I’ve been doing a lot of work recently with clients on website personalization, and I have been struck by how a distinct minority of people (mostly with an advertising background) question whether we really need to target people with website personalization. At first, I thought that they were just resisting something new, but after a while, I have started to think that there is something more fundamental going wrong here.

I see a mindset among advertising folks that is biased towards reach–they want to reach the most number of people possible. Now, in theory there is nothing wrong with that, but in practice, it gets rather expensive as you try to reach more and more people–especially if you believe that each person needs to be reached multiple times before they are persuaded.

I have been preaching fit–the idea that you need to reach the people who really fit what you are offering. There are dramatically fewer of those, so you can be sure that it probably costs less, but people wonder how they would possibly do that, which leads to the problem. I find that when people don’t know how to solve a problem, they tend to deny that it exists.

But as I am thinking about it, I don’t think that I really need to contrast reach vs. fit at all. In fact, I have been trying out a new line of patter on a few advertising people and it seems to be working better. I am explaining to them that they have always been about fit–that their goal has never been to reach everyone with their advertising, but rather to reach the few people that will actually buy. That’s why they have focused on putting ads in the right places with the right demographic audience, because they want the right people. This is just a new way to do that.

I am not sure why I was fighting them for so long. It was almost as if I needed to prove how smart I was by having a new idea instead of helping them see that this is just their old idea taken to the next level. Now that I am not so full of myself, more people are listening to the real message of how personalization helps their marketing, and fewer are resisting.

I wonder how many other brilliant ideas I have that are putting people off because I am trying so desperately to seem smart, when I just need to explain it in a way that makes sense to them…