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Relevance (Not Just Orange) is the New Black

By Michael Hinshaw | Small Business

Your customers crave relevancy. Business or consumer buyers, your customers are overloaded with messages on a daily (as well as an hourly, even minute-by-minute) basis. The problem with this constant bombardment from the customer’s point of view is simple: many of these messages simply aren’t relevant. And that’s the same problem businesses have. If your messages aren’t relevant, the quality of their experience – and your relationship with them – suffers.

It isn’t just your messaging that needs to be evaluated through this lens – it’s everything.  Product (or service), place, price, and promotion — as well as the overall customer experience your interactions create.  To be more relevant, you need a better understanding of your customers’ wants and needs. The best way to do this? Watch and listen to them. Or in the case of Netflix, watch them watch and listen to you.

A House of Cards built on a foundation of customer data.

Relevance (Not Just Orange) is the New Black image orange is the new blackRelevance (Not Just Orange) is the New BlackVideo-streaming leader Netflix has developed several new programs, some of which have proved to be the most talked-about hits of recent months. With everyone talking about popular Netflix Originals like “Orange is the New Black” and “House of Cards,” the company has clearly hit the nail on the head when it comes to giving consumers what they want – more programming relevant to their interests.

How did Netflix manage to create such popular shows? By using customer data to learn which series had the highest viewership and best ratings and connecting that to other customer behaviors and connections and – voila! A hit (or two – with more likely to come).

No matter how big or small your company is, the importance of being relevant is hardly an intellectual revelation. That’s one of the reasons it’s so surprising how many customer interactions and messages lack this critical component.  The fact is, being relevant to your target audience is vital to standing out (in a good way) in today’s marketplace. Your competitors are doing it, and you must as well. To do so, you need to shift (or better inform) your ideas about how customers experience your brand.

The Importance of Personalized, Relevant Experiences

A new study by Janrain reveals that people are fed up with irrelevant content and experiences. In fact, seventy-four percent are frustrated with companies that don’t market or provide experiences that suit their individual desires or interests. Something as tone-deaf as showing a dating site ad to someone who’s married will cause 57 percent of them to leave.  There’s more interesting data here, all which supports the contention that (lack of) relevance will stop customer from working with a brand that doesn’t take each customer’s needs into account.

Every one of us has seen an ad, received an email, or been advised to buy a product we weren’t  interested in. The question is: Do you know, for sure, that your company isn’t one of these offenders?  If you don’t, you need to. In fact, a recent report from Accenture showed customers’ demands for more relevant experiences are having the most significant impact on marketing strategies.

In the Era of Smart Customers, Relevancy Relies on Customer Data

While some companies are clearly behind the curve when it comes to providing an experience that’s in line with consumer expectations, there are others doing a fantastic job. That’s where data comes in, offering the ability to use customer information to learn more about them and the experiences, recommendations, and products most relevant to their needs.

CVS is one of these companies that “get it” when it comes to using customer information. As I commented on a couple months ago, the drugstore chain is using data to segment its customers and determine how it can continually provide a better experience. Segmentation is key—it helps brands identify important trends or habits among certain groups and adjust strategies accordingly. But to stay relevant, CVS is employing more than just the basic segmentation techniques; it’s engaging in psychographic, behavioral, benefit, geographic and occasion segmentation—all of which help it to better serve and understand consumers. This allows it to determine what products to stock, how often to launch promotions and even how products should be displayed to make the shopping experience as simple as possible for visitors.

The future of Customer Relevance, Coming Soon to a “Pleasure Center” Near You

When it comes to remaining relevant in the eyes of consumers, it’s key for companies to continue gathering data, analyzing trends, and personalizing consumer experiences. The importance of at least tracking – and ideally staying ahead of the “relevance curve” is obvious – and even more so when you look at where this particular trend is headed.

Google recently patented ‘pay-per-gaze’ eye-tracking that could measure customer’s emotional response to real-world ads. Intel is actively marketing its’ Audience Impression Metric Suite, which “…works in conjunction with digital displays to sense viewer responsiveness and determine gender and age group, then adapt messages accordingly.”  And the emerging disciple of Neuromarketing (combining marketing and neuroscience) is helping smart marketers unlock the motivations behind purchase decisions by figuring out what triggers responses in consumer pleasure centers.

Is relevance the new black? For your firm, the answer is yes. But when it comes to your customers, it may be red. Or purple. Or orange. The only way to find out is this: Analyze the data that surrounds them – you may be surprised by the patterns and opportunities you find. After all, the color that most correlates to being relevant is green…

This blog originally ran on CMO.com, where Michael Hinshaw writes the weekly “Get Customer-Centric” blog.

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