Personalization is the wave of the future. From customized medicine to one-on-one marketing and 3D manufacturing, tech-driven micro-targeting is ready to roll out on a mass-market scale.
Today’s generation wants to be seen and treated uniquely. They desire services and classes, advertising and products designed specifically for them. But what does this mean to a creator class already catering to segmented markets with personal, specialized goods?
If creators can maintain their entrepreneurial identities and retain client loyalty while using new tools to leverage customized products, cultivated communities, and personalized marketing, they’ll be positioned to ride the coming wave, rather than be crushed beneath it.
Let’s see how it might be done.
Creators and connections
Creator success relies on individual talent inspiring affinity and loyalty among patrons. More than brand loyalty to a mass-produced product, they evoke devotion attached to themselves. As such, the advent of the digital marketplace has been both a boon and a bane.
Creators suddenly found the world at their fingertips, but with an audience that felt out-of-touch. Ongoing restrictions only widened that chasm: art galleries were shuttered, seminars shut down, coaches were quarantined, book signings became distant memories.
The pandemic was even predicted to be the doom for the careers of artists. Yet, as history has repeatedly demonstrated, creators will always find a way to survive.
Turning digital lemons into virtual lemonade, they’ve combated impersonal conditions with personalized products and welcoming spaces. By tailoring output and outreach to target key niches, creators actually thrived during 2020’s downturn.
Despite dogged pursuit by corporate interests, mass personalization and one-on-one marketing has generally failed when attempted at scale. But for creators with smaller client bases, deeper connections, and infinitely customizable deliverables, the approach has provided advantages.
Creating personalized tools and content
Creating personalized content is not a new concept. For eons, painters and poets have accepted patron commissions while musicians have serenaded sponsors in song. But modern tools and connectivity have taken the practice to new levels, in regards to everything from the tools your customers use to the kind of content that you create.
Originality comes naturally for artists and authors, but even creators offering digital downloads, newsletters, online classes, coaching/mentoring sessions, or membership sites can rightly lay claim to uniqueness by stressing their individual strengths, targeting narrow niches, or even producing custom content on request.
By tailoring their brand, creators can highlight singular personal expertise and serve segments unreachable to bloated conglomerates; the appeal’s breadth may be limited but the stature greater within it. Sometimes it’s good to be a big fish in a small pond.
Simple, personalized touches to any tools your business uses can help keep customers engaged. Your business can utilize mobile payment and invoicing services that include personalized features and functionalities that end users will find value in, including permitting users to assign nicknames to accounts or change between languages, or allowing you to sync a loyalty program to the payment system to offer rewards.
Believe it or not, these kinds of small, individual touches can go a long way to help improve each customer’s experience. Such customization of products forms a tighter bond with clients, leading to greater satisfaction, retention, and business expansion by positive word-of-mouth advertising.
Whether offerings feel “custom” because of specificity of focus or are genuinely crafted on-demand, when patrons feel seen and connected to products, they’re more than just customers but agents invested in success, and are willing to pay more for the difference.
It’s long been said that “the customer is always right,” but never before have customers asked for so much value and individual attention. Creators who can rise to the occasion and supply these kinds of custom tools and services will be rewarded with success and loyalty.
Retaining clients: loyalty through custom communities
The creator economy is unlike most others due to its dependence on perpetual patronage. Big-ticket products require only singular sales and everyday items have built-in dependency, but creators rely upon ongoing support fed by continuing interest and participation.
This dynamic is less organic with some products than others, calling on creators to nurture continual engagement:
- With digital downloads (like eBooks or audio), creators aim to build anticipation; if someone is a fan, they should also be a follower primed for upcoming releases.
- When teaching a class or coaching individuals, instructors should emphasize that life is an ongoing lesson which doesn’t cease at the end of a session.
- Updated deliverables churned out on schedules (like newsletters and fitness programs) lend themselves naturally to renewable participation, but quality and regularity must be maintained
Though the nature of offerings may vary widely, there is a single approach that cultivates continuing interest for all creators: establishing a sense of community.
Clients of creators tend to have much in common with each other, whether it’s a shared interest in the subject matter, similar motivations, or an appreciation for the creator’s talent/sensibilities.
By connecting these kindred spirits and encouraging conversation, the creator enriches their clients’ lives and gains valuable feedback towards improvement.
There are a number of ways to foster such communities, and several should be used in concert: some as promotion to draw in the public, and some aimed primarily at patrons already in the fold.
The foremost, of course, is social media – an excellent, front-facing public outlet that can be seen by clients both current-and-prospective. Through professional accounts, creators can kick off the conversation with interesting posts then monitor reactions and comments (while encouraging the sharing of posts that serves well as word-of-mouth advertising).
Naturally, social media accounts should always link back to creator portals and all interactive forums/webinars should be hosted on creator websites. This allows creators to guide conversation, monitor feedback, and glean data in an environment that both reinforces branding and connects easily to purchase or subscription options.
Message boards and group chats are other excellent arenas for followers to “meet” and share thoughts, emotions and expectations regarding content. Such open, interactive conversations boost brand enthusiasm and can be highly enlightening while gauging what is working and what is desired by the audience.
Webinars can be a valuable tool that drives the curious to visit your site and get a taste of the wares and community on offer. They are a chance to demonstrate your expertise, provide a sense of your vibe, collect info from those interested, and perhaps sign up new clients on the spot.
