5 rules of Effective Personalisation

Personalisation is a real hot topic right now and rightly so. In today’s data rich world the ability to personalise to customers and, even more broadly, to consumers, is widely available. But do we do this effectively and should we do it at all?

Surely we should? Well yes and no. Personalisation used to be something that surprised and delighted consumers. “Wow, you know who I am and have put my name in your advertising. How clever and personal”. But now this has become an expectation. “Why are you sending me this? You should know I’m not interested in this!”. So clearly we should personalise? In many circumstance yes but we also have to be aware of the sensitivity around privacy and the fact that many users are detaching themselves from being surrounded by tech as JOMO gains popularity.

So yes you should have a personalisation strategy but you need to be smart about how you implement it.

I’ve pulled together some important rules to keep in mind and some helpful tips when putting your personalisation strategy together. So here are my top 5 rules for effective personalisation.


Personalisation can be driven automatically by various tools. AI has moved to the point that it can make a lot of decisions for you and can offer some smart personalisation opportunities – we’ll come back to that. However technology in an enabler. It augments our skills but, in most cases at least, does not replace them. We still need to steer the ship in the right direction. As with any effective marketing, the best results come when we base our plans on insights.

When building your personalisation strategy you must ensure you understand your customer in detail. Who are they? Where are they? How do they behave? What do they read? What are their passions, their irritants? What devices are they using and when? What are their goals? Only by understanding this – and truly understanding it, not making assumptions – can you effectively personalise. So before you start, do your research. Understand who you are personalising for and what they want. Without this you are shooting in the dark.


Personalisation is beyond segmentation. It is not simply looking for 5-10 groups of clients with similar traits such as income or geographical location. Personalisation is truly unique. This means knowing that person to some degree. This opens up the ethical question – Should we do this?

We’ve established that we can but not that we should. To deliver personalisation there has to be a benefit to the user as well as the business otherwise what right do you have to be delivering it at all? In an age when privacy is a hit topic and users are becoming increasingly concerned about the ownership and distribution of the data; an age when data scandals seem to happen every week; when hacking of the most secure networks in the world is becoming common place and an age where regulation in the field of personal information is being tightened every year, you cannot afford to get this wrong.

A modern marketer must understand ethical concerns now more than ever before. So before you launch into your personalisation strategy make sure you consider whether you should do it, not just whether you can.


Personalisation can be delivered through man channels and in real-time. This can be a multi-channel strategy and one that permeates every touch point of your organisation. However, to achieve this you need to have the right tools in place.

Understanding the marketing tech stack has never been more important than today and every CMO should have a grip on this no matter what their role or organisation. As I mentioned above, AI has a role to play here. This can be in interpreting data, ‘reading’ content or decision making. This can be used to produce content or recommend products and much more. Marketing Automation also has the potential to build smart, multi-channel communications based on triggers, behaviours and preferences but it does rely to some extent on your data strategy. Tools by Adobe, Salesforce, Marketo and others have transformed the way we deliver marketing over recent years. Make sure you understand these and their potential for personalisation.


What do you personalise and why? It’s not always simple. As with any area of marketing, test and learn is key. Before you spend money on the tech and launch campaigns you need to think about what you might be personalising.

There are many options but consider running an Ideation session with representatives from across your business to build out some hypotheses and then validate or disprove them.

Hypothesis 1. Our customers want personalised content recommendations

Hypothesis 2. Our clients will appreciate having a personalised message in their direct communications

Hypothesis 3. Visitors to our website will enjoy it more and convert more if it is personalised to them

These things can be tested to a segment and rolled out fully or abandoned dependent on the test results. You should be constantly testing these ideas and developing new ones. Every test moves you further towards perfection (although – secret insight – you’ll never reach it)

Data strategy

Make sure you have one. Ok it’s a little more complex than that. In today’s world we are swimming in data. As we’ve already seen above it is not the data that matters but the insights we can draw from it. We should be looking for Explicit and implicit signals. Explicits signals are when a user takes an actions such as clicking a button or submitting a form. Implicit signals refer to behavioural insights that we can see from the available data and we can extrapolate these to develop an understanding on intent etc. Our data sources need to be friends. We need to connect them in a meaningful way so that they can communicate and share their inputs and outputs. Data strategy is a complex area and one that you must focus on today. I would strongly recommending resourcing against this through people and tools. Finally of course measurement is needed to understand the impact of your personalisation. Are your hypotheses playing out or being disproven? What does success look like and how do you know when you reach it? Ensure you have a clear framework in place before you start.

You can read a personalisation Case Study here and for more on this and how it fits into a broader, truly effective marketing strategy you can get my international best-seller Digital Marketing Strategy from Amazon at the link below.

Buy Digital Marketing Strategy by Simon Kingsnorth