Marketing Personalization: How to Create Meaningful Connections

Marketing Personalization How to Create Meaningful Connections

Is your digital marketing creating connections or just adding to the noise? Today’s consumer has more choices than ever before. They also have the ability to do most of their product research anonymously. By harnessing the power of marketing personalization you can contextualize your message and give your digital marketing an edge few take advantage of.

In this episode of “Hack My Growth,” we go deep into the power of personalization. When you better understand the needs of your prospects and customers,  you can better deliver services and projects they actually want and need. Check out the video below.

You can also view the slide deck by clicking here.

Video Transcript:

Hey, what’s up and welcome to Hack My Growth. I’m Ryan Shelley and today we’re going to be talking about marketing personalization. Now, we’ve said it many times on this channel, and through our blogs that the internet is just filled with content. And it’s not really about developing content, but it’s about developing great content within the context of the relationship you’re trying to build with users. Now, digital marketing is different because a lot of times you’re not sitting face to face with the person that you’re trying to do business with or the person that you’re trying to tell the story to, the person you’re trying to interact with. So, we have to take our content and do something different.

Personalized marketing is extremely powerful. And with tools and algorithms, and also just a little bit of empathy, we can begin to connect with people in more authentic ways online. So in this episode, I’m actually going to walk you through a PowerPoint presentation that I made for a local university here. I did this with some of their students as well. But I want to share it with you so that you can get the basics of marketing personalization and why it’s essential today. As well as learn some practical things that you could start doing right now for your business to get a lot more out of the content that you’re posting online.

Let’s do this.

Marketing Personalizaton

Alright, marketing personalization. It’s all about reaching your audience within the correct context. You want to define the context of the relationship so that you can deliver the right message to the right person at the right time. Personalization is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a one-to-one relationship that you’re trying to build, that you’re trying to grow. And you’re using whatever digital assets you have to build that relationship. That’s what we’re going to be talking about in this video.

So a little bit about me. My name is Ryan Shelley. I’m the owner and founder of Shelley Media Arts. We’re an inbound marketing agency with a focus on personalized marketing, with strong backgrounds in research as well as content optimization. And we do a lot of that through personalization. I have an amazing wife. She’s a former NFL cheerleader. She made pro sports. I never did or will. But I do have two awesome little boys and it’s been really, really amazing just to see the blessings that they are in my life.

I went to the University of North Florida and got my Bachelor’s degree in communications with a focus on electronic media and started my agency in 2009. We kind of started out as a design agency, a web design shop and doing local SEO and have kind of grown from there. I still love SEO and am very, very much involved in the SEO world and it’s really one of my passions. I’m a graduate of Seth Godin’s alt MBA, one of the best programs I’ve ever taken for myself. I’m also a monthly columnist for Search Engine Land. We’re a HubSpot Gold Partner Agency and we also work with a personalization company called TrenDemon, which is an amazing tool that helps you really build the appropriate buyer’s journey and flow with your audience to really develop a more personalized website, personalized campaigns, personalized interactions. So they’re one of the great tools that we use. We love those guys.

So what’s the problem? We have over-saturation and we have fewer attention spans. So generation Z, they’re already the biggest generational group in the United States. Bigger than the baby boomers. And they have an eight-second attention span. Which is down from 12 seconds, which was recorded in 2000. Now, this doesn’t mean that they don’t know how to pay attention, but what it does mean is that there’s just so much to pay attention to, they, along with many of us, just make decisions very quickly on whether or not we’re going to engage with something, based on how it makes us feel.

Also with Generation Z, 11% of them are diagnosed with attention deficit syndrome, which is up 7.8% from 2003. As you can see, we’ve got a lot of people that just can’t hold focus for long. And honestly, I don’t think it really has as much to do with the fact that we don’t know how any more than there’s just so much going on. (Source:

There are multiple screens going on at one time, watching TV, we’re on an iPad or a computer, while also texting a friend on a phone. We’ve got to make quick decisions about what we really want to pay attention to and so we have over-saturation, more content than ever, we have fewer attention spans than ever. So this means brands, businesses, whatever you’re trying to market or share, you’re going to have to capture people’s attention quicker than ever. Quicker than eight seconds. So, as you can see, we’ve got a lot of things out there that we really need to make sure that we’re taking into account when we’re developing our messages.

