01 Jun 2021

Why We Need to Get Personal

Why we need to get personal 

From a business perspective, personalisation refers to the means of meeting an individual's needs more efficiently and effectively, making interactions easier and faster. This can increase customer satisfaction and the likelihood of return visits - or, in the context of the membership sector - renewals. 

When personalisation is delivered effectively, a consumer (or member) does not only have their needs met, but preempted. Ben Sturt describes the Millennial generation as 'time-poor and very volatile', meaning they are more likely to veto an organisation which does not immediately pre-empt or respond to their ever-changing needs. 

"They [millennials] want everything yesterday"
Ben Sturt

What does personalisation involve? 

Personalisation from a membership point of view covers a broad range of activity. This includes self-service, personalised email marketing, website personalisation and apps. In the future, this will mean more chatbots and AI tools tailored to the user. Over time, personalisation has evolved from being a vehicle for "showing off what you know", to an opportunity to deliver a more relevant service to members. 


For many organisations, getting personalisation 'right' can be difficult, but when it is achieved it is - in Ben's words - "the cherry on the cake". 

From a technical standpoint, the mechanics of personalisation are the same as they used to be, but the execution requires more strategic thought. Just because functionality is clever doesn't mean it adds value to the membership experience. 

What are the challenges of personalisation? 

Many are working at entry level and have yet to understand why optimising databases and compiling databases is the first step towards an effective personalisation strategy. 

An omnichannel (cross-channel) marketing and communications strategy relies heavily on communication between datasets and efficient cross-referencing. Without this, membership organisations will struggle to effectively utilise the data they already have to deliver a personalised digital experience to their members and website users. 

Technology vs Data for Personalisation

The membership sector has a tendency to focus heavily on projects and technology which may be substandard or require more strategic use to actually garner quantifiable results.

"Far too much focus on the tech, and not enough focus on the change"
Alex Skinner

It's easy to buy software and "do some personalisation", as Alex puts it, but the membership sector must search for the value in this. What are the objectives? What is the business trying to achieve? Technology is just the enabler and not every project requires an entire systemic overhaul. Alex mentions that there needs to be a more holistic, overarching context in terms of personalisation. 

Simple can be effective

Not every client requires the most sophisticated level of personalisation. Sometimes the sparkly glint of new technology can actually blindside clients to the basic level personalisation they could be doing with what they already have - and particularly, the importance of optimising historical datasets and ensuring they 'talk to each other'.


"If you're not doing the "101 stuff" [the basics] right, the fact that a site knows your region and shows you regional stuff is quite underwhelming"
Alex Skinner

Put simply, you need input to get output. Personalisation can be achieved using sophisticated technological advances and platforms, but without the data to put in it, the technology remains less than cost-effective and for many, too complex. 

How can membership sector professionals secure buy-in for personalisation projects?
There are commercial benefits to be realised from personalisation and digital transformation, as well as experiential benefits reaped by your members - but only if the project is undertaken correctly and budgeted for. During the discovery phase, the point must be made that data needs to be your top priority if you want to progress to sophisticated personalisation features that will engage and delight members. 

"It's never too early to start with data"
Ben Sturt

To secure buy-in from the top - which is instrumental to ensuring key stakeholders and staff are on board throughout the project - you should focus on showing the value of interconnected data. 

Show your board members, for example, a feature which uses interconnected databases to determine that Member X has been to Event Y, and has A, B, and C Topics of Interest. With a personalisation strategy, one might be able to assume they are interested in Event Z and show them content and sign-up opportunities for this. 

Ask your members what they want

How often do we actually ask the member what they want? If you want to achieve true personalisation, there must be an element of humanity to your communications. 


"We all make the assumption that the members want personalisation, but perhaps they just want a website they can easily navigate, or one that works, or loads quickly."
Ben Sturt

Ask your members what they want. You should be looking to pre-empt their needs, but don’t aim to overcomplicate their experiences. 

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