Not  that long ago, people were pleasantly surprised to receive a letter from your organization which had their name in the header. In fact, just yesterday I saw a huge ad for a postal service which is able to print a personal letterhead on the mail you send to your client and they claimed that everyone would love it. Well, to be honest, they do not. Not anymore. We have gone past the stage where we loved getting something with just our name on it. What we want now, is something that is specifically tailored for us, in our situation at the time when I would receive it.

Some organizations say that we are just spoilt. That we have been given so much, that we are rarely satisfied with what they send out to us. However, the real question is whether it is us that are spoilt, or whether it was them. We only have to go fifteen years back in time to be back at a time when companies did not need to personalize their offerings to their customers. You either bought it, or you did not. And there were plenty of consumers around to make that a viable options. Now, the tables have turned and the consumers are the ones saying: “you either sell it, or you do not”. And then they are all too willing to demonstrate that there is a new balance where there is such a big number of trustworthy suppliers, that they are the ones choosing the supplier that matches their requirements best.

As a supplier, that puts you in an awkward spot. Or so it seems. But that is not necessarily true. In fact, as a supplier you have a wealth of knowledge about your target audience. And this does not only apply to products, it applies to projects and services just as well. Another great thing is that even if you do not have any data on the people you are trying to reach, there is a wealth of data out that that is readily available to you. Where in the past we could only enlist the help of organizations that would sell us addresses, there are many more possibilities now. One of the biggest changes that we have seen in this matter is the acceptance of social media into the mainstream. And the uninhibited nature with which people use these social media. However, their use creates opportunities as well as obligations if you want to reach out to someone. As a general rule of thumb, you can say that the more open people are online, the more personal and informed they are expecting you to be. It asks a pro-active role from the supplier reaching out to them because they expect you to know what they are looking for. And this ‘knowing’ has to go beyond just knowing they are looking to fulfill a certain need and just pasting in a general email you have sent to hundreds of others that might have had that same need. It means they are looking for you to send them an offer that is tailored to their needs at that time and that fits within their expectations of how they should be approached.

As an example, John is looking for a new car. He has been sharing with his friends on Facebook that he had just bought a new bass guitar and amp and speakers to use when touring with his band. In other updates, John has shown that he has a girlfriend and that they love to go climbing out in the mountains near to where they live. A quick look at John’s profile page also shows that he is the owner of a business that sells security systems to owners of large estates. As John’s old car failed him spectacularly and unexpected, he has now posted an update on Facebook saying that he now needs to shop for a new car, but has not got the time, nor a very large budget. Where it goes wrong is where a salesman then goes and sends John a message for a nice second hand Ford Ka which is low in price, but does nothing for any of John’s other criteria. The winner will be the one who will come up with a car that looks sporty and representative, has room for all John’s equipment and does not break the bank. Miss out on any of these qualities and you are guaranteed not to make a sale. And if in doubt, see if you know John well enough to call him to discuss what you have on offer and how that would fit his situation. The more personal, the better.

A key in this trend will lie with the company that will come up with the technology to combine an extensive CRM system with social media monitoring and a clear analysis of what has been posted online. This will be where deals will be won or lost. The organization that can present its employees with a complete analysis of the situation of their target audience will be the one that is most able to answer the questions of their target audience in a satisfying way. And the organization that offers the best fit is often the one that is chosen over others.As an aside, personalization does not need to find its roots in knowledge you gather online. It can be obtained from offline sources as well. But the key to success in this trend is getting the balance right for what you are offering.

Another factor that you need to keep in mind is the goals you are trying to reach with what you are sending out. As an example, a fashion brand wants to let their target audience know that the new summer collection is out. Their normal approach to doing this would be to have a photo shoot, then pick a photo and send that out to all their customers through the mail. However, you can imagine that the clothes in the picture are not to everyone’s liking. This fashion brand has stores all over the world, but they also have a web store that you can buy their fashion at. As a result, the mail addresses they have gathered over the years are usually connected to a profile in the shop. A simple analysis will show the kind of clothes people usually buy and perhaps even the colors that they tend to choose. This information can then be used to split the receivers of the mail into a number of groups, for which separate pictures can be sent out. These pictures reflect the taste of the receiver much more and as a result will trigger them much more to take a look at the web shop and make their first purchase.

In general we see that the more personal an offer is made, the better it will be received. The key to making that best offer really comes down to gathering the right information at the right time to make that offer.

This post is part of a series on 10 social trends that can help you get your point across. For more information or a tailored advice on what could be your opportunities, get in touch on