If you’re reading this blog post, you already know that personalization is the ‘next best thing’ in marketing. In fact, it’s more than the next best thing — it’s an absolute must.

Today’s marketing landscape is hyper-competitive. There are far too many brands competing for the same audiences, and if you’re not able to reach the right audiences with the right message at the right time, you’re out of luck.

The obvious next step would be to personalize your marketing to build a focused relationship with every potential customer that you come across. The challenge, however, is that personalization requires more than a ‘submit’ button. Your marketing team needs to have a clear understanding of multiple audience segments — and then you need marketing assets and tools to reach them 1:1.

At first glance, this process can feel like a major undertaking, which is why marketing leaders may feel like backpedaling before putting a plan in place. The thought of collecting, streamlining, and organizing data across millions — or even billions — of people can feel daunting.

Like many things in life, or in business, the hardest step is often the first. There are some straightforward ways to help your marketing team get started with personalization. Here are three tips to guide you.

Step 1: Know What's Important to Your Audience

The best way to get started is to begin talking to customers face-to-face, listening in on customer calls, and researching what your target audience is reading.

At this stage, you don’t need to look at your customer data. Instead, get a feel for what it means to be the person on the other side of the computer screen.

When it comes to personalization, it’s easy to think about your website visitors in terms of browser sessions and click-through rates. However, the more that you can associate a face to the persona, the better positioned you’ll be to build stronger human connections.

In addition to helping you forge stronger audience relationships, this qualitative research process will help you uncover trends that are likely to be in your data. Instead of venturing into your databases without a compass, you’ll begin your research process with a strong sense of where to get started.

Step 2: Start Exploring

Thanks to Step 1, you’ll have a list of customer patterns worth investigating. Now, it’s time to cross-compare this information with your analytics. Based on your data, you should start to develop a sense of your customer groups — for instance, what types of challenges are more prevalent than others?

Based on this data, you can start carving out preliminary segments to target. Collect an initial set of offers to make the value proposition strong. You can even face-test your messaging and offers with people in your target customer base. Now is the point in your exploration process when it’s worth it to get feedback.

Step 3: Experiment

Get started. Put your message out there. Most likely, your conversion rates are going to be low — and that’s okay. The goal at this stage shouldn’t be picture-perfect results. Rather, you should begin a process of continuous learning.

Establish a baseline conversion rate so that you have a platform to build and improve upon. Look for trends in your data and pay particular attention to points of friction that stop your audiences from converting.

The sooner you get this information, the better positioned you’ll be to iterate and grow. Put your marketing ideas ‘out there,’ faster.

Final Thoughts

Your personalization strategy shouldn’t feel like pulling teeth. Perfection doesn’t need to happen overnight; rather, you can aim to develop your learnings gradually. The first step will be the hardest. But remember — you’ll be a step ahead of the rest.