Personalization With No Budget, Part 2

Jack Aaronson

Updated · May 15, 2002

Can personalization exist in a world without money or resources? That’s the question I posed and began to answer last time, in the first partof this article. It’s a question I’m sure many marketers are asking in these budget-strapped times, when many of us are discovering that our beloved proposed projects have failed to win other admirers — at least not the admirers needed to green-light the idea.

As I discussed last time, you need to start by doing three things:

  1. Realize that personalization (or whatever you call it in your company) is really just a way to incorporate features that make your customers feel like you understand them. That is a universal idea and not tied to any particular project.
  2. Figure out which of your budgeted projects (the ones that weren’t part of your personalization proposals) can be rethought to include the main ideas in your nonfunded projects.
  3. Figure out which budgeted projects controlled by other people you can attach yourself to.

In rethinking your projects, consider if you can you reduce the scope of your project, or change the specification just a little bit, to require less technology. For example, I once created a very involved “my” area for a company. Almost everything came from databases, but a few pages required data be scraped from the live site, because the pages were static.

This added an incredible amount of money to the project proposal and made all the technical people grimace, because it involved introducing a new technology they would have to maintain. Then one of my staff suggested that if we tweaked just one page and slightly changed the information presented in a certain area, we could take that new (and almost identical) data from the database — eliminating the need for the extra technology and its associated costs. That helped sell the project internally like you wouldn’t believe. The result was a section with 95 percent of the functionality originally proposed, at least a 45 percent drop in the cost of the project, and several weeks fewer implementation time.

The last step is to see whose projects werebudgeted. Maybe a new product offering, a new service, or an update of part of the site, has been scheduled. Are there personalization ideas for these areas that you could bring to whomever is in charge? Your “owning” these projects is less important than getting some form of personalization up on the site. Once you get ideas up there, your superiors can see how great they are, and maybe you can even claim some return on investment (ROI). Trust me, if your companies are anything like the ones I have worked for, no one else really “gets” this stuff, and anything you do (no matter who ends up owning the project) will clearly have your fingerprints on it, so don’t worry about the politics.

I can share many good examples of this from my own experience. I decided early on that trying to own all of the projects incorporating personalization was a silly idea — because my hope was that every project we did would have a personalization component. So I created my team as a “support” department to help every team assigned to a project. My group would be the voice of customer-centric design and personalization and be the team that found the technologies that would accomplish the ideas other people conceived.

This allowed my team to be the brain trust and keep control over all the personalized aspects of every project, but we avoided competing politically for control or ownership. The result? More projects ended up being completed because they became very important to the actual owners, and my team was asked to give its input on almost every project to come through the pipeline. After a while, I dubbed my team the “arbiters of common sense,” because we were brought in to give the personalization perspective, which, after all, is the perspective that represents the common sense and needs of the user.

So if your projects got “deprioritized” or your budget no longer allows for the massive technology you had hoped to install in the next few months, step back and see what commonsense measures you can take to make your site or services a little more intuitive and a little more directed toward specific users. Position yourself as the expert in this area so that you can help craft the course of projects you are not directly in charge of. Can you change the scope of your project a little to reduce technology costs? Odds are you can change the way you had thought of doing something, accomplish 70 to 80 percent of what you had wanted, and reduce the cost by a large amount.

And now for the audience participation part: Because none of you likely have personalization as your only job function, what else are you responsible for? I am interested in finding out where “personalization,” “one-to-one marketing,” and so on falls within your company. With that knowledge, I can write articles that better address the intersection of those responsibilities.

Also, I would love to feature a case study in my next article having to do with low-budget commonsense things you should do this quarter. Is there anyone out there who will let me write about her site and what simple things can be done without spending any money? If so, write me! If I can’t mention your site’s name, I’d still love you to write me so that I can generalize to your industry. Email me at [email protected].

Until next time…


Jack is recognized worldwide as an expert in personalization, one-to-one marketing, multi-channel marketing, and consumer behavior. He is CEO of Jack Aaronson Consulting, and lectures around the world, helping companies craft customer-centric strategies. He has been published in Peppers & Rogers’ “One-to-One” magazine, and “DIRECT” magazine. Jack is writing a book on consumer behavior and the psychology behind effective multi-channel marketing. Before starting his own company, Jack was director of personalization at barnes&

Reprinted from ClickZ.

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