Mass customization, that whiz-bang strategy of the '90s, feels slightly dowdy in a world where consumers can 3-D print whatever they desire. But in a recent LinkedIn post, one-to-one marketing guru Don Peppers refreshes the idea by suggesting unconventional ways to personalize products and services.

Peppers (@DonPeppers) reimagines mass customization not as a way to gratify individual tastes but as a way to serve individual needs. His premise: Companies can always find new avenues for providing value without constantly changing, expanding, or updating their product lines.

Instead of overwhelming customers with variety, Peppers advises, businesses should "start with whatever customer insight [they] already have, and then walk the customer through as few additional choices as necessary to arrive at the correct offering for that individual."

He points to six areas ripe for personalization:

Configuration
Pre-set products to conform to customer use. Install the company directory in that new phone system before you ship it, or put together daily assortments of vitamins based on customers' health profiles.

Packaging
Offer smaller, lighter packages with larger type for seniors or more detailed product information for professionals. Is there an audience for multipacks or minipacks?

Ancillary services
Include regular calibration with that new piece of machinery. For car buyers, offer quarterly detailing, biweekly wash-and-wax, or pick up and delivery for maintenance. Customize warranties for intended use (for example, copies per month, hours per day, or miles per quarter).

Additional products
Package your product with accessories (hamsters with cages) or replenishable supplies (hamsters with rodent chow). Offer larger than usual quantities to high-volume customers: a dozen bars of soap or a half-truckload of product instead of a pallet's worth.

Pre-authorization
Help business customers set and enforce limits on how much individual employees can spend on your products. Vice presidents may order leather desk sets, and secretaries may spend up to $200 a month on everyday office supplies.

Invoicing and payment terms
Create invoices in the customer's preferred format and send at her convenience. When notifying a customer that his bill is available online, provide the total due and the due date in the email rather than force him to log in for this information.

Published on: Oct 18, 2013