4 Steps To Successful Content Personalization

Columnist Rachel Balik shares a step-by-step plan to successfully deploy personalized content on your company's web site.

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Content personalization is a hot topic for digital marketers these days, but many are just beginning to understand how they can actually put it into practice.

Previously, a personalized website — one that displays different content or a different layout depending on who is visiting — involved quite a bit of heavy lifting. These days, new tools and technology are making it easier than for marketers to implement this kind of personalized content. However, there are still a lot of choices when it comes to the best approach.

Although there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, there are some general steps and guidelines you can follow to design a program that’s both manageable and helps you meet your most important goals.

Step 1: Know Who You’re Talking To

Although it seems intuitive, before you can create personalized content, you need to know who your audience is. While it’s possible to collect names on lead forms and recognize those people when they come to your site, that’s only a small portion of your site visitors, and the data you collect likely aren’t that robust.

In fact, according to Forrester Research, most of your buyers complete 60-90% of their research prior to a hand raise. You want those buyers to see content that’s relevant to them on your website in the earliest stages of their research process.

One option is to use third-party data and try to personalize your website for every visitor. This is a fine strategy for B2C companies, but B2B companies have a much more limited targeted audience. As a B2B marketer, if you try to personalize your website for everyone, you’ll end up wasting a lot of time, money and energy on people who will never buy from you.

A more effective tactic for B2B personalization is thinking about the specific companies you want to reach. That list should be built by syncing up with sales and considering the accounts they most want to close. Add to the list the names of companies that sales believes are the most ideal users of your product and service — even if they’re not yet in the pipeline. Once you have this list, you can use it to deliver personalized content to site visitors that would otherwise be anonymous.

Step 2: Segment Your List

Next, you need to divide that list into segments of companies with similar attributes. There are a number of ways to divvy up your list, depending on what matters the most to your business. While there are likely a number of attributes you want to consider, some may be a higher priority than others.

Some examples of attributes are company size, revenue, industry, geography and account status. So one way to segment might be to separate prospects from those engaged in sales cycle, and from existing customers. Or, you group them by whether they fall into the small businesses, mid-market or enterprise category. If the manufacturing industry is very important to your business, you could ensure that all the companies in that category receive specific content when they land on your site.

Segmentation is a critical step because it’s what makes content personalization manageable and methodical. It not only takes some the mystery of how you will organize your website and create content themes and categories, it also ensures that marketing is aligned with sales when it comes to targeting accounts and meeting the company’s revenue goals.

Step 3: Measure & Analyze

Of course, a critical element of goal setting and prioritization is setting benchmarks. When it comes to personalization, you actually need more robust analytics that are integrated with some kind of company or visitor identification tool.

You’re not just measuring clicks and page views in general, you need to look at each key target and segment separately, measuring how they are behaving on your website. In fact, greater understanding of your site traffic helps you to make decisions about how to prioritize your segments.

A huge part of a successful personalization strategy is having and leveraging data that provides insight about company attributes – the very same ones you’re using to do your segmentation. By using an analytics tool that can identify your site visitors based on these attributes, you can deliver that personalized content to the right segments in real-time.

Once you’ve implemented your personalization solution, your analytics continue to be a critical element of your process. As you start to develop messages for each segment, you gain better understanding of what’s effective with each group based on the content they consume.

You also can gauge the level of education and awareness for each account as they move through the buying cycle and communicate that information to sales. Finally, when an account closes, you can retroactively examine the content they consumed and gain a better understanding of the buyers’ journey.

Step 4: Develop Messaging

For many people, content creation feels like the biggest impediment to personalization. They imagine that it means writing a special white paper for each of their targets or segments. In reality, successful personalization is not so much about content creation but about content strategy.

That means doing an inventory of the content you have and knowing when and where to deliver that content. There’s often a cry for more content, when what you actually need is better distribution. You may not need to create a new case study, you may just need organize your case studies based on industry and ensure that the right prospects are served the right content.

If you want to start personalizing content right away, you can begin with tweaking calls to actions and website headlines to appeal to certain segments. You may be able to use the same white paper for multiple segments so long as the surrounding messaging is personalized.

If you’re just getting started with personalization, consider creating a project plan that involves phases. Phase 1 might be simply personalizing website copy. Then, when you see the segments that are performing the best, in phase 2, you can start creating infographics that are specifically created for your highest priority industry.

Making It Personal

Above all, remember that you need to consider the solution and process that will work best for your company and your technology stack. Make sure that you’re working cross-departmentally with the right stakeholders to get complete buy-in and then the right information. Then, stay invested in the progress so you may tweak and optimize as you go.

  (Stock image viaShutterstock.com. Used under license.)

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

Rachel Balik
Rachel Balik is a writer and marketer with several years of experience in online publishing, B2B technology and digital communications strategy. In addition to serving as content strategist at Demandbase, she is a freelance journalist and advises startups on core messaging and content.

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