Blurred Lines & Mixed Messages

We’re also dealing with blurred lines and mixed messages. These are just a number of different companies in different lines of work that do different things. But as you can see, all of these logos are very similar in one way or another. You can confuse them. Our brain looks for patterns, our brain looks for similarities in things and we begin to make assumptions or feelings based on those patterns that we’ve developed. And a lot of times they’re very, very different. Carrier and Ford is a great examples. Carrier is an air conditioner. Ford is a car company. There is some variation on logos, but they have very similar fonts and very similar color schemes. But you know, let’s say you hate Ford. Like, “I hate Ford, I’m a Chevy guy.” Chances are, you probably won’t be attracted to Carrier simply because of the logo. Which is interesting, it’s just the way we’re built and wired as human beings. So, we’ve got a lot of content out there. We’ve got a lower attention span. And we’ve got blurred lines and mixed messages.

Another great example. We have two different television commercials right here. If you look on the left-hand side, you’re going to see a Samsung commercial. If you look on the right-hand side, you’re going to see an Apple commercial. Both talking about a smartphone. Both are very similar. In fact, Apple was the first one to do this and that’s been part of the heated battle between them and Samsung. But as you can see, they’re both in the same space, they’re both developing a smartphone. They both have similar smartphone features, but the way that they’re delivering the message is very, very, very similar. And when you’re talking about targeting the same audience, again, it can be very confusing. Who am I talking to? And what are they trying to tell me? So, again, this just talks a lot more about those blurred lines and mixed messages, over-saturated, low retention span. We’re not making it easy for people to connect with our brands.

What Makes a Brand Stand Out?

So what makes a brand stand out? People are inherently emotionally driven. Meaning, we want to do things that feel good, that make us feel good, and that leads us toward that next step. This doesn’t matter if you’re an outgoing person or you’re more of an introvert. At our core, it’s emotion. So creating an emotional connection is the key. One of our greatest needs is the need for significance or belonging. I don’t say this as a way to manipulate because I am very, very much against that. But as more of a way to, how can we connect with the audience? How can we connect with the people we want to do business with in a way that builds a relationship? And the way that we would build a relationship if they walked into our store or if we were sitting across from them at the table, how do we build a relationship? What are some of the emotional keys? What are some of the things that drive them at their core?

For instance, Apple does a very good job playing on the emotional need to be significant. That if you have an Apple device, it means that you’re cool or it makes you feel good about yourself. But the irony is, it’s just a phone. But they’ve tapped into this emotional feeling of belonging, which has actually made their brand have an emotional attachment to it. This, again, drives those core consumers which kind of keeps the brand going. So, whether you’re a technology company or you’re an insurance sales company, it doesn’t matter. You can find those emotional keys. Those emotional things really bring up the significance of serving the people that you want to work with and you want to do business with.

So how do we differentiate our message without compromising our reach? We want to make sure that we can grow our reach and grow and attract more people. But again, we want to keep it within a context. So we want to be talking to the right people, want to be growing our message but we don’t want it to sound the same or look the same. What do we do, right? Well, better research is the key. We have to understand not just the demographics of our target audience, but our psychographics as well. And strive to find the why behind their behavior. Why do they do the things they do? Why do they shop at the places they shop? Why do they hang out with certain people? Why would they go to the places they go? Why should they or would they do business with your business?

So demographics are great, but the reality is we live in a remote world where people are spread out. People are buying online from all different areas so you may not be targeting just the local area. You might be targeting the entire country or the entire world, right? So, demographics are just going to tell us part of the story. The psychographics are going to help us understand why people do what they do, which will allow us to tell a story that aligns with their worldview. That’s really what we’re doing. Great marketing is about telling a great story that is true. And I really want to emphasize that it’s true. When you tell a great story that is false, you end up losing in the long run because people find out and it never ends up well. But if you tell a true story, and it’s a true story that aligns with your users, just their own feelings and their own identity of significance, that’s where you start to really develop not only brand awareness but your brand loyalty and brand relationship.


So we’ve got to actually segment our segments. I like to think that this is hyper-segmentation which helps us to deliver a more contextually appropriate message. We’re not just segmenting by gender, or by location, but we’re segmenting also by lifecycle stage and we’re also segmenting by personality types. Because, again, people’s personalities are going to differ.

Now, this is a very hard thing to track and it takes a lot of data and a lot of time to understand your users at this level. So you can’t just walk into something and expect results. I think that one of the biggest places that people fail when it comes to digital marketing is they’re looking for quick wins, quick turnarounds. Now there are ways to get quick wins, but sustainable growth takes time. Sustainable growth doesn’t happen in three or six months. Sustainable growth happens in 12, 24, and 36 months when you’re putting in the work. You’re doing the small things well, which allows you to uncover the data and the research to then do this type of hyper-segmentation, which allows you to deliver that contextually appropriate message. So don’t run with this and think that you can do it tomorrow. Unless you’ve been tracking your users very, very well for a very long period of time. This is not something you can just jump into, this is something you grow into.

