If personalization plays a major role in your job, then you may be like me — you struggle to explain it effectively when people outside the industry ask what you do. Nine times out of ten my conversations go like this: after I give a brief overview of behavioral tracking and personalized experiences, the person I’m speaking with says, “so… like those ads that follow me around the internet?” Well, not exactly.
This Thanksgiving, I’m making a real effort to be prepared to explain my job to my relatives. And to help you all out, I’ve compiled some tips in the style of a great Hubspot Thanksgiving post on inbound marketing from a few years ago. Here are five ideas I plan to try:
1. Make your audience the hero of the story
When you explain your job to others, you probably focus the story from your perspective. In my case, that means I launch into an elevator pitch of Evergage starting with something like “Evergage allows marketers to…” But my family consists of teachers, nurses, students, retirees, etc. They don’t necessarily have the frame of reference that others in the industry have.
Try starting the conversation by putting it in the perspective of your audience. Talk about something they probably understand all too well: how frustrating it is to not be able to find something you’re looking for on a website.
You could say, “Have you ever been on a website and not been able to find what you were looking for? Or have you been frustrated when you see clearly irrelevant information on the websites you visit all the time? Now imagine if the site adapted to you based on who you are and your interests, showing you only information you care about so that this doesn’t happen. That’s what personalization is.”
If this hasn’t cleared things up or more detail is needed, here’s one of my go-to examples. “Imagine you’re shopping on a retail site that you go to all the time. While you’re on this site you always look at men’s clothes. If you always shop men’s clothes, why would the site show you women’s clothes on the homepage? Personalization makes sure that you see what’s relevant to you, and that you don’t see the stuff that isn’t.”
2. Use an in-store example
To make personalization a little more tangible, you can relate a personalized online experience to the experience someone may receive in a physical store.
You could say, “Imagine you’re shopping in a store at the mall and you can’t find what you’re looking for. You may reach out to a sales associate in the store, or she may find you first and ask if you need help. When you’re online, you don’t have that person to reach out to. But that’s ok, because the website already knows a lot about you from the actions you’ve taken. It can use that information to bring what you’re interested in to the surface — helping you find what you’re looking for without even trying. It’s like having a sales associate say ‘I notice that you’re interested in Nike shoes in green today, we have a number of good options over here’ and directing you right to them.”
3. Describe a campaign you’ve built
The previous two options have focused on e-commerce examples. This is because I often find that it’s easier to start with B2C examples, rather than B2B, because everyone can relate to online shopping (except maybe my grandparents). But if your role isn’t related to e-commerce and you think that shopping examples will just confuse your audience about your actual job, try coming to the conversation with a solid example of a campaign you’ve run recently.
For example, if you manage personalization on a B2B site primarily focused on demand generation, you could say, “I’m responsible for creating personalized experiences on my company’s website. Recently, my team launched a new piece of content that was only relevant to a specific industry — not to everybody who visits my site. So instead of putting it in a key spot on the homepage for all visitors to see, I created a campaign to show it only to visitors from that particular industry. That way, visitors from that industry could find it easily, but I could use that space to promote something else to the rest of my visitors. Basically, I make sure that all visitors see something that will interest them while they’re on my site to help them make a decision about the product we sell.”
4. Make the most of the retargeting confusion
Earlier I mentioned that many people I speak to about personalization think I’m talking about retargeted ads. Sometimes it’s helpful to bring these up immediately to avoid confusion later on.
You could say, “You know those ads that follow you around the internet that show you products you’ve looked at? Those ads are unique to you, because they are based on actions you’ve taken on a website. Web personalization is similar to this, except it changes the experience on the website while you’re there (not after you’ve left) to cater to your interests.”
5. “I do marketing on the Internet”
Let’s face it: some family members just won’t get it no matter what. Your ability to read the room may hint that your audience isn’t really interested in getting into the details. They might just be trying to make polite, high-level conversation. In those cases, it may be best just to keep it as simple as possible. “I do marketing on the internet” usually does the trick. “Now would you mind passing the yams?”
When talking about your job or the company you work for, it’s always best to keep your audience in mind. You won’t describe your job to peers at a networking event the same way you would when you’re making polite conversation with your cousin’s new boyfriend while passing the rolls at Thanksgiving.
With that in mind, have a great Thanksgiving everyone!