You're at a party. It's loud. Everyone is talking, and the result is a tangled mess of language reverberating in every direction.

Then you hear it--your name, spoken from across the room. Suddenly, even though you're contending with a whole bunch of noise, you can hear in perfect clarity the conversation in which your name was just spoken.

This ability is known, naturally, as the "cocktail party effect." It is a curiously human trait, one that engineers have not yet been able to replicate in algorithmic form because it relies on the fact that humans don't process speech as a whole. They process it selectively--in terms of what they really want to hear.

And what most people want to hear is something about themselves. Everyone wants to feel like a special snowflake, like they're unique, and like someone else cares enough to recognize it.

You need to tailor your customer experiences the same way. Personalize your product for people by taking their feelings, interests, and preferences into account. Show them you care by customizing your messaging and onboarding. Focus all your energy on helping them be happy and successful, and in time, it'll be reciprocated.

Here are six ways you can build intensely personalized relationships with your customers.

Target Your Ads With Laser Precision

Facebook knows a ridiculous amount of stuff about its users. All that information was given up willingly, of course, but it's still astounding, especially if you've ever tried running an ad on Facebook.

Imagine you've recorded a bilingual podcast about entrepreneurship and you want to promote your first episode to relatively well-off women near where you plan to do a live broadcast next week. You could show your ad only to Spanish-speaking women, between the ages of 26-38, who rent 2,000+ sq. ft. apartments within five miles of Santa Barbara and work from home, who would describe themselves as "ambitious" and listen to Serial and Planet Money.

That would be kind of crazy, but it is possible. When it comes to targeting ads, the only thing you're really limited by on Facebook (besides how much you know about your users) is how much time you have to analyze the results of your campaigns and plan better ones.

That's where a tool like AdEspresso comes in handy. It's a Facebook ad optimization tool that lets you test out a range of variants for each one of your ads and split test them on the go, so you don't have to waste time looking through tons of data or painstakingly (or blindly) changing the criteria you're using to target. If something works, you can double down hard--if it doesn't, you can scrap it.

Focus Your Outbound Sales Like A Pro

Instead of sending as many cold emails as you can to a wide variety of prospective customers, the smart sales play is to slow down and narrowly define the kind of person you're trying to reach.

The key to running a sales team is consistency, and sending a batch of cold emails to every company in America with between 10 and 10,000 employees is going to get you wildly inconsistent, near-useless results.

Sending a batch of cold emails to all the family-owned hemp protein bar manufacturers on the eastern seaboard, on the other hand, will be a far more manageable affair, and it will teach you a lot about what works and what doesn't for that specific market. Then, after you split test, iterate, and come to dominate that tiny, tiny market: then you can start expanding.

Close.io is a sales platform with deep segmentation capabilities, allowing you to target as narrowly as you want, and once you send your emails out, you can use open tracking to figure out what kinds are most enticing and what customers are the most engaged.

Provide Super Personal Introductions

With most apps and products, the onboarding experience is the same. But that doesn't really make sense. Five different first-time users of the same product might have five totally different sets of needs, motivations and fears.

You miss a valuable opportunity to create a personal connection with your customer when your onboarding is generic. Not to mention the fact that tweaking your onboarding may be, by far, the most important change you make to your customer journey.

Let's say you run a yoga studio and you know you're going to have an influx of new people in the first weeks of the New Year.

You encourage all your newbies to sign up on your mobile site, where you provide them with tips and suggestions in an attempt to get them to come back. Now, the 70-year old Vietnam vet doing yoga for his first time is going to probably going to want a different kind of onboarding experience than the 21-year old UCLA sorority girl and yoga veteran.

If Donnie ends up wanting to upload a picture of himself in Downward Dog to the group's collective photo album, he'll be able to do that, but maybe the first thing he sees should be a FAQ and some yoga poses that are generally easier for the elderly. Annie, on the other hand, might want to know more about advanced techniques.

