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Why personalized content is just better advertising

I’ve been doing a lot of work recently with clients on website personalization, and I have been struck by how a distinct minority of people (mostly with an advertising background) question whether we really need to target people with website personalization. At first, I thought that they were just resisting something new, but after a while, I have started to think that there is something more fundamental going wrong here.

I see a mindset among advertising folks that is biased towards reach–they want to reach the most number of people possible. Now, in theory there is nothing wrong with that, but in practice, it gets rather expensive as you try to reach more and more people–especially if you believe that each person needs to be reached multiple times before they are persuaded.

I have been preaching fit–the idea that you need to reach the people who really fit what you are offering. There are dramatically fewer of those, so you can be sure that it probably costs less, but people wonder how they would possibly do that, which leads to the problem. I find that when people don’t know how to solve a problem, they tend to deny that it exists.

But as I am thinking about it, I don’t think that I really need to contrast reach vs. fit at all. In fact, I have been trying out a new line of patter on a few advertising people and it seems to be working better. I am explaining to them that they have always been about fit–that their goal has never been to reach everyone with their advertising, but rather to reach the few people that will actually buy. That’s why they have focused on putting ads in the right places with the right demographic audience, because they want the right people. This is just a new way to do that.

I am not sure why I was fighting them for so long. It was almost as if I needed to prove how smart I was by having a new idea instead of helping them see that this is just their old idea taken to the next level. Now that I am not so full of myself, more people are listening to the real message of how personalization helps their marketing, and fewer are resisting.

I wonder how many other brilliant ideas I have that are putting people off because I am trying so desperately to seem smart, when I just need to explain it in a way that makes sense to them…

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in internet marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, a leading digital media marketing consultancy based in New York City. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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