July 24, 2014

Why personalized content matters

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Out-bounding is dead. Long-live Personal Content!


When it comes to developing strong relationships in your professional network, "Personal Content" is king. This has has never been more true than in today's quickly evolving business world, where there is an ever increasing torrent of mediocre content. In short, as out-bounding is dying, Personal Content is taking the throne.

You don't forget personal messages.


Personal Content is something that you write or make that's worth sharing with others, and that in the business world we hope will drive our bottom line. There is a sliding scale that qualifies something as personal content. On one hand, there's the level of personalization: the more personalized you make your content, the better. A customer is much more likely to remember (and open) a handwritten note than an email. On the other hand, there's the quality of the content itself: how impactful is the content you're sharing? Is it something trite that the customer has likely seen before? Or is it unique, helpful, and memorable?

For what it's worth, nothing short of one-on-one conversation can trump sharing personalized content. The personalization helps form a relationship with potential customers by making them feel valued (which they then project back onto you) and by sharing a bit of your outlook (which helps them learn a bit about you). The quality content will stick with them, and they'll be thankful for you having shared it with them.

The long, successful history of sharing things that really matter


"I invented the essay. Maybe you've heard of it?"


Personal Content being king is nothing new, but its salience is changing in the 21st century. As long as people have been writing, sharing good stuff has been helpful in developing strong relationships. More than 400 years ago, Montaigne, the inventor of the essay, wrote of a friendship that started with content-sharing:
"I am particularly indebted to [his writing], because it first brought us together: it was shown to me long before I met him and first made me acquainted with his name."

Back then, writing was uncommon, and sharing anything would go a long way. Contrast that with today's ever-growing amount of content shared. According to "Zuckerberg's Law," that number is doubling each year. How does any individual react to this level of information? They filter out the invaluable, and hone in on what matters. This is demonstrated by some key facts:

  1. We are less likely to open impersonal content (18.6% email open rate in 2012, and estimates hover around 17% for 2014)

  2. We are more likely to open personal content (99% open rate for handwritten mail)

  3. We are more likely to remember personal content and associate it with the person who created it (Perceived Partner Responsiveness)


Get started with Personal Content right now


So if out-bounding is on its last leg, and those who rely on it solely are spinning their wheels, how can you make use of Personal Content to drive business more effectively?

  • Send a handwritten note every now and then to a valued customer -- if they're actually a valued customer, it should make sense to have them feel that way!

  • If you're going to send out an impersonal email blast, take the time to ensure that the content is meaningful, impactful, and desirable--and make that subject line irresistible

  • Use social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) as a way to connect and network with your customers -- not as a billboard

  • Make sure that your one-on-one emails have personalized themes in them. Don't just throw out your sales pitch; weave in comments referring to the relationship you have with this individual such as talking about when you last spoke or asking about their family.


Personal Content is more difficult than out-bounding, but the ROI is much higher. You will be spending more time on each customer; admittedly, writing a handwritten note for a few customers is the equivalent of sending out dozens of emails, and crafting more personalized emails will cut back on the number of people you'll be reaching overall. But the end result is that these customers will actually open and read what you've shared, because your content will be much more likely to make it through their content-overload-filter. These folks will then become better, more loyal customers. They'll be repeat users of your product or service, generate you more referrals, and give you word-of-mouth advertising. Those three factors will trump the out-bounding equivalents of one-time buyers, cold leads, and Yellow Pages ads any day.