{PODCAST} In-Ear Insights: How to Customize Content Without the Data?

In this episode of In-Ear Insights, Katie and Chris talk about personalization and customization of content. In an era when privacy regulations are throttling data marketers can obtain and the media environment is in total chaos, how do we still manage to customize and personalize?

In order to customize your content without data about people, you need to be willing to talk to people and collect feedback about their likes, dislikes, and needs. This takes time and effort, but it is the only way to truly personalize content for your audience.

1. Companies need to prioritize collecting customer data in order to personalize content effectively.
2. Behavioral data can be used to identify which pages nudge people towards conversion the most.
3. Asking people directly is always the best way to get data about how to personalize content.


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{PODCAST} In-Ear Insights: How to Customize Content Without the Data?

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Machine-Generated Transcript

What follows is an AI-generated transcript. The transcript may contain errors and is not a substitute for listening to the episode.

## Christopher Penn 0:00
In this week’s In-Ear Insights, privacy regulations are cracking down social media is in total disarray.

There’s chaos and controversy everywhere.

And yet, we are still being asked as marketers to be able to offer personalization customization provide a, a single view of the customer show a great customer experience.

But our ability to rely on on data that is clean that is working, that is useful continues to diminish.

So cainy, how do we customize our content, without data about people to build on that?

## Katie Robbert 0:41
Well, I think that we should, you know, be clear about what that means.

And so, you know, this is something that, you know, I’ve always said, like, you know, the cookieless future, it’s going to be a problem for like, the lazy marketers who only rely on that information.

But if you are talking to your customers, if you’re doing feedback surveys, if you’re mining your CRM data, for support information, then you’re not going to have a problem.

And so when we talk about the data, the data exists, it’s just a matter of whether or not you’re going to put in the effort to from people.

And that I think is then becomes the difference.

So if you want to, you know, customize your content.

So we as consumers, now with, you know, the where technology is, have this expectation of personalization of everything, we don’t want to give up our data.

But somehow, we also want to make sure that it’s an experience that’s unique to only us.

And so the way in which that happens is by the consumers being willing to give feedback about themselves, what they care about what they like, what they don’t like.

And then you as marketers have to be willing to take the time to not only collect that data, but do something with it.

And so I think what we’re talking about is, in order to customize your content, without the data that you’re used to collecting, you know, somebody shows up at your website, you cookie them, you follow them all over the internet, that’s gonna go away, you won’t be able to get that social media is a hot mess, you can’t just mine people’s social handles and say, Okay, it looks like they care about these five things, you actually have to talk to people.

And that takes time that takes effort that takes relationship building.

And but by starting that process, that’s how you’re going to be able to customize your content.

Why don’t marketers talk to people, it takes time.

It’s not, it’s not something that you can immediately see monetary results from.

And so it’s something that it’s almost like a sunk cost.

Basically, a sunk cost is something that you’re willing to invest in, and not necessarily see return either right away or ever.

But you know, it’s an important thing.

And so, talking with people talking with customers is typically considered a sunk cost where I don’t know what I’m gonna get from it.

But if you do it in such a way, where your only agenda is to listen, is to understand what people like about your company, what they don’t like, what they need, what they don’t need, then it’s not just going to be a sunk cost, it’s actually going to be a longer term investment, that you can then start to incorporate into your services into your user experience into your content, give people what they want, but you won’t know what that is until you actually stop and listen and take the time to talk to people.

## Christopher Penn 3:29
I guess I’m still stuck on why people don’t do this.

So because we’ve done obviously, focus groups and market research and stuff with folks in like the analytics from marketers community and, and showed them our reports and stuff and found that the feedback we got was super valuable, like really helpful, and very informative.

And it didn’t cost us any money.

I might have bought gift cards for folks, but it cost us time.

It cost us time.

But again, like you said, it’s an investment.

So why wouldn’t people want to do more of that? Because it’s also I mean, granted, people don’t hate us, but it is also fun.

## Katie Robbert 4:04
Not every company has a clear cut community where they know that they can go to ask their customer base.

And so, you know, think about a brand who their only external asset is maybe social media, you know, so their only external asset or a way of reaching people is Twitter.

Well, right now, that’s not a great place to be reaching people, because of everything that’s going on on that platform.

And so if you don’t have a community where your like minded customers and prospects and audience can gather to talk about things, then it’s harder to find them.

If you are just a transactional company, for example, then your customers might be, you know, a one or two time customer and then they just kind of go away.

If you’re doing if you are collecting the data in such a way in your CRM that you can actually look and say, here’s who the customers are.

Here’s, you know the profile of the customer.

I mean, you, you have a myriad of reasons why people aren’t doing it.