A rapidly emerging model for the creator community is the use of membership sites; rather than selling downloads or courses as one-off commodities, audiences subscribe to your site (annually or monthly) for access to exponentially more.
Clients find more lasting value through access to wider materials, while creators enjoy a more regular, recurring income and greater feedback on what they’re producing.
The sense of community is often even tighter among insider members, and can be further nurtured by newsletters, members-only events, direct chatting with clients, and tiers of membership that offer different levels of access and perks.
A creator needn’t choose between an open community and a membership site. Often a balanced hybrid approach works best. By posting freely on social media, inviting all to attend free webinars, and offering limited gratuitous website access while reserving most resources and communication for paying members, creators simultaneously generate interest in future customers while rewarding those who have enlisted.
Expanding your base: personalized marketing
We’ve discussed how creators can customize their products to differentiate themselves in crowded marketplaces, and how they can sustain loyalty (and income) from regular patrons by nurturing narrow-band communities. But how can creative entrepreneurs use personalization to grow the size of their following?
The answer is using personalized marketing. In the marketing world, “personalization” is more than a general descriptor, it’s a specific practice and term of art. Personalization is a method by which advertisers shape their messages to target specific audiences based on demographic and behavioral factors.
The logistical details are technical and involve data mining, information collection, web analytics, conditional coding, dynamic content, and repositories of client statistics, among other things.
To take advantage of personalized marketing, creators don’t need to know algorithms (we’ll leave that to the professionals)…but they do need to make big-picture decisions concerning data collection, privacy concerns, and assessing which customized content is informative rather than invasive.
Before getting squeamish about the approach, it’s important to remember that utilizing consumer data to identify individuals who might be interested in your services is not inherently exploitative. Most online denizens are actually willing to share their information if it means they’ll be served more relevant products and offers.
To maintain trust with your audience, the best practice is always to be transparent and honest about collection policies, including how you’re gathering the data and how you plan to use it.
Basic background information will simply be demographic, while surveys aim to directly gauge relative interest and desires, tracking will relate how each visitor is using your site, and analytics will reveal tendencies elsewhere on the web (shopping preferences, purchase history, etc.).
Working with your marketing partners or third-party apps, you’ll then be able to join these factors and develop snapshots of potential clients to reach out in ways that speak especially to them.
Possessing a trove of data on prospective patrons alone is not enough to conduct an effective personalization campaign. It’s a tricky process that often straddles the line between crafty and creative.
Monitoring responses and tweaking approaches is crucial to refining campaigns – always strive to improve your engagement and find the best communication channel:
- Emails: Personalized email campaigns are one of the most effective forms of tailored communications. More than simply inserting a recipient’s first name at the top of a message, true personalization comes from sending out different notices to different classes of clients, based upon their status, their interests, or their responsiveness to private deals and exclusive content.
- Newsletters: As discussed above, newsletters are a great way to maintain engagement and loyalty among an existing community…but also serve as an excellent recruiting tool for new business. Rather than a single generic version which fails to differentiate between the camps, however, personalization tools coupled with analytical data allow creators to send out a number of different newsletter versions tailored to different cross-sections, producing different results and responses.
- Videos: Whether posted on social media, included in emails, or hosted on a creator’s website, video marketing is ever-expanding as a marketing channel. It’s an especially useful tool for creators who offer video courses/seminars, as it supplies the truest taste of the product. Further, personalized videos have a 35% higher retention rate on average than conventional videos, and can be customized in a number of ways (targeting certain groups, marketing different content, or even using dynamic content to insert specific names/references for individual consumers).
- Site Structure: The goal of personalized marketing is to drive clients to your portal, but if they’re greeted by a page that matches neither their interest nor the motivating offer, then the engagement may be short-lived. Integrated personalization makes sure that your audience is correctly directed to a relevant landing page, and funneled through your website in an efficient manner that reflects their demographic, their interest, and their use history.
As creators seek to establish lasting relationships, they don’t want to use marketing to “trick” consumers, but to build trust while facilitating pairings that are mutually beneficial. Personalization can help to that end.
Concerns of personalization
We’ve all encountered annoying products that follow us all over the web; maybe it was an air fryer or pair of deck shoes that earned a casual glance but now haunts every page we visit. That’s an example of personalization run amok that turns off customers rather than engaging them.
Similarly, we can feel creeped-out on finding info we’ve disclosed has been shared elsewhere. We visit a new blog and they already know our cat’s name; now we don’t trust them or the site where we confided.
Such cases illustrate the difficulties of balancing effective personalization campaigns. You want to accommodate consumers’ desires but not feel like you’ve been snooping around. Utilize data only enough to meet interests, and if you’re a creator never sell off your data to others.
Consumer sensitivity has further heightened following revelations of the depth of certain data mining; scandals involving Facebook, Cambridge Analytica, and others have driven privacy rebellions resulting in legislation from the EU to California.
Be careful, be judicious, and consider how you would feel in the audience’s shoes. Always remember that you’re looking to build a following and not make a fast buck.
Successful creators offer unique products and services while accruing devoted personal followings. As such, they are often insulated from the fluctuations of grand market forces that drive fleeting corporate fads. Yet sometimes new trends position big business to compete in the creator’s arena.
Customization and personalization represent just this kind of threat. By allowing large companies to tailor their products and target marketing at ever-smaller niches, these practices could alter the playing field.
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