Personalization is wreaking havoc in the online marketing universe. Every solution or platform-maker is pushing personalization as a trophy feature. And every piece of content you turn to lectures you on the importance of personalizing one or all your processes. This post is no different – go personalize something!

The end result of the personalization arms race is Rules & Lists Marketing since personalization is simply not there yet, technology wise; according to an Experian survey the three biggest challenges in achieving a single customer view (essential for personalization) are: inability to link different technologies (40%), poor data quality (34%), and lack of relevant technology (32%).

What we end up with is labor-intensive software where we need to set up numerous rules and organize lists. This is actually segmentation, but we won’t fuss over details. Actually, we will. According to a Forrester Consulting paper, 85% of brands that reported having at least basic personalization in place, agreed or strongly agreed that their efforts are based on broad segmentation and simple clustering.

Personalizing content vs personalizing the content experience

When content gets personal

Turning to content personalization, that’s where things get hazy. How does one personalize content? Are we to personalize the content itself, the actual words and sentences? How we present it? The distribution process?

We can go by the route of personas, a.k.a. personalizing the message. Still, in the B2B space every company targets various personas, even for the same product. This stems from the fact that various decision makers are involved in every purchase decision. We need to write different pieces of content for the different decision makers at the various buying journey stages. Let’s put that in an equation form:

Simple formula for content personalization

This looks like a decent amount of work, but totally doable. If you’re not sure how, check this Sendible post about how to harness your team to blog. If we manage to create the above content pool we are more or less set, right? We have managed, in a way, to adapt the concept of personalization to content, meaning, we have targeted pieces of content that would appeal to different personas.

One tiny detail is still unsolved: how do we make sure persona X reads the content meant for them, and not the content meant for persona Z?

The content & the forest

In nurturing, assuming we collected enough information about the lead in the conversion process, we can send specific content to specific leads, ensuring that the right content reaches the right persona. Email works pretty well for personalized distribution of content.

But what about your most important touch point, your website? You equipped your website with content. Is that enough as far as how you present your content? The thing is, websites have vertical architecture. In order to reach stuff, visitors need to drill down and browse through the blog or the resource section and that’s where things get tricky, from two angles:

  1. People are impatient, and short in time.
  2. Navigation is a chore, and folks are just not into chores.

Personalizing content - Ask if your blogs are making an impact

There’s nothing personal about posting content on your website and hoping visitors will accidentally stumble upon it. It’s akin to assuming that users will somehow find you online without you taking steps to optimize your online presence, as eTraffic explains in their article.

You need to have a proactive content personalization agenda and again, we are not talking about personalizing the content itself, you’ve done that already, but rather personalizing content interaction – how your website visitors interact with your content.

This is how it’s done

The two-step solution is to learn as much as you can about your website’s visitors, and then according to what you’ve learned, recommend the most relevant content for each visitor. Oh right, and you need do it in real time.

Instead of using simple, generic popups to offer something irrelevant which is anyhow usually a command – Register Now!!! Join Today!!! Sign Up!!! – how about suggesting to your visitors a relevant, informative piece of content? Which do you think they’ll appreciate more? Such a difficult question!

Personalized content recommendations, rooted in relevancy and based on understanding user behavior are key to providing the right website experience to your visitors in your most lucrative touch point – your home turf.

This can be done manually by integrating two or more tools – Google Analytics for gathering the information on the visitors and then a UI solution for suggesting the content.

Another way this can be achieved is by entrusting the entire process to an algorithm that can do both – analyze visitor behavior on the site according to which pages they visit, cross-reference it with the information they arrive with, and recommending them relevant content. The content can be gated, thus helping in converting them. If the eBook or whitepaper holds the information the visitor was looking for, they will fill out the form, happily even.

It’s about thinking what your website visitors need, want, or are looking for, not about how you can open another lead in SalesForce. Once you focus your efforts on catering to your visitors, giving them what they came for (not trying to force them to convert with non-closable full-screen popups or oh-so-witty language like ‘No thanks, I know everything’) the leads will come naturally, and they will be of a much higher quality.

Smells Like Future Spirit

Conversions that are driven by gratitude and curiosity are more likely to listen and be receptive to what you will tell them next, as opposed to coerced conversions. Internet users are very sensitive to what’s coming their way and they’ve gotten extremely quick in brushing things aside and moving on.

Personalization feels like the stuff the future is made of. Things can change – at one point, in the late 90s, MiniDisc felt like the stuff the future was made of – but personalization surely seems like the natural progression of segmentation, which is the force that drives marketing automation today. And what’s even more convincing than that is the plain fact that we all want it; just give me what I’m interested in and don’t bother me with the rest. Now that’s something I’ll sign to right now.