Data is the key to personalisation. We take a look at what data you can use, where you can find it, and how it can help make personalisation effective
Personalisation in charity marketing is once again a red hot topic, because "next generation" personalisation techniques hold the tantalising promise of far closer engagement with supporters.
First generation personalisation often involved nothing more than adding a name to the top of a letter or email, but today’s personalisation uses more data in more focused ways to capture the attention of those that a charity aims to communicate with.
In fact, the smart use of data to create more personalised messages, website journeys and marketing campaigns has been identified by Salesforce as one of the top four trends impacting nonprofit marketers today.
At the most basic level, personalisation is about using the data that a charity holds about its donors, prospects, fundraisers, or anyone else, to tailor its communications to best effect. But what does this actually mean?
One example is offering different website landing pages to different people using tailored, personalised message layouts. This is a technique used by Netflix: no two Netflix customers’ home screens look the same because the content is driven by data such as past viewing habits, what similar people have watched, and so on.
The Netflix example with unique home screens is an extreme example. When it comes to charities, it can be more helpful to build a handful of personas which typify website visitors: for example "Alice, a young female donor who gives a small amount once per year." Your charity can then build landing pages for each persona.
A more general approach involves personalising all communications, including those made via the web, email, or posted materials, so that they are of more interest to the recipients. For example, younger recipients could be messaged with material which includes pictures of young families, while communications with retired couples could feature imagery of older people enjoying various activities.
These are just examples, but the key point is that all communication and content can be dynamic. Data allows charities to understand who they are communicating with so that the right message is delivered in the right way every time.
The alternative is to have generic, unpersonalised messages, and the evidence suggests that this is increasingly ineffective: 72% of consumers will only engage with personalised marketing messages, according to a report by SmarterHQ.
The important questions to ask then are these: what data does your charities need, and where can you get it from?
1. Mine your CRM
An obvious source of data is your charity’s constituent management system (CRM), and this will typically contain data such as names of established contacts, as well as their age, email and physical addresses and their giving history, if any. We’ve published information on the best CRM systems for charities.
CRMs contain valuable information, but the drawback is that they only contain data about your known constituents.
So how can you use personalisation to engage prospective constituents who haven’t yet shared their information with you, or perhaps not yet had any direct contact with you?
2. Put your website data to work
According to the "Data-Driven Personalization Survey" carried out by Ascend2, a research-based marketing company, over half (55%) of marketing professionals say that website activity is the most important type of marketing data used for personalisation efforts.
This may seem somewhat circular – you can’t personalise your website unless you have data about a visitor, and the main source of data about visitors is the data collected when they visit. But don’t forget that personalisation is like a relationship: it develops over time as both parties get to know each other.
That means that the first time someone visits your website they may have to be presented with a standard landing page, but you can use data from that first visit to personalise their experience during subsequent visits.
The type of data that a charity can collect from website visitors is varied. It can include anonymous data like cookies, visitor device IDs, location data and website behaviour as well as person-specific data such as email addresses, physical addresses and phone numbers.
Just because some data is anonymous doesn’t mean it can’t be used for personalisation. Teenage Cancer Trust, for example, has long used location data to show mobile visitors to its site the work that the charity is doing in their areas.
The ability to use anonymous information such as a device ID or source IP address is also important, as it enables you to start to personalise content to repeat visitors before you know precise details like their name or age. But by personalising using anonymous data you can increase the likelihood that they will engage with your charity and provide these personal details which will enable you to use more precise personalisation later.
A useful tool to help you with website data is the free Google Analytics
3. Harness social media platforms
Charities are of course not restricted to mining data from their own websites and CRM systems: other, external, sources of data include charity Facebook pages, and interactions on other social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram – both with the charity’s own accounts, or through mentions, retweets and other exchanges.
Clean your data: sending out duplicate messages to the same person or sending a message to a deceased person destroys the effect of personalisation
Use your data intelligently: an example of this is ensuring that mailings posted to over 50s use large print and good contrast to ensure that they are legible
Aim for a bespoke experience: the ultimate aim is that, instead of grouping people into personas, everyone is treated individually. This is true personalisation, involving using data about every person to produce bespoke communications with engaging headlines, content and imagery which is uniquely tailored to them