The Difference Between Personalization and Customization (As Told by Sales Leaders)

By Brianna Valleskey on October 12, 2018
What’s the difference between personalization and customization?

In a world where we have more access to data about our buyers than we ever have in our past, this question comes up a lot. After all, 96% of marketers say personalization advances customer relationships and 58% of consumers, themselves, say they want a personalized experience.

And this customization vs. personalization issue was a hot topic during a panel on engagement personalization at this year’s Sales Enablement Soiree.

So, what actually is the difference between personalization and customization?

Where you’re at in the funnel. At the top, it’s almost impossible to create personalization.

“You can look at the buyer persona. You can look at the company. You can customize things. But that’s customization,” Sendoso VP of Sales Tom Melbourne told the audience.

“Personalization is really about making a personal connection. You can customize and tailor videos to mention someone’s name, but you can’t make a personal connection with someone via a 30-second video.”

Personalization happens further down the funnel, where most of your efforts should be focused on creating a real connection with the person on the receiving end of your messages.

“I think a lot of people think personalization is about the company. But you’re reaching out to a person,” Skaled CEO and Founder Jake Dunlap explained. “Think about their personal pain points. The best way to personalize isn’t the ‘I know we went to the same college.’ The best way to show personalization is to show ‘I get you, and I know what you’re going through.’”

So customization is about modifying messages with your prospect’s detailsPersonalization, on the other hand, is about how you connect with your prospect in ways that are relevant and meaningful to them.

SAP Global Head of Regional Engagement, Localization, and Social Selling summed up personalization this way: “It’s all about the relationship — how you build the relationship.”

How to Increase Personalization in Your Sales Process

After articulating the difference between personalization and customization, the panelists also discussed strategies for making the sales process more personalized.

Tom said that learning how to sell with personalization starts with really understanding who is buying your product. This is more than just buyer personas, he emphasized, but rather an orchestration of all your efforts.

What’s a day in the life of the person you’re building a relationship with like?

Jake recommended using customer panels. He used to take his team to onsites with their customers just so they could listen to what the customers were going through on a daily basis.

Sales coaching is also an important part of fostering a culture of personalization.

“If we want our salespeople to have certain results, we have to ask the right questions and coach them around it,” Alice Heiman Chief Strategy Officer Liz Heiman said.

She added that it’s incumbent upon sales leaders to keep salespeople focused on problems, continually asking, “What problem is our prospect having?” and “How can we help them solve it?” instead of “What is our product?” and “What are our features?”

In addition to customer panels, Demandbase Director of Sales Productivity David Kim said that the discovery process is super important for understanding your customer: “You have to align company direction with a person. What’s that person’s motivation for working at their company and finding a solution?”

That helps you understand the lifecycle of someone in your buyer’s role, and then you can communicate with them in a way that really hits home.

“First, it’s about getting someone to engage with you, raise their hand, and say ‘Yeah, I resonate with what you’re saying. We should talk,’” Tom said. “Then, it’s about connecting. Ask, ‘What are your OKRs for this quarter?’ and ‘How will you achieve those goals?’”

Finally, Jake added that it’s not just about doing research once and then expecting a sale. People who stick out to him are the ones who stay after; who consistently show they’ve researched the company and have taken the time to think, “What is a CEO of a 25-person company going through.

“It’s not rocket science. It’s, ‘Did they do the research and keep at it?” He said. “Personalization plus persistence.”

Personalization + Persistance = Resonance

What’s a good indicator that you’re not personalizing your messages? If you’re not getting responses, Liz said.

She also summed up most of what we’re saying in this article pretty well:

“As we move through the funnel, we move from customization to personalization.”

There you have it, folks. Now that you know the difference between personalization and customization, we want to help you add more personalization to your buyer’s journey. Grab a copy of our newest eBook for 100+ direct mail and gifting ideas for connecting with prospects in a more personalized way.

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