Podcast Episode

Modern Day Marketer: How Personalization Has Ruined Marketing with Nick Zeckets of Air Traffic Control

Brett McGrath

November 30, 2023

Modern Day Marketer: How Personalization Has Ruined Marketing with Nick Zeckets of Air Traffic Control

We are bookending your week, every week with a couple of podcast episodes that we hope can provide insights on how to be a better marketer, sales pro, or operator in your B2B company.

In this episode, we dive into one of the most controversial statements that I've ever heard in my 3 years hosting this show:

"Personalization has ruined marketing"

This provocative statement came from Nick Zeckets, Co-founder and CEO at Air Traffic Control. Once I heard him say it I knew we needed to do a full episode to unpack it. This episode is one of my favorite conversations in recent memory and think does a good job of pushing us to think about how we approach our roles to get the results we actually want as marketers.

The Impact of Personalization on Marketing

The Misconception of Personalization

Personalization, as it is commonly understood in the marketing world, has led to a misconception that simply adding a recipient's name or using attribute-based personalization is enough to build meaningful connections with customers. However, this approach often falls flat and fails to resonate with the audience. As Nick Zeckets points out, receiving an email that states the obvious, such as knowing the recipient's name and job title, does not add value or create a genuine connection.

The Problem with Attribute-Based Personalization

Attribute-based personalization, which relies on specific information about the recipient, can be superficial and lacks the depth required to truly engage customers. It often results in generic, self-serving emails that do not address the unique needs and challenges of the individual. This approach fails to recognize the complexity and nuances of human experiences, leading to disengagement and a lack of trust.

The Pitfalls of Segment-Based Marketing

Segment-based marketing, while an improvement over attribute-based personalization, still falls short of true personalization. By categorizing individuals into segments, marketers strip away the unique aspects of each person's identity and needs. This approach may yield some results, but it is time-consuming, complex, and ultimately limits the potential for genuine connections with customers.

The Role of Empathy in Marketing

The Importance of Empathy in Building Connections

Empathy is the key to building meaningful connections with customers. It requires marketers to truly understand and care about the challenges and aspirations of their audience. By approaching marketing with empathy, marketers can create content and experiences that resonate on a deeper level, fostering trust and loyalty.

The Value of Empathy in Vendor-Buyer Relationships

In the vendor-buyer relationship, empathy plays a crucial role in establishing trust and fostering long-term partnerships. Nick Zekas shares a story about a salesperson who went above and beyond to understand his prospects' needs and connect with them on a personal level. This genuine empathy resulted in a high close rate and a strong customer relationship. By prioritizing empathy, marketers can create a positive and impactful experience for their customers.

The Complexity of Marketing Technology

The Overwhelming MarTech Landscape

The marketing technology (MarTech) landscape has exploded in recent years, with countless tools and platforms promising to enhance personalization and streamline marketing processes. However, this abundance of options has led to confusion and complexity, making it difficult for marketers to navigate and leverage these tools effectively.

The Role of Marketing Operations in Overcoming Complexity

To overcome the complexity of MarTech, organizations need to invest in marketing operations and revenue operations roles. These roles focus on streamlining processes, optimizing technology usage, and ensuring alignment between marketing and sales. By having dedicated professionals in these roles, organizations can navigate the MarTech landscape more effectively and maximize the value of their marketing technology investments.

The Need for Clear Positioning in the MarTech Stack

With the proliferation of MarTech solutions, it is crucial for vendors to clearly position their products and articulate how they fit into the overall marketing technology stack. Many vendors fail to communicate their value proposition effectively, leading to confusion and missed opportunities. By clearly defining their role and highlighting the benefits they bring to the existing workflow, vendors can help marketers make informed decisions and maximize the value of their technology investments.

The Evolution of Personalization

The Shift from Mechanics to Humans

The traditional approach to personalization has focused on mechanics, such as dynamic content and segment-based campaigns. However, this approach often lacks the human touch and fails to create genuine connections. The evolution of personalization is shifting towards a more human-centric approach, where marketers prioritize understanding and empathizing with their audience on an individual level.

The Rise of True Personalization at Scale

True personalization at scale is the holy grail of modern marketing. It goes beyond superficial tactics and leverages technology to deliver personalized experiences that resonate with each individual. This approach requires a shift from segment-based marketing to a more individualized approach, where content and messaging are tailored to the unique needs and preferences of each person.

The Benefits of Simplifying Personalization

The complexity of personalization has hindered its effectiveness and adoption. Marketers are often overwhelmed by the intricacies of segment-based marketing and struggle to deliver truly personalized experiences. Simplifying personalization is the key to unlocking its potential. By leveraging tools like Air Traffic Control, marketers can streamline the personalization process and focus on creating meaningful connections with their audience.

Air Traffic Control: Revolutionizing B2B Marketing

The Problem Air Traffic Control Solves

Air Traffic Control is a B2B SaaS startup that aims to solve the personalization problem in marketing. They recognize the challenges faced by marketers in executing personalized campaigns quarter after quarter. The company's mission is to help marketers leverage their existing content assets and deliver the right content to the right person at the right time, without the need for complex segment-based marketing strategies.

The Power of Personalization Engine

Air Traffic Control's personalization engine is designed to simplify the personalization process and enable marketers to deliver highly relevant content at scale. By leveraging AI and machine learning, the platform analyzes content assets, identifies relevant concepts, and connects them to individual buyers. This approach eliminates the need for manual tagging and segment-based campaigns, allowing marketers to focus on creating valuable content and building genuine connections with their audience.

The Focus on Product Marketing and Onboarding

Air Traffic Control is committed to ensuring a seamless onboarding experience for its customers. By simplifying the product marketing and messaging, they aim to help customers understand the value and potential of their personalization engine. The company is focused on refining their message and accelerating the time it takes for customers to achieve the "whoa moment" where they fully grasp the power and impact of true personalization.


Personalization has become a double-edged sword in the world of marketing. While it promises to enhance connections and drive revenue, misguided personalization strategies have led to superficial and ineffective marketing efforts. The key to overcoming the damage caused by personalization lies in embracing empathy, simplifying marketing technology, and adopting a more human-centric approach. Companies like Air Traffic Control are leading the way in revolutionizing B2B marketing by simplifying personalization and empowering marketers to create meaningful connections with their audience. By prioritizing empathy and leveraging technology effectively, marketers can navigate the complex landscape of personalization and deliver impactful experiences that resonate with their customers.

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