When I tell people about engageSPARK’s cool ability to “personalize” SMS messages – for example, automatically inserting each recipient’s first name at the beginning of each message when sending out 1,000 text messages – they generally respond with, “That’s awesome! By the way, does that actually make a difference?”

That’s a great question.

Personalization makes a big difference.

The marketing industry experienced a revolution with the onset of the digital age, where billions of people share personal data. I remember the first time I – an avid horse enthusiast – saw an ad for “equestrian apparel” on Facebook. Was horse apparel so lucrative an industry that a company would purchase expensive advertising space on Facebook? Of course, a minute later, it dawned on me: Facebook was sending me this ad because it could gather from my profile that I’m horse crazy. It was not mass marketing, it was niche marketing made possible by data.

And apparently, what we (or at least I) saw as already customized advertising on Facebook years ago was just the beginning. Facebook rolled out a new tool in June to allow users insight into why they’re seeing a particular ad and to adjust their preferences accordingly. Of course, when users participate, they agree to give Facebook more data (including browsing history).

Personalized communication, personalized awareness campaigns, and personalized marketing mIMG_3050atter just as much in mobile.

The Poverty Action Lab (PAL) did research to help the U.K.’s Ministry of Justice test if personalizing text messages would encourage people to pay overdue court fines. Previously, they had been using a generic text message to remind recipients to pay their fine in order to avoid a warrant (initial studies showed this was more effective than no text message). Once they personalized the message with the recipient’s name, the recipients of the personal message repaid, on average, 41% more of their fine than recipients of the generic message. In one week, this increased the revenue of Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Services (HMCTS) by £860,000. HMCTS adopted the personalized text messages.

Before you start using personalizing with recipient names, however, consider another PAL study in the Philippines, where using the recipients’ name did not increase the likelihood of timely loan repayment. They were able to increase the likelihood of timely repayment by 39%, however, by including the name of the recipients’ loan officer. Since this only worked if the recipient had previously been serviced by the same loan officer, the authors of the study believe personal relationships to be the supporting factor.

So what’s the key? Data. By finding out who your campaign recipients are (using engageSPARK polls, for example) and what matters to them, you can dramatically improve your effectiveness and decrease your operational costs. Let’s start making mobile personal.