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For the past several years, experts have been urging B2B marketers to use marketing content that is tailored or personalized for specific audiences. In research conducted by MarketingSherpa more than seven years ago, 82% of potential buyers said that content tailored to their specific industry was more valuable, and 67% said that content targeted to their job function was more valuable.

Most astute marketers now recognize that personalizing marketing messages and materials increases relevance and boosts marketing effectiveness. So, it shouldn’t be surprising that marketers see personalization as vital for marketing success, now and in the future. In a global survey conducted earlier this year, the Economist Intelligence Unit asked 499 CMO’s and other senior marketing leaders what three technology trends will have the greatest impact on the marketing organization by 2020. Personalization technology was the second most popular choice, trailing only mobile devices and networks.

Most B2B marketers would agree that, in principle, personalization is a good idea. But, just how widely has content personalization actually been implemented, and what kinds of personalization are actually being used?

A new research study by Demand Metric provides an interesting snapshot of the state of content personalization in B2B companies and suggests that content personalization has finally “crossed the chasm” to become a core marketing tactic for many B2B companies. The 2016 Content Personalization Benchmark Report was based on a survey fielded in February 2016 that produced 186 qualified responses. Almost half (49%) of the survey respondents had marketing job titles, and almost all of the respondents (91%) were affiliated with B2B or B2B2C companies.

Demand Metric found that the use of personalized content is widespread. Sixty-one percent of survey respondents said they personalize at least some of their marketing content. The survey also revealed, however, that content personalization is a relatively new practice for the survey respondents. More than half said they have been personalizing content for less than two years.

As might be expected, users of personalized content have a high opinion of its effectiveness. In the Demand Metric survey, 80% of the respondents who use personalized content said that it is “more effective” or “much more effective” than content that isn’t personalized.

The Demand Metric research also suggests that personalized content improves overall content marketing performance. When study participants were asked to rate the effectiveness of their content marketing efforts, 56% of the respondents who use personalized content said that their content marketing is “effective” or “very effective.” Only 29% of the respondents who are not using personalized content rated their content marketing programs as effective or very effective.

Demand Metric also examined how much content is personalized and found that among survey respondents who use personalized content, the average amount of content that’s personalized is just over 50%. However, the survey also revealed that there is wide variation in how much content is personalized. Nearly two out of ten survey respondents (17%) said they personalize more than 80% of their content, while 20% of the respondents said they personalize 20% or less of their content.

The Demand Metric study also provides important insights regarding the types of personalization that companies are using. As the following diagram illustrates, there are six degrees or levels of content personalization, ranging from generic content (no personalization) to content that is tailored or personalized for an individual lead.

Degrees of Content Personalization

Demand Metric found that companies are using all types or levels or personalized content, as the following table shows:

Table for Blog - Types of Content Personalization Used

In the Demand Metric survey, about half of the respondents who personalize content said they use three or more of these types of personalized content, and the three types that are most often used simultaneously are segment-specific, persona-specific, and account-specific.

After a slow start, it appears that content personalization has finally come of age.

Top image courtesy of Jennifer Boyer via Flickr CC.