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Can marketing get too personal?

Last week, I shared my frustrations about business owners and marketers who use their own preferences, rather than those of their target audience, as guiding stars for crafting their marketing message / customer interactions. Today, I’m taking it to the other extreme – REALLY targeted marketing.

You know those ads that appear at the top of your screen in Gmail? (“This ad is based on emails from your mailbox.”) Or on the right side of your screen while your browsing Facebook? The ones that make you feel a tiny bit uneasy, like someone is standing over your shoulder or staring right into your brain…

If this creeps you out, you are not alone. I recently read an article about retargeting (which the author defines as “the practice of serving ads based on a searcher’s previous search history”) and was not at all surprised by the study data referenced.

According to Pew’s research, 68% of US adults said they were “not OK” with targeted ads because they “don’t like having their online behavior tracked and analyzed.”

As a marketer, I can appreciate the fact we have access to more data than ever before, and that this data helps us better serve our target audiences with relevant information. In a way, it is actually a benefit to the ad reader because you aren’t being bothered with ads for stuff you don’t care about.

On the flip side, I have to wonder where we will eventually draw the line. How much data collection is too much?

I’ve been asking myself that question a lot lately because I’m researching marketing automation software for a project. With this software in your website, you can see who is visiting, what they click on, add them to your contact database, etc. No big deal really, all pretty standard.

UNTIL you hear what some people do with this software. Here is an example:

On one of these marketing automation sites, I completed a registration form to get a PDF intro to their software. Three whole minutes later, YES THREE, I received a phone call from one of their sales reps trying to push their products down my throat. I can see adding me to your mailing list (I expect that) or even sending a personalized email, but the call felt intrusive and premature. I downloaded an intro-ish PDF, not something that indicated I was ready to purchase.

I think the key to getting marketing automation right is balancing the visitors actions with your reactions appropriately. Track my actions, use my behavior to tailor your message to my needs, but don’t go into attack mode as soon as someone downloads one PDF.

On Twitter this morning, Dave Ramsey shared the image of a sign at the end of his street that specifically targeted him and his wife and asked – creative or creepy?

I can’t decide where I land on this sign. It shows a willingness to make an investment prior to doing any work and is pretty creative, but it also makes me wonder if this person might be a serial killer trying to get access to a specific house. That wasn’t a very charitable thought. Shame on me.

At any rate – do these types of hyper-personalized advertisements or communications make you uncomfortable or appreciative?

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