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How to Align Personalization Objectives with Business Goals

Strategic alignment on the correct goals is absolutely essential for any personalization program.

This is part two of a five-part blog series on personalization.

Personalization is a top priority for businesses today, regardless of industry. To ensure that any personalization program within your organization is a glowing success, it must align with the company’s larger vision and strategic goals. Without this alignment, the why behind the program's existence 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. 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 clickbait. Sensationalist headlines — “You’ll Never Guess What This Digital Marketer Posted on Her Company Blog!" — entice readers 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's 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.

Business Goals

At the highest level of the organization are a small number of business goals that 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's critical for these overarching business goals to be clearly measured and that the metrics link 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.

Strategic Initiatives

Business goals aren't necessarily actionable; they can be too vague. For instance, there are many ways to reduce costs in an organization, including shrinking the workforce size , instituting telecommuting, lowering 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.

Projects

Once your strategic initiatives have been identified, it's time to establish the projects that support them. Each project should have clear alignment with at least one strategic initiative, though it might sometimes map to several. By aligning to an initiative, the project also aligns 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'll be able to focus far more effectively. The team should constantly learn from and evaluate the success of projects to ensure that they move your organization towards larger business goals.

Tactics

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're implementing personalization on your website to increase conversion, potential tactics (or ways of personalizing) may include:

  • Personalizing based on visitor stage in the buying journey
  • Personalizing based on visitor location
  • Personalizing 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's no strict definition delineating a strategic initiative from a project or 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 lessons 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're in a position to set those goals, then ensuring that they're up to date and communicated throughout the organization is a critical step. If the business goals have been 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.

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