And a lot of it comes down to they don’t know how to reach out to people.

But then the other side of that is, you might have a lot of fragile egos in leadership, and they just don’t want to hear the negative either.

You know, when I was a product manager, we wanted to do a voice of the customer.

Initiative, because we thought it was important to figure out why we weren’t selling more of the product, we wanted to talk to the customers, and the decision makers, they were not interested in hearing any of the feedback that contradicted with their vision.

So instead, they were like, well, let’s get our most expensive customers and set up a big steak dinner in downtown Boston.

And surprise, surprise, nobody showed up, because that’s not what they wanted.

It was completely contradictory to the fact that our audience, our customers, made little to no money and were completely burned out.

So inviting them to a big steak dinner, where we weren’t gonna listen to them anyway, just was the absolute wrong way to go.

But it fed the ego of the decision maker to feel like they were taking action.

## Christopher Penn 6:11
So in situations like that, what are the legal and ethical ways?

## Katie Robbert 6:19
The legal and ethical ways.

So let’s say you have a customer list, let’s say you have a newsletter list, let’s say you have a CRM with email addresses, as long as people have opted in to be contacted by you, you can send them a quick survey, how are we doing? Are you happy? Do you hate us what’s going on? And you can send them some like very, you don’t even have to get on the phone with them.

You can just give them like a one to two click survey to say, Hey, how’s it going? Or you can even say, hey, we want to hear more from you, are you willing to talk with us for five minutes, and make it worth their time, because what ends up happening is if you set up some sort of feedback loop, but then that feedback to the customer feels like it just kind of goes into the void, they will stop being willing to give you information about their experience.

So not only do you need to set up that feedback loop, you have to demonstrate that you’re taking action on it.

And that builds that trusting relationship.

And that Chris is some of what takes time, that companies are like, No, I don’t have time to do that.

Let’s just, you know, take that one piece of feedback and run with it and assume that everybody wants it, because they want to make money right away they need they have numbers to meet, taking the time to do some sort of voice of customer doesn’t help you meet your numbers, immediately.

It’s a longer it’s a longer play.

## Christopher Penn 7:41
thing that I keep coming back to those like that’s not super hard to do.

To ask people a question in a newsletter, it’s, it’s one of the easiest things in the world to do.

## Katie Robbert 7:54

But if you go, if you think about the ego side of it, you know, you Chris are someone who are comfortable with getting constructive feedback myself, you know, I am as well, not everybody is they don’t necessarily want to know, and it can be a scary thing.

Especially if you feel like maybe your job is on the line.

If you get too much negative feedback, like, you know, hey, salesperson, everybody is raising the sales experience with you as a one out of five.

So are you okay with that? Are you willing to change? And if not, like, maybe we should find a different role for you or a different company for you?

## Christopher Penn 8:31
Right? I want to just show an example of how straightforward this can be.

Because I think it’s it’s useful as an illustration.

So in every month in the Trust Insights newsletter, we have this one click poll, and you tap on one of the three answers.

That’s it, there’s, there’s there’s literally nothing else involved.

And you get to see a picture Katie’s dog, when you’re just totally worth it, trust me it is it is I’m not going to show it because you got to fill up, complete the poll to do it.

But then what we do is we bring that data, that data just goes into Google Analytics, Google Analytics, 4.

And then on the back end, we process that data.

And it’s basically the percentage of people who clicked, they’re likely to recommend minus the percentage of people who click they’re not likely to recommend that’s the quote what Net Promoter Scores look like.

And we just have a real simple piece of code that talks to GA for and said it does those computations and puts it together as a single bar chart.

And so you can see once I start to remember remembering to put it into each month’s newsletter, it took a few tries.

You can see that over time, that number has gone up and down.

You know, September was not a great month for us.

It was the people who were I don’t know what was going on.

In September maybe it was budget planning or something like that.

But clearly October we rebounded to being very close to the point five line which is considered a great and then November so far from this past weekend.

We had about About a point three, which is again, it’s it’s good, it’s better than where it’s been for most of the year.

## Katie Robbert 10:05
But I think that so you said something, you know, interesting.

So in September went down and you said, but I don’t know why.

And so that so yes, companies can run like a one click poll.

But without the additional context, this doesn’t really tell them anything.

And this, I would say, is really hard to make a decision on, we don’t know what we’re doing, right? We don’t know what we’re doing wrong.

We maybe only had one person respond to that survey.

And this is how they responded like, all of that information isn’t being shown on this single bar chart.

And so then what takes the time where the investment is to start to investigate? Well, what happened? Why is it down? Like how many people responded? What were they the same people who have responded previously? You know, I think one of the pieces of feedback that we saw when you share this was people said, Oh, well, I’ve responded before, I didn’t think I needed to respond again.

