customize and make it personal

Customize and Make It Personal

Distinct from zooming in, customizing is the lens that guides you to think about how you can take what you do and know best and make it specific to your customers’ region, type, or personality. Properly executed, customizing takes the best of both segmentation (intending your product for an identifiable group of customers—say, people with curly hair) and personalization (allowing the customer to provide enough personal information to help you create a product that speaks to them as an individual) to produce a differentiation that results in loyalty by providing precisely the right thing at the right time.

by Allen Adamson

The concept of customizing is not a new one, of course. But with so much of it coming on the heels of recent technological advancement, it’s easy to forget that the idea of knowing your customers, identifying what they want and what they like, and delivering to them something they could make themselves has been around for some time. In a conversation with me, Bob Pittman, cofounder of MTV and current chairman and CEO of iHeartMedia, reminisced about the role radio played, and still plays for some, in what music people know about. In the days of yore, Casey Kasem would deliver his Top 40 every Sunday, and those songs would be the soundtrack of that week in much of the United States. Today, we have access to so much more music because of streaming services like Spotify, but that increased access can make it difficult to find your way to something new that you’ll like. “On Spotify, most of the usage is not people picking their own songs. It’s not people making their own playlists. It’s people listening to somebody else’s playlist because that someone else has done all the work. And, to some extent, that’s what a radio station is: ‘I trust Z100. They play music I like.’”

There are loads of ways a company can take the boon that is wealth of choice and respond to the fact that too much choice leads to an inability to enjoy anything. Spotify offers premade and shared playlists. Many large retail clothing stores offer a personal shopper. “It goes back to your time thing, in a time-crunch world with so many people screaming at you online and offline,” Pittman said. “If marketers could cut that noise out? They can win. It’s always about making it easy for me, making it simple. Curate my life for me? Yes, please—what would I give?

Examining your industry or organization for ways to tailor or customize what you do to the customer you want to bring in or retain requires two important things: knowledge of what you offer and a deep understanding of who your consumer can be. Tailoring includes offering product choices (e.g., Blue Apron allows you to craft your family’s weekly menu to suit the newly vegetarian teen in your house) and regional distinctions (e.g., the Barnes & Noble in El Paso will offer different selections than those of the store in the Upper West Side of Manhattan). Customization acknowledges specifics within a broad category, as in the case of the laundry detergent Paco Underhill discussed, formulated based on the responses to a survey about the type of wardrobe and linens found in a given home.

In other words, “listen first, act second.” When you want to change how people do things, you need to start with seeing the opportunity first. Then, you must listen to your customer, understand how they’re thinking, become part of the fabric of their lives, and strive to understand who they know themselves to be. Once I put my name on my first baseball glove, broke it in using hot oil, and caught my first line drive with it, I never looked at another glove again. It became my glove. This is the way you tailor and customize an experience that will change a customer’s behavior and routine. If you customize your product or experience, you build a crazy glue–type relationship between you and your customer.

Excerpted from Seeing the How: Transforming What People Do, Not Buy, To Gain Market Advantage, copyright © 2023 by Allen P. Adamson. Reprinted with permission from Matt Holt Books, an imprint of BenBella Books, Inc. All rights reserved.

Photo by Jasmin Chew on Unsplash

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