Large, sweeping marketing campaigns are officially out. If you aren't currently investing in personalized marketing, then you're missing out on the new wave of digital marketing and may actually be teetering on the edge of irrelevancy.

What is Personalized Marketing?

In order to understand the definition and value of personalized marketing, you have to rewind to a time when there was no personalization in marketing.

"For those of you unfamiliar with Medieval history, the Dark Ages refer to a period of crippling technological degradation. A time when there was no No Netflix. No Hulu. No Spotify or Pandora or Sirius radio," content strategist Erik Devaney says with tongue in cheek. "During the Dark Ages, consumers didn't get personalized recommendations based on their past purchases. Nor did they receive personalized recommendations for new music, movies, or TV shows based on what they'd already listened to and watched."

Gasp! You mean that there was a time when messages weren't tailored to meet every demand and need of audiences? All you have to do is to rewind a couple of decades, and you'll remember that personalized marketing is a relatively new thing.

However, the demand for personalization isn't.  According to this study, our human minds are hardwired in such a way that we have a strong desire for control, as well as a distaste for information overload. That's why customers love personalized marketing. It enhances control while simultaneously providing a solution to the massive amount of irrelevant information that exists in the marketplace.

Personalized marketing has developed both out of necessity and thanks to new technologies. With big data, analytics, and a better understanding of who customers are, businesses now have the ability to tailor marketing to individual groups of highly-targeted customers.

Four Tips for Investing in Personalized Marketing

Are you personalizing your digital marketing? If you're unsure of how to proceed or need some tips for improving your current approach, you can give these tips and techniques a try:

1. Incorporate Unique Search Functions

Amazon is clearly the leader in personalized marketing. All you have to do is to log onto the site, and it'll immediately provide you with a bunch of recommendations based on past purchases. Sometimes it's scary how well Amazon knows their customers.

But what if you don't have access to valuable data like Amazon? Well, there are still plenty of ways to personalize your marketing. One of the best options is to incorporate unique search functions and filters into your website.

For an example of what this looks like, check out this page for San Diego hotels from GoGoBot, a popular hotel booking site. GoGoBot allows customers to select from a number of personalized recommendations - including budget, families, luxury, business, and trendsters - when searching for the right hotel. This simple personalization greatly enhances the site's user experience.

The moral here is that you have to work with what you've got. If you have access to lots of data, you may be able to present product recommendations. If you don't have lots of data but possess an accurate understanding of who your target market is, then unique search functions may work.

2. Personalize Your Emails

Email marketing is one area where you can really step up your personalization game. Typically, it turns off customers because they rarely receive messages that are relevant to them. However, by breaking out of the traditional mold and delivering highly engaging emails that speak to individual customers where they are, you can see a much greater return on your investment.

If you're using an email marketing platform like Mailchimp, one of the best tips is to utilize merge tags. For those who are unfamiliar with merge tags, they are simply codes that you insert into an email to include a customer's name, a unique URL, or a special coupon code. Mailchimp also has conditional merge tag blocks, which allow you to use IF, ELSE, and ELSEIF logic further to personalize content based on available demographic information.

3. Leverage Facebook Advertising

Facebook is one of your best assets. This powerful social networking platform has access to more information about your customers than any other entity in the world. With Facebook advertising and custom audiences, you can target ultra-specific groups, thereby increasing your return.

For example, Facebook lets you drill down to audiences as specific as this: males who live in Colorado, are over the age of 35, have been married for at least five years, have two children, and earn more than $75,000 per year. Pretty amazing, huh?

4. Give Live Streaming a Try

One relatively new way to personalize your marketing efforts is to use live streaming platforms like Periscope or Facebook Live. These tools allow you to communicate with individual customers in real time - answering questions, solving problems, and building brand awareness. With some consistency, regular live streaming shows and interviews can provide a unique outlet for customers to connect with you. Give it a try, and see what you think.

It's Time to Make Your Marketing Efforts Relevant

The options for personalization are endless. Thanks to new technologies - many of them free to use - it's now possible to connect with individual customers and humanize your brand in such a way that resonates with your audience.

In 2016, you shouldn't have to ask whether or not personalized marketing is worth the investment. The only question worth asking is "Am I investing in personalized marketing?"