And so that’s a cue for us to change the wording to say something along the lines of like, this is a repeat, like, has your mind changed or something like that.

But that additional context getting that is what takes the time.

That’s the investment.

So, you know, let’s say we had 10, people say, No, our due diligence now includes reaching out to those 10 people to find out why, but then also doing something about it.

And so maybe it’s what we don’t want to hear, but we need to hear it in order to continue to grow and move forward.

But that’s what takes the time.

## Christopher Penn 11:30

So our next steps, then will be to, by the way, every bar in here represents a minimum of 25 responses.

That’s because I had issues with, you know, there were some like clicks three months later, it’s like, that’s not really helpful.

So yeah, it’s a minimum of 25 responses.

So then we would have to go and essentially do build focus groups out of the selection of people who did respond.

## Katie Robbert 11:51

And so what you’re starting to describe is a larger process that we then have to set aside the time, we have to be okay with our resources being put toward that versus something that might have a more immediate, but short term, you know, conversion.

And so you’re starting to, you know, pick apart why companies don’t necessarily do this.

## Christopher Penn 12:17
So what would be our next step? Should we put together a focus group of the folks who said no, or should we put, should we stick the sales team on the people who said, yes, they recommend us how what’s what are our next steps, because this is the heart of personalizing, that we have the individually identifiable data in our marketing automation system, what do we do?

## Katie Robbert 12:39
I think we ask people why they responded the way they did, and that doesn’t necessarily need to be like a big, elaborate focus group.

I mean, that, you know, we are a small company, we don’t necessarily have the time to dedicate to that, like, yeah, we want to know what people want.

But in terms of efficiency, you know, we could start to position that one click survey, if you said no, would you mind, you know, in so many words, telling us why you feel that way? Or if you said, Yes, could you help us understand, you know, what it is that you would be recommending? And so there’s ways to include that context, and that follow up information without it being, you know, a big elaborate, you know, expensive strategy, you know, you can simply send a follow up and say, you know, you took the time to respond to this.

Would you mind giving us, you know, a few more minutes of your time to help us understand why you responded the way that you did?

## Christopher Penn 13:33

I mean, that seems like a pretty straightforward thing to do.

Again, it’s it goes back to the original question of, how do you customize content without the the data, it now seems like we actually have the data, we’ve had the data all along, that seems what, besides, obviously, 40 hours in a workweek, and not being willing to work evenings and weekends, what would prevent us or what prevents another company from taking these actions? Are the ego egos

## Katie Robbert 14:04
egos aside, I mean, it may just come down to, you know, making this a priority.

And so, you know, it’s hard to talk about this without bringing the ego back into it.

But a lot of times, you know, a company will have a vision set by people who are so far removed from the actual customers, that it’s just such a mismatch and getting them, you know, the decision makers to change the vision or change the tactics or change strategy, based on the data that you’ve collected, saying, well, actually, the customers are saying this, well, I can’t go back to the board now and tell them that we’re doing something different, you know, those numbers are already set in stone and they’re gonna hit the stock market and you know, whatever the thing is to do with the numbers and so, there may be red tape issues, there may be process issues, there may be, you know, the ability to get things decided upon, then how has to go through six different committees, just to say, hey, but this is what our customers want.

So then by the time you get around to making that decision of Yes, let’s go ahead and give the customers what they want.

Two years have passed, and the customers don’t want that anymore.


And so it’s the ability to make is the ability to be agile with that data as well.

And a lot of companies aren’t structured that way.

## Christopher Penn 15:22

The other thing that I guess we could look at would be behavioral data, right? So what pages to people visit on website, you don’t need any personally identifiable information for that you can literally just use your web servers logs and say, Okay, these are the pages that get the most traffic or if you are a little fancier at dancing, you can just do machine learning models to say, these are the pages that nudge people towards conversion the most again, you don’t need a whole bunch of personal information, people you need none at all.

You just need to know.

Can we identify someone anonymously, and then build profiles of where they visit? And then for those people who convert? What’s the difference? What are the pages that they visit? The people who don’t convert? Either don’t visit or don’t visit as much?

## Katie Robbert 16:09
Well, and, you know, I think that that’s important, too, Chris, is what data do we have.

So obviously, we can look at what pages they visit.

But also, within Google Analytics, if you’re using that as your website tracking tool, there is interest data.

There is, you know, what keywords people were searching for, when they found you or didn’t find you, you know, you have your SEO data, you have different tools for that.

There’s a lot of tools that you already have, that can help make that personalized content.

