Marketing has undergone many changes over the years, moving from billboards and brochures to websites, email, and social media. As technology has made it easier to connect with a large number of customers at minimal cost, some of the efforts that once worked are no longer effective. An email blast to thousands of random potential customers might have worked 20 years ago, but today’s savvy consumers know how to quickly scroll through an inbox and find items of interest.

In recent years, personalization has become the preferred method of reaching customers. Whether through ad retargeting, emails, or customized delivery of certain website elements, businesses are feeling more pressured than ever to find a way to individualize their customer interactions.

“2016 will be a year of action for companies,” Carrie Johnson, senior vice president at Forrester Research, told ComputerWorld. “It will be the year that the companies that thrive will be those advancing down the customer obsession path — while those that downplay their customers’ needs will start to wither away.”

Here are seven reasons to consider embracing personalized marketing in the coming year.

It’s More Effective

The primary reason for the popularity of personalization is that it works. Instead of tossing a marketing effort out into the wild, personalization involves learning as much as possible about recipients and tailoring messages to match. This means each recipient gets a message with information specific to his or her own buying habits and personal interests, making it more likely it will not only be opened and read, but acted on, as well.

Everyone Else Is Doing It

Personalization has yet to become the norm, especially among smaller businesses. However, as more personalization tools become available, even businesses with limited budgets will likely begin to participate.

“Over time, brands that haven’t yet begun to use personalization will be left behind,” says Robert May, whose law firm has begun investigating how personalization can benefit law firms. “Brands that started early will already have perfected the approach and will have gained a reputation for understanding their customers.”

It’s Easier Than Ever

Services like Marketo and Oracle Eloqua have made it easier for businesses to gather information on customers and take action on that information. As cloud-based tools become more advanced and affordable, more businesses will be taking advantage of them. In addition to putting these solutions in place, however, a business must also begin to effectively collect information on its customers and create comprehensive, up-to-date databases that feed their personalized marketing efforts.

You’ll Get to Know Your Customers

One of the best things about personalized marketing efforts is that they allow you to learn more about your customers. How are visitors interacting with your website? What time of day are they most likely to open an email? Through gathering this information, you can understand the online habits and purchasing practices of your own customers. As a result, your business will be strengthened.

You’ll Stand Out

Throughout the day, a consumer is exposed to hundreds of ads each day, only a small fraction of which actually register. To stand out among all the noise, brands must show they are unique. Personalization increases the chance that a customer will notice your marketing message, since it’s tailored specifically to that person’s interest. If you directly contacted a customer about a conversation you had, that contact would stand out above all of the emails and social media posts that customer saw that day. Personalization achieves the same effect with a wide range of customers at once.

Greater ROI

When you spend time and effort launching a generic marketing campaign, you often don’t recoup the cost of that work. Since only a small percentage of customers will act on your message, you’re casting a wide net for only a small catch. With personalization, you can customize offers to meet each customer’s needs, increasing the number of conversions and helping you recover your marketing expenses.

You’ll Be Less Annoying

As ads have moved from TV and print to websites and social media, customers are growing increasingly impatient with irrelevant messages. That pop-up ad inviting a customer to subscribe to your newsletter is only effective if the customer is interested in doing so. Otherwise, the pop up may come across as a nuisance. When you personalize the information a customer sees, marketing messages go from annoying to useful, strengthening your reputation as a customer service-focused company.

More brands than ever are using personalized marketing to win customers and increase brand awareness. When used effectively, personalized messages can increase your ROI and help you get to know your customers better.

About the Author: Dan Steiner is a technology entrepreneur, author, and marketing consultant. He is currently serves as CEO of security firm Online Virus Repair Inc., while also running Avila Web Firm, a web design and internet marketing agency based out of San Luis Obispo, California. Additionally, he is as an active mentor and volunteer at startup events throughout region. Get more from Dan on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+.

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