By Cory Von Wallenstein

If you create something for everyone, you create nothing for anyone. Those that create a product, service or message that some will “absolutely love” yet some will “absolutely hate” do far better at building viable businesses than those that create something that is “just ok” for all audiences. This is called polarization, and we have no further to look than iPhone vs Android, F-150 vs Prius, or Snapchat vs e-mail for evidence of this polarization strategy successfully at work.

Key to polarization success is how to continuously engage those that will love being engaged while happily allowing those that will not to go about their lives uninterrupted. Taking a message to market is where this most publicly breaks down; to do it right, you need to segment your audiences, understand them, and tailor the right message with the right delivery at the right time to connect the right product or service with the right people.

Polarization and tailored engagement

How can you do that successfully in your business? The first step: put yourself in the customers’ shoes. What’s the experience and engagement you would love to receive if you were a customer of your business’ product or service?

Do you want to be told about new products or services that you have no interest in? Do you want to receive more “general newsletter” e-mail every week? Do you want your phone to wakeup with a push notification with a promotion for today only when you’re out of town that day? If you don’t, then why would your customers?

By contrast, would you be interested in knowing that a product you love has recently been upgraded or a service you adore now was expanded hours? Sounds like a great email update to receive, but only sent to those people that truly love and adore that product or service.

Or perhaps a push notification to your phone to wakeup mid-morning and let you know today’s lunch specials at your favorite restaurant down the street while you’re in town. Timely information that’s useful and welcomed can lead to a great engagement, and help strengthen the relationship between a brand and a customer, driving real value.

Data is key to automated tailoring

For a local retailer, knowing your customers personally can be the most effective way to tailor your customers’ experience. This breaks down quickly at even modest scale, and is a complete non-starter for brands and organizations that serve hundreds of thousands to millions of customers.

To deliver a more tailored experience, you need to know your customer, but since you can’t personally know every customer at scale, data is your proxy. What have people purchased before? How many times have they visited? When do they prefer to come in? How do they prefer to be engaged? There’s a win for the customer in tailored engagements, since they’ll encounter more of what they like about your brand and less of what they don’t, and there’s a clear win for the business with increased engagement, conversion and sales.

There is an important foundation of trust that must be formed between customer and brand for this to be successful; there must be transparency around what data is collected and for what purpose, the customer must always receive more value in return for opting in to providing any data than they would receive without opting in, and a customer must easily be able to engage while providing no data if they choose not to (i.e., a completely untailored experience).

After all, tailored experiences are polarizing in and of themselves; some absolutely love the personalized touch, while some absolutely hate that any data, even anonymous data, on their behavior is used for any purpose. Both polarized perspectives can be respected.

Getting started

Start with those customers that are requesting to engage in a more tailored way. If they like your brand on Facebook, engage them. If they frequently visit with the Adored app, reward them for opting in to receiving today’s specials or upcoming events that evening as they walk by. If you have an email list of everyone, start to segment by product purchased, geography or other meaningful segmentation and create tailored content for each rather than a general “one size fits all” engagement.