With Appcues, even the non-technical members of your team can do the work of designing and split testing. That means your marketing team and engineering team can work side-by-side when developing the best personalized onboarding flows.

Reach Out At Exactly The Right Time

A good re-engagement campaign can be tough to pull off, but you can make it a lot easier by understanding and segmenting your users by the various ways they behave.

It might sound right to send "We Miss You" emails to all users who have been inactive for four days, but depending on what they need to do, some customers might only use your product once a week. If those customers get an email imploring them to talk to your support team about what's going wrong, they'll just be confused.

Customer.io makes it simple to segment your users by things like duration between logins and most-used features. This will not only prevent you from embarrassing yourself but give you a chance to address issues your customers might be having before they even mention them, or offer a strategic renewal or upgrade to a customer who fits the right profile for one.

Say you run a deep fishing expedition service and see a lead clicking on every email you send, spending minutes reading every blog post and poking around in your community occasionally, but not buying--talk to them. Use their first name. Show them you don't bite by telling a story about how you got started, and offer to start a conversation with them. Then, to save time, set the actions that prompted your outreach as a new trigger, so you can automate the personal touch the next time you have a hesitant buyer like that, .

Until the moment someone signs up or buys your product, nothing is for certain. But sometimes a sense of curiosity, plus a little creative nudge from an alert email marketer, is all it takes to get a customer to activate.

Monitor How Individuals Use Your App

Interviews are a common method for figuring out what your users value about your product and what features they're most fond of, but analytics are even better. Data can't lie or be wrong, not if used correctly.

Amplitude specializes in analyzing data on usage through behavioral cohorts--groups of customers organized by specific actions or usage characteristics--but you can also use their geographical locator to view a real-time map of the actions being taken.

Yes, you can literally watch as people all over the world use your app, and you can even see the precise paths that they're taking.

Say you're running a social music app. You could watch as a user in "x country" searches for "x artist" and adds all of that artist's individual songs to a playlist. But your app has a button that allows entire albums to be batch-added to playlists, and this user doesn't seem to know about it, so you send an in-app note letting them know:

"Hey Markus! Nice to see you're branching out from your usual death metal bands, but if you want to add Taylor Swift's 1989 to a playlist without hunting and pecking and adding individual songs, try this nifty button here!" Cue amazement.

Appreciate Your Most Successful Customers

When your friends are successful, you feel happy for them. You join in on the positive emotions they're experiencing. And it should be the same way with your customers, because their success means your success too.

That's why SaaS metrics provider ProfitWell lets you see a constantly updating list of all of your users with an emphasis on their customer status. It's sortable by your average characteristics but also by financial events.

Say you're checking out the ProfitWell feed for the website optimization service you run, and you notice that one of your new customers just upgraded.

It's Crunch Corp, Vermont's leading manufacturer of artisan mock Birkenstocks! Looking at the dashboard, you realize that their average revenue per user has grown 5x since they signed up with you.

Just like you celebrate your friend's victories, you should celebrate your customers, so you send them an excited email and an invitation to drop by your office next time they're in the Valley. They write back, amazed that you noticed, and promise to visit. You make a mental note to start keeping closer track of these things!

Cut Through The Noise To Win

One reason we feel so amazing when something is personalized for us is that it cuts through the noise that fills so much of our lives. In a world full of DMVs, movies adapted from comic books, and Olive Gardens, having something tailored specifically for you always feels like a little miracle.

As Dale Carnegie said: "A person's name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language." As a startup, you need to speak your customer's name in everything you do--from the way you advertise to the way you onboard--because there's a lot of noise out there.

Noise like other companies, for instance, with bigger feature packages, enterprise deals, or cheaper prices. To stand out from the pack, you need to be nimble and responsive. Use your size as an advantage and take the time to show your customers that they, and not a share price, are your top priority. People will set other considerations aside if they find someone they really want to do business with.

Speak that sweet sound, go the extra mile, and you'll start to build the kinds of loyal, lasting relationships that you need to succeed.

Published on: Jan 5, 2016