can do with their customers’ data and what they should do with it. Make the most of data analysis, he said, and it will shape the customer experience.

“As you put together the pieces of me and you, you get a more reliable picture,” Lindsay said.

Mark Studness, the director of Internet sales for Verizon Wireless, agreed. Personalization efforts take shape over time, he said.

Roy Bielewicz, an associate partner for the Princeton, N.J., marketing firm Rosetta, told attendees they should recognize the key players in their organizations who will embrace digital marketing personalization. “Show them results, and from there, buy into a team that collaborates, shares data,” he said. “If you’re going to have a personalized culture, have no more silos.”

Lindsay also urged audience members to ask themselves what the primary purpose of their digital marketing is. If the purpose is to create more leads for sales, for instance, then the strategy behind personalization should support this goal, he said.

For Sean Henri, the conference reaffirmed his belief that predictive analytics is the next crucial step in understanding customers.

“How do you take all that data, get a full story and turn it into insight?” said Henri, an online content specialist for PerkinElmer, a health and environmental technology company in Waltham, Mass.

Tommy Branco works in digital marketing for a company that he declined to name.

Branco said companies make the mistake of believing all their connections on social media are part of a targeted community that should be marketed. But many of those followers are colleagues and people outside a customer base. Effective digital marketing requires finding out who the real customers are, he said.

“If they want something more customized, you have to find a way to reach them,” Branco said. “It’s a learning process. We’re coming from the ages of the email blast.”       

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