But it’s understanding your segments at a deeper level. You can start to segment your segments, and your user base better, just by having them answer some questions. And developing a questionnaire to get to know their personality. That’s a great place to start and then you continue to learn more as they actually interact. You know, we talked last week about empathy mapping in the last episode and I would really highly recommend you check that out if you didn’t. Because it talks about the differences between what people say and do. Very, very important within this hyper-segmentation, understanding, okay they say they want this but they actually do this. It kind of helps you frame the story in a way that makes a bit more sense.

So we also need to personalize the experience. This is where, once we’ve got those deeper data points, we can start to personalize. This really speaks to our need to belong. It builds trust with the audience. It’s kind of the difference between a generic thank you and a hand-written note. It makes digital marketing. One of the things that’s hard about digital marketing, or search engine optimization, in these types of things, is the fact that you don’t really always see the person that you’re impacting on the other side of the screen. And one of the things I like to say is all those numbers, all those statistics, all those form fills, those all were generated by a human. There was somebody on the other side of that screen that chose to take action, that chose to build a relationship with you. So we can’t take that lightly. And when we start to understand that about research, we start to deliver better content. We start to deliver a better experience and we start to personalize the experience.

Personalization actually allows us to kind of bring back some of those good old feelings of business. You know, the handshake, looking a man in the eyes or a woman in the eyes and saying let’s do this deal. And really just kind of understanding each other from a human perspective and building that relationship instead of just sending a “thank you for downloading this, now give us your money.” It’s, “Hey, thanks for building a relationship with us. We’re really interested in solving the problems that you have or providing you with the solution that you want. And we’re here to partner alongside you.” It’s the brands that do that, that go a long way. I mean, everybody likes to use Harley Davidson, but that’s what they’ve done. We’ve made it something more than just a motorcycle. We’ve made it a part of who you are. They’ve made it a part of the human experience. Where I drive a Harley. I’m part of a group with hundreds of thousands of people with tattoos of this brand on their bodies because of the way they make them feel. Harley personalizes the experience of those they are talking to.

And you can do that too. You just have to do those small things that make sure that happens. And build that personalized experience.

Impact of Personalization

So the impact of personalization. Channels of delivering the results. So, personalized emails, we all use email every day. Some of us love it, some of us hate it. But when you personalize an email, you deliver six times higher transaction rates, but 70% of brands fail to do this personalization. And email is probably one of the easiest places. If you’re using an email tool, there’s usually personalization built in to help you make those emails a little bit more personal. Addressing people by their name, or addressing them by the right name. I get that all the time. People say, “Hi Shelley”. And I’m like, well that was close, that’s my last name. I understand that it could be the first name too. But if you didn’t even take the time to know my first name, do you think I’m going to take the time to interact with your business? The answer is no. So, taking that into personalized emails is going to deliver way better results. Stop spamming people, build relationships with people.

60% of marketers struggle to personalize content in real time, but 77% believe that it’s crucial. So we have a majority that has struggled to do this, and we have a majority that believes it’s necessary. Nearly three-fourths, or 74%, of online consumers, get frustrated when websites’ content appears to have nothing to do with their interests. So, if your content is just static, and you’ve put some stuff up there that you think is okay or good enough, you’re going to frustrate people. Especially if your ad or your post or your search engine result doesn’t line up with what happens when they come onto your site. You’re setting forth these expectations up front, and then when they come to your site, you don’t deliver on those. You’ve broken trust and now that’s going to be very hard to get back. So, personalization here is the key as well. There are a number of tools that can help you personalize your content, that can help you segment your content, and that can give you testing on what looks better. (Source:

As a HubSpot partner, we have something called Smart Content that we can use. TrenDemon has an amazing, powerful algorithm that actually allows us to do this in real-time with certain pieces of content. So, there are ways to make this happen, but the real key is to get started with your base content. And making sure that your base content actually meets your user’s needs. Because if that’s not happening, personalization isn’t going to fix your problem.

