Personalized Marketing Isn’t Always About Automation

Oliver Bridge

Personalization has come a long way since, “Hi, < FIRST NAME>.“

Today’s marketers have their pick of AI-powered tools that can deliver an individualized solution with minimal effort.  

But, savvy prospects have gotten wise to the pre-programmed chatbots, and data-driven offers that promise profitability.

The thing is, automation and convenience don’t always win out — and personal videos can bring that tech-supported human connection that people crave.

Here, we’ll make a case for using technology to build trust, even when you can’t meet face-to-face.

Automation vs. Personalization vs. One-to-One

Automation is all about collecting data and using those insights to deliver relevant offers. You’ll see this across platforms like Netflix and Spotify, which recommend content based on existing preferences. The more time you spend on these platforms, the more likely you’ll see more recommendations that you’ll like.

E-commerce sites might deploy a similar approach based on past purchases, and news sites might make recommendations based on your reading habits.

Marketing automation, specifically, refers to technology that collects data and manages campaign activity. This helps brands with lead generation, nurturing, scoring, and customer retention. When managed properly, marketing automation can help you reach your target audience and ideally, drive sales and loyalty long term.

This combination of personalized recommendations and automated marketing means that customers are getting more relevant information at perfectly-timed intervals. All of this technology is designed to help brands deliver the best possible experience to their audience.

Customers see the value here, too. As this graphic illustrates, 75% of customers prefer that retailers collect personal details if that means they get a better shopping experience in return. Still, it also highlights the fact that people aren’t too keen on websites tracking their every move.


However, it’s easy to forget the human element when you’re juggling several different tools.

Which underscores the importance of one-to-one marketing, which includes things like personalized videos, a hand-written note, or a phone call.

Why Technology Alone Won’t Cut It

According to this study, 90% of customers prefer to talk to a live service agent over a chatbot.

Despite the convenience of chatbots and virtual assistants, empathetic, knowledgeable humans still add the kind of value that drives loyalty.  

Not long ago, the concept of delivering personal offers to an online customer was unheard of.

That idea was limited to “IRL” interactions like going to get your haircut or hiring a landscaper to transform your backyard. Or, a brick-and-mortar store where the salesperson helped you pick out an outfit for an upcoming event.

The human touch has always been special, but it’s hard to deliver that level of personalization at scale. What’s the appropriate balance between automation and a personal message?

In this HubSpot piece, they go over some of the key elements that make up a customer experience strategy. You’ll notice that it’s a blend of convenience and ease—and things like personalization and reachability. Data collection allows brands to identify those most likely to buy and understand user behavior, but they don’t replace the human touch.

Limits of Automation

Automation is seen as inevitable in this day and age. We get it—and Bonjoro integrates with plenty of automation tools. There are countless ways that automation brings a ton of value to the table for marketers, but where things go wrong is when we go all-in on the hands-off approach.

This Evergage survey found that most brands see the value in personalization, but haven’t quite figured out how to best implement the right tools or feel that they haven’t yet gained the experience to make the most out of their strategy.


It’s ironic because brands have long been touting their “humanity” as a selling point. They care about social causes and take the time to write witty one-liners on social media.

Brands want to be part of the conversation, but automating the end-to-end process has removed the part of the conversation that involves listening. Which, if you’ve ever worked in sales, you know is more important than talking.

Still, only about 30% of brands are satisfied with their personalization efforts, despite knowing that when done right, can increase engagement, retention, and the cost of acquisition. According to McKinsey, companies can use personalization to reduce customer acquisition costs by up to 50% and increase revenues by up to 15%.

Instead of thinking of automation and personalization as being at odds with one another, it’s worth pointing out that they are both parts of the same effort to deliver a top-notch experience to your customer.

In that same McKinsey report, the author discusses this idea of using behavioral data to pinpoint where in the customer journey personalization brings the most value to organizations. This is much like how brands can use Bonjoro to add a to-do when a customer/prospect completes a trigger action.

While the report centers more on the concept of personalization at scale, it highlights the idea that brands can follow a similar approach by mapping milestones and behaviors and then getting in touch with a personal video or a hand-written message.

Automation lets us categorize, segment, tag, and collect customer data. It lets us make predictions and measure our results. It also allows us to identify patterns and understand what people think—on the whole.

It also lays the groundwork for a personalized experience. You can pre-schedule your social media posts, deliver emails based on trigger actions and demographics, and auto-populate your to-do lists.

Emotional Connections

According to research from the Journal of Consumer Research, more than 50% of an experience is based on emotions. So, when you think about customer loyalty, you need to remember that it’s emotions, not logic that power the decision-making process.

The Harvard Business Review identified ten emotional motivators that drive customer behavior, illustrated here.


A lot of companies that do the bulk of their business online can feel impersonal, especially when customers only interact with brands through automated communications that take place behind the screen. Your customer base is made up of individuals who want to belong or experience something thrilling and when you forget about that, you lose an opportunity to inspire loyalty.

The HBR chart focuses more on aligning brand messaging with customer goals, but it brings up an important point that customers value companies that understand their desires, whether they play into a customer’s wish to stand out from the crowd or become more successful.

Brands can create automated messages that speak to these desires, but a personal message from a brand that, say, helps them use a piece of technology designed to grow their business, goes a long way in nurturing a deeper connection.

Or, you might thank a customer for making a purchase or, even better, if a portion of their purchase goes toward planting trees or feeding hungry children. In that case, a personal "thank you" highlighting their contribution spreads positive vibes.

Wrapping Up

Not every interaction can be deeply personal, but using a tool like Bonjoro allows you to create a welcome message when a new client comes on board. Or, say thank you when someone donates to your podcast.

We know that online brands rely on automation and machine learning to compete—but we also know first-hand that personal video boosts loyalty, generates leads, and drive word-of-mouth referrals. Give personal a try — and sign up for your free Bonjoro account.

Growth tips
About the author
Oliver Bridge
Growth Grizzly
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