Niche Marketing Requires Product Managers To Personalize Everything

Effective product marketing requires that you really know your customers
Effective product marketing requires that you really know your customers

As product managers we spend a lot of time creating ways to tell customers all about our fantastic product. Too bad that often the brochures, white papers, direct mail, and case studies often fall on deaf ears. It turns out that we’re actually doing a couple of things wrong: we’re not listening to our customers and we’re not talking to them in the way that they want us to. Looks like we’ve got some work to do here…

Step 1: Find Out How To Talk To Your Customers

When someone buys one of our products, you would think that we’d take the time as part of the purchase process to find outwhat the best way to contact them in the futurewould be. However, it turns out that more than often we just get their email and phone number and proceed to use them willy-nilly.

What we should be doing is asking our customers what the best way to contact them is. While we’re doing that we should probably also be asking themhow often we should be contacting them. I can tell you that too many of us aren’t doing either of these things.

The good folks over at Forrester Research did a study in 2009 in which they asked product marketers what contact informationthey collected on their customers. Here’s the depressing information on what they found out:



  • 29% captured the type of content that the customer wanted to receive



  • 12% captured the customer’s desired frequency for receiving emails



  • 8% captured the customer’s desired frequency for receiving direct mail and telemarketing calls



  • 30% of marketers who captured at least one type of preference data took no action based on that customer preference.


Step 2: Personalize Your Communications With Your Customers

I’m going to hope that everyone understands that the more that youpersonalize your communicationswith your customers, the better the results of those communications will be. However, all too often product managers either can’t or don’t pull together the customer information that is needed to do this job well.

The sad part about this is that more often than not we have all the data that we need. However,that data is not stored neatly in one place. Rather it may be spread across multiple databases within the company.

This can include critical personalization information such as when they made their last purchase. If you can’t get you hands on this data, then you’re going to end up doingthe classic ineffective marketing techniqueof sending out product information in a “spray and pray” fashion.

Example: The Ford F-150 Pickup Truck

An example of how to do things correctly comes from the Ford motor company’s product managers. They wanted to offer their extended warrantee product to their F-150 pickup truck customers; however, theirimpersonal approachin which they simply used the customer’s name just wasn’t doing the trick: they had a 2.5% response rate.

Determined to make their customer contact more personal, the Ford product managers went back tothe company’s databasesand pulled together all of the information that they could on the people who had bought their F-150 truck. This included things such as vehicle type, how long they had owned it, address, age, income and gender.

Using this type of information they were able topersonalize how they interacted with each customer. This went so far as being able to send them material that contained a picture of a correct gender person standing in front of the correct model F-150 which was painted the same color as the customer’s.

By doing this, Ford saw a 5.7% increase in their response rates and a whopping 35.7% increase in their sales penetration. Not bad results for what was basicallysome behind-the-scenes database work.

What All Of This Means For You

Product managers will forever be responsible for creating material that will be used to interact with your customers. As long as you are going to go to the effort of creating these flyers, white papers, mailers, etc.,you may as well make them as effective as possible.

The best way to do this is to take steps topersonalize your interaction with your customers. You can start doing this by collecting information on how they want you to contact them. Additionally you’ll want to find out how often they are willing to allow you to reach out to them. Finally, you’ll need to pull together all of the information that your company has on your customers and use that when creating material to send to them.

Personalizing your interaction with your customers is not impossible to do. However,it does take some work on your partand you will need to collect data that may be stored in multiple locations. Take the time to do this right and the rewards will make the effort well worth your time.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: Once you’ve collected all of your customer information, what’s the best way to keep it up to date?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

If you asked a product manager what the scariest part of their job is, I think that you’d get a lot of them telling you”pricing”. It’s sorta a black hole – you make a guess, cross your fingers, and then hope that enough customers buy your product at a given price and that you’re not leaving money on the table. On top of all of this, it turns out that there are 7 common pricing mistakes that product managers make – are you guilty of making any of these?