So, the first key is to actually get in the shoes of the consumer and say, does our website, our offer, our promotion appear to actually, not just appear but actually deliver upon the needs and the wants of the person that we’re targeting? And finally, we have some marketers who are personalizing their web experiences, who are able to qualify and see, on average, a 19% uplift in sales. So, we actually saw a way higher uplift in sales when we started using personalization, in November two years ago. It was almost like night and day. The conversions were on our side and it was the way that my business was able to grow. And it’s because I knew that we had good base content, but I wasn’t getting people to the right pieces at the right time. That’s where I was struggling. With personalization, I saw a huge, huge increase, over a 300% increase in new leads in the first month and it’s just kind of grown from there. But on average, a 20% uplift in sales is what in-house marketers see using personalization. Very, very, very powerful statistics.

Personalization Today

So, personalization today. It’s being used already by big businesses everywhere. So, Facebook’s algorithm is built to be personalized around your likes and dislikes. Why do you see certain people and don’t see other people, because of the way you’ve interacted with them in the past? Facebook’s algorithm is taking into account all of that, trying to understand your interests and trying to show you the things that you really care about.

I figured out Google has RankBrain, which is a personalization engine. Well, it’s really an AI engine that’s helping to understand the context of a user’s search. And that’s when they factor in the results that they see. Understanding the context of different queries, and different questions, and knowing where they go. But we can even step out of RankBrain and just go to normal Google search results. Those are personalized based on search history, based on where you are in your location, based on the type of device you’re on. There are a number of factors that are coming in.

Native Advertisement uses personalization that understands your cookie history and then serves up ads that look like content, kind of. They’re kind of getting you to engage. And then we also have personalization software that we can use. TrenDemon is the tool that we typically use at our agency, but there are a number of different software out there that actually aren’t that extremely expensive and really, really, really help you deliver powerful results.

Personalization is Not Just for the Elite

So, personalization’s not just for the elite. It’s not just for the Google and the Facebook of the world. But it’s for the small businesses as well. Businesses like mine, businesses like yours that want to bring a more contextually appropriate, personal message to the people that they’re interacting with.

So I believe that marketing of the future will be based more on creating connections and relationships than traditional objectives. So, traditionally we look at data points and we look at things like traffic or rank or these conversions into leads. And while those all still matter to a point, I think we live in an economy now that’s way more on building connections and relationships than just generating a number. We’re not talking about just generating leads, we’re talking about generating relationships. We live in an economy built with people. People want to feel connected. It’s why the internet has just grown so fast. It’s because of people striving to connect with other people. And instead of just focusing on these short-term metrics how many leads did I get? How much more did my traffic grow? How am I ranked on this? We need to start focusing on what types of context and connections are we creating. What kinds of relationships are we building? Because that’s what’s gonna lead to success long-term.

I talk to agencies, I talk to other business owners, and a lot of times they come to me and they want to see growth like yesterday. And we get it because I’ve been there. There are sales sometimes where there are certain goals I haven’t hit just quite yet. But the reality is you don’t get to those long-term goals without taking the small steps day by day and focusing on the things that really matter. That’s creating a connection. That’s building those relationships. What makes this hard, what makes this very hard, for especially bigger businesses to take into account, is it’s hard to quantify the ROI on a connection or the ROI on a relationship. But I can promise you this, building a connection, creating human-focused relationships, and allowing yourself to personalize your message will always pay off way more than something that can be tracked and something that can be clicked on and quantified. Cause we’re talking about quality over quantity here. And that’s the key to marketing long-term.

On the other side of your computer screen, on the other side of that blog post, that YouTube video, that social media tweet, whatever it is, on the other side of that are real human beings interacting with you. That have problems, that have needs, and you could be that solution. So focus on building that connection and that relationship and everything else will start to line up as well and you’ll start to see your leads increase. You’ll start to see relationships increase, you’ll start to see the growth that you’ve been wanting to see.

So I hope you found this PowerPoint presentation, this video, helpful in understanding the performance of personalizing your marketing strategy. If you have any questions, please comment below. Check us out at We’ve always got fresh content, new content up there. We’re trying to help and solve problems. Trying to help marketers, trying to help business owners and anybody who wants to use digital marketing in order to increase their message and grow their audience. That’s what we’re here to do, to help and support you. Thanks for watching Hack My Growth, and until next time, happy marketing.

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SMA Marketing Global Digital Marketing Agency Ryan Shelley Founder and CEO Headshot
Ryan is passionate about helping companies make a more personal connection online with their customers and prospects. He is a regular contributor to Search Engine Land, the largest and most popular SEO news site on the web. His works have also been featured on the HubSpot Blog, Business2Community and by LinkedIn Marketing Solutions.

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