How to Align Personalization Objectives with Business Goals
by Dave Ingram
This is part two of a five-part blog series on personalization.
Personalization is a top priority for businesses today, regardless of industry. To make sure that any personalization program within your organization is a glowing success, it must be aligned with the company’s larger vision and strategic goals. Without this alignment, the reason for implementing a personalization program in the first place can get lost, and personalization can do as much harm as good.
The danger lies in optimizing toward a minor objective, such as increasing clicks on your website, because that type of strategy has the potential to cannibalize more important goals, such as increasing customer satisfaction or customer lifetime value. A perfect example of this is “click-baiting.” Sensationalist headlines—“You’ll Never Guess What This Digital Marketer Posted on Her Company Blog!—entice someone to click an article, but the actual content may or may not be relevant to the end user. And even if the article is on target, chances are it’s not nearly as exciting as the headline would suggest. While this practice will most likely increase clicks, it is just as likely to mislead and frustrate the visitor. In contrast, using Affinity Audiences in Google Analytics to determine what additional article topics your audience might be interested in helps you create content that’s better received. Paired with the right metrics (for example, retention or churn), this can ensure that your personalization tactics have a positive effect on the bottom line.
But achieving all of the milestones laid out by your organization is more complex than just providing personalized content. To reach them, you need to look at the entire process that leads up to reaching your business goals. What strategic initiatives need to be in place? What projects will best showcase those initiatives? What tactics will make those projects successful? And how will it all be measured and evaluated to ensure that the right decisions are being made? Let’s break it down:
At the highest level of the organization are a small number of business goals, which are established at the C-level and communicated throughout the organization. Business goals are usually instituted as part of an annual or multi-year plan. In a typical for-profit organization, increasing revenue is the most obvious business goal. More detailed goals may include:
- Reduce costs by 20 percent
- Increase brand awareness by 20 percent
- Increase overall customer satisfaction rating to 95 percent
It is critical that these overarching business goals have a clear way to be measured and that the measurements are linked to the various systems used to drive personalization. As mentioned before, without proper measurement of high-level business goals, optimizations can easily go astray. Business goals should be top of mind when going through the shorter cycles listed below.
Business goals are not necessarily actionable as they tend to be too vague. For instance, there are many ways to reduce costs in an organization, including reducing the size of the workforce, instituting telecommuting, reducing energy use, curbing travel expenses, etc.
Strategic initiatives are more specific than broad business goals and can easily be broken down into a number of projects that can be executed upon. Examples of strategic initiatives aligned to the business goal of increasing revenue include:
- Grow new customer acquisition by 40 percent
- Reduce customer churn by 10 percent
- Shorten the sales cycle by one month
- Increase pricing by 15 percent
These too should be measurable for the purpose of reporting on results and tracking achievement. Determining what strategic initiatives are most appropriate for your business can include a complex analysis involving many teams and sometimes external consultants.
Once your strategic initiatives have been identified, it is time to establish a number of projects which support them. Each project should have clear alignment with at least one strategic initiative, though in some cases it might map to several. By aligning to an initiative, the project is also aligned to at least one business goal and is therefore justifiable work that achieves business value.
Let’s take one of the above strategic initiatives—Grow new customer acquisition by 30 percent. Examples of projects within this initiative may include:
- Increase website conversion through personalization
- Develop and implement a content strategy for individual buyer personas
- Increase trade show and event presence
Every project must have a team. In some cases, a team may be responsible for more than one project, but if you can have one team per project, they will be able to focus far more effectively. The team should be constantly learning from and evaluating the success of projects to ensure that they are moving your organization towards the larger business goals.
Once a team has been assigned to a project, it’s time to execute. What tactics will you use to accomplish this project? If you are implementing personalization on your website to increase conversion, potential tactics (or ways of personalizing) may include:
- Personalize based on visitor stage in the buying journey
- Personalize based on visitor location
- Personalize based on visitor interests
Tactics may be larger than any one single task, so if they need to be broken down further, do so. Your goal should be to get to bodies of work that can be planned, prioritized, easily defined, and easily understood by the team.
Evaluation & Iteration
There is no strict definition of what defines a strategic initiative versus a project versus a tactic. The point is to break down your work and ideas into small manageable pieces and then iterate. Do meaningful work quickly, evaluate its effectiveness, and learn from it. While business goals should remain constant, strategic initiatives and associated projects should be evaluated and iterated upon regularly. Never be afraid to make anything from a small course correction to large sweeping changes.
Learning from doing is what agile personalization is all about, and sometimes your best learnings are from failures and your best move could be a significant pivot.
Alignment Above All
Regardless of how skilled and efficient your team is, strategic alignment on the correct goals is absolutely essential for any personalization program. If you are in a position to set those goals, then ensuring that they are up to date and communicated throughout the organization is a critical step. If the business goals are being handed down to you and your team, make sure you understand both the letter and the spirit of the goals so that you can optimize towards the right outcomes.