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The Harte Hanks Blog

How to Eat the Elephant that is 1:1, Personalized Marketing

Receiving personalized marketingI’m sure you’re familiar with the saying, “To eat an elephant, take one bite at a time.” True 1-to-1, personalized marketing can certainly feel like eating an elephant.

Sure, many marketers are doing some level of personalization, especially with email, but that is only one piece of a much bigger picture (or should I say elephant). Including a few personal details, such as name and a reference to the last item purchased, in an email is personalized marketing, but it’s not what the experts are espousing as the Holy Grail. To get to the Holy Grail, you have to eat the elephant…all of it.

Don’t take all of the bites yourself.

Consuming the pachyderm is a lot easier than you might think. If you’re taking one bite at a time, you’re doing it wrong. You need to share bites with all of your marketing teammates. Teamwork, combined with the right amount of insight, is the combination needed to eat that marketing elephant. But what does your team need to execute on your marketing vision of 1-to-1 communication? There are several key components that your team should master: data, analytics, strategy, planning, execution and oversight. You likely have all of these components in place, but making sure they are optimized to truly achieve personal, relevant communication with your customers is your key to getting closer to the Holy Grail. Here’s a quick review of those key components and some things to make sure you thinking about.


You can’t be personal without the right data. Most marketers have access to some data, but, do you have all the data you need readily available in one place? To get a better understanding of where you stand, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are you able to track online behavior as it relates to your brand?
  • Do you know their social sites they frequent and their handles?
  • Do you know which products/services you offer are of interest to them even if they haven’t purchased?
  • Do you know how they prefer to be communicated to, when, and how much?
  • Is all of the information linked together at the customer level?


To act on all of that good data, you need an analytics strategy to uncover where the opportunities lie within your customer base to market at a personal level. It’s more than just segmenting your customers. It’s about:

  • Understanding how your testing strategy will be measured to gain true insight.
  • Creating profiles and personas that can be marketed to in personalized ways.
  • Assessing your marketing efforts on the overall bottom line.
  • Identifying high value opportunities that may not seem obvious, such as complementary offerings that will drive desired purchase behavior.


Once you know who your customers are, it’s important to know how to speak to them in ways that they are most likely to respond to.

  • Is your message consistent across channels?
  • What customer behaviors do you want to drive with your communications?
  • How are your communications supporting your program’s business goals?
  • Are you delivering monologues or starting conversations?
  • Are you speaking to them as individuals?


Planning is about knowing when, how often, and where you are speaking to your customers. Your communication planning should align with your messaging strategy and be delivered in a consistent and thoughtful manner. It’s tough to get that alignment and consistency if you don’t plan it all out in advance.


Each channel in which you speak to your customers should be represented. New digital and mobile channels are hot and offer great opportunities to take personalization to the next level, but don’t ignore your traditional outlets.


You probably have a large customer base with varying needs and interests. As consumer expectations evolve, you need a strong leader in place to make sure the team is keeping pace with the changes and that you are working towards the right goals. It also takes a knowledge of how each function of the team interacts and impacts the others. Otherwise, you may quickly find yourself alone in the woods with the elephant staring directly at you.

The Final Course

Being relevant to your customers with personalized communications isn’t easy. But the right combination of insight, teamwork, and an optimized strategy will bring you closer to eating the marketing personalization elephant…all of it. Bon appetite!

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