You know, and so it’s less about, I think you need to rethink what personalization means.

And so it doesn’t need to be every individual experience, like Good morning, Chris, I noticed that you just took a sip of water, I thought I would serve you up this content, like that’s probably a little too far in terms of the personalization.

But I can, you know, take a look at, you know, a standard, you know, sort of broad stroke profile of someone like you, and know that you care about the latest cutting edge technology, you care about things like, you know, the ethics of artificial intelligence.

And so how can I help serve up that content to you?

## Christopher Penn 17:22
And to your point, there’s just good old fashioned asking people, What would you like to see more of

## Katie Robbert 17:27
that you’re never going to be able to get away from that, that is always going to be the best way to get that data about how to personalize.

And so if you’re not asking people, if you’re not asking customers, even if you’re just putting out polls on social media that say, Hey, would you be interested if we did this? Give it a shot.

But that’s, that’s what it comes down to.

So, you know, we talked, we’ve talked a lot about the cookie list future and being able to track people and being able to reach people where they are.

I say, okay, that’s fine.

That’s just lazy marketing.

And I’ll keep saying it, because if there’s nothing wrong with using cookies, but if that’s the only thing that you’re using to reach your potential customers, then that is what’s lazy.

## Christopher Penn 18:15

And again, if you ask people, you’ll figure out who influences them what YouTube channels, what Tiktok, creators, etc.

And in doing so, yeah, you may not be using programmatic advertising and just doing mass media buys to a billion people anymore.

But you might be able to get more targeted customers that are behavior based with that.

So for example, if if you happen to know that your YOUR 10 BEST customers all watch Google foods on YouTube, that guy does like tons of grilling steak, and you run a sponsorship with with him, you might catch additional new audiences that you didn’t know you had.

Because you previously were relying on things like age and gender and general interest.

And instead, Google’s audience could be a whole bunch of people, including some people you’ve never you would never expect would be in that.

It’s like, you know, there might be a whole cadre of Catholic nuns who are really into grilling, and you would not think to advertise to those people.

But by picking a channel where you know, from asking your audience, hey, this is where we spend our time.

You can reach them and bring in new people who are who might also have an affinity for the product or service you sell.

## Katie Robbert 19:24
So Chris, have you started to wrap your head around why people don’t do this?

## Christopher Penn 19:31
I mean, it’s the same reason I don’t do it cuz I’m not willing to invest the auto for me seriously, like for my almost timely newsletter and stuff.

I personally am not willing to invest the time to do it.

Because to me, it is not a priority.

I’d rather play Minecraft on a Saturday night than then do that.

But clearly for companies I can also you know, we’ve we’ve both had those clients who were fact resistant.

They were factory resistant clients who did not want to hear that their brainchild was is actually a terrible idea.

## Katie Robbert 20:02
And I think that’s a lot of what it comes down to is that, that fear of getting feedback that you don’t want to hear.

You know, I’m, personally someone who appreciates getting constructive feedback, because I’m always looking to improve and do better and, you know, give people what they want, whether it’s from me or from my company.

And so I’m always seeking out that feedback.

But that’s not how the majority of people or companies operate, they’re not always looking to improve themselves or their company, they just kind of want to like put those blinders on and do the thing.

Because not everyone has the confidence, to take that feedback and be okay with it and know that, you know, to be able to pull out what’s personal and what’s not personal.

So if someone says, Hey, you know, I thought the talk that you gave at marketing profs was terrible, it was totally off base of what I expected.

I can take that personally or not.

And to me, that’s not personal.

Because if the majority of people who showed up for that talk that we gave, got what they needed out of it, then that means that that one person, just it they were having a bad day, or that’s not what they needed.

And I can’t internalize that to say, How can I, you know, make that one person feel better? It’s how can I focus on the majority of people who did get what they need out of it.

And that’s something in terms of like being able to take that feedback that companies need to be able to do have, you know, if you’re looking to like pick fights with people on Yelp, because they left you a bad review, you’re probably not in a good in the right headspace to be taking that customer feedback.

And so you have to remove emotion from that feedback.

You can’t get defensive every time someone goes.

I thought this was going to be about Google Analytics while you’re talking about Twitter.

Well, and then if you start like sort of jumping down their throat like that’s, it’s the wrong way.

So it’s, it’s the confidence is the openness to be able to hear the feedback, and then it’s the willingness to do something with the feedback.

## Christopher Penn 22:11
All right, well, if you have feedback that you would like to give us, pop on over to our free slack group, go to trust for market is where you and almost 2900 other folks are asking and answering each other’s questions every single day.

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It really helps share the show.

Thanks for tuning in, and we’ll talk to you next time.

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