Strategy

Ask Kate: How to Add Personalized Content to Your B2B Strategy

Say you’re going to Target’s homepage and get hit with an ad for baby clothes. A 22-year-old, female, single college student is immediately thinking, eh. But if you’re a soon-to-be mom? You’re a happy shopper.

Personalization and conditional content allow for that second scenario. Brands like Target know that you’ve been to the website 48 times, the items you’ve purchased, the specific pages you’ve been on, or the coupons you’ve used, and they use that information to ensure that when you hit the homepage, you’ll see news about a sale on the things you like — and that your positive feeling about their brand leads to a conversion.

Related: Get Kate’s take on how to become an expert data manager.

Retail is the obvious example of the magic of personalization at work, but it’s crucial for businesses in the B2B space too. Here’s what you need to know, according to Kate.

Who’s leading the pack in personalization?

Amazon has it down in the B2C space. When you’re logged in and hit that homepage, you’re instantly seeing the things Amazon knows you like. Anything you save to a list or put in your cart but don’t buy — you’re seeing that all over the site, and they’re using it to build a profile about you.

Consumers have gotten used to that. People have grown to expect the companies they engage with to know who they are and what they want — and they have less and less patience for you to treat them like a random person. And B2B customers aren’t much different with their expectations.

How does conditional content go beyond the B2C space?

The personalized content you’re served can be about more than your site behavior. What you see can depend on things like:

  • Geography
  • Time of day
  • Age
  • Job title
  • Lead status

So you not only know that someone was looking at your software as a service (SaaS) offerings, you know it’s a mid-level manager in Seattle who was looking at this offer during work hours on Thursday.

And all this helps you reach your goal: To build better relationships with your customers and potential customers.

How can you avoid scenarios where personalization goes wrong?

1. Keep your data clean.

Data is the backbone of personalization. You have to know things about your consumers to personalize to them. Bad, old, or unorganized data can be your worst enemy.

You get emails all the time where the sender calls you by name; you’re not just a random face in the crowd, you’re Abby. But if their data is a disaster and you get an email calling you by your middle name? Kind of ruins it.  

2. Be logical.

In addition to clean data, you have to be logical about conditional content. Just because you can personalize every inch of your website doesn’t mean you should. Take the time to think through what’s relevant to your target audience and message.  

How do you start collecting customer data without being creepy?

Evaluate your current setup and data and ask yourself what’s viable for you. Then ask yourself: What are your opportunities for obtaining more data?

Tracking is a great place to start. Where do your customers go? What do they read? Where did they come from? What have they purchased? How engaged are they? What have they purchased before?

Questionnaires and surveys are also good options. By asking the right questions of your consumers through web forms, quizzes, etc., you’re constantly gaining more data while keeping your data and database up-to-date.

You can also steadily grow your database this way. Say your audience starts by filling out a four-question form — name, email, ZIP code, gender. The next time they visit to fill out a form, ask a different set of questions — do you have kids, check every box you’re interested in, etc. —And so on. Over time, you’ll have a pretty full picture of who they are and how best to reach them.

How is personalization beneficial to people in the B2B space?

B2B companies don’t have it quite as easy as B2C retailers; they don’t have a shopping cart to automatically build profiles about customers as they purchase. Instead, they often have to manually input tailored purchases into their system. As a marketing agency, for instance, we can’t feed everyone who hits our website with a quiz that asks what kind of marketing they’re interested in. Instead, we have to track the kinds of blogs they read, what they’re engaging with in our newsletter — things that are a little less clear-cut, but still calculable.

Say a known customer hits your site. With personalization, you can feed them a simpler version of your website to ensure that they don’t have to wade through four levels of known information to get what they need.

Account-based marketing is another huge example of how the B2B space can benefit from conditional and personalized content. If AT&T is a huge client of yours, you can tailor that customer’s site visit so that when they hit your homepage, the hero story is about AT&T, and all of the information listed below is related to their industry or needs. They’re only seeing the items on your site that matter to them.

How does personalization help businesses align with the sales funnel?

Conditional content allows you to tailor your content to lead status. We track lead status in our CRM, so we know if someone is a marketing-qualified lead, if they’re a sales-qualified lead, if they already have a proposal from us, etc., and can create messaging accordingly.

Personalized data can get a little … personal. Where is all of this headed?

There’s definitely a fight for data going on. Between GDPR, Facebook, data privacy, and so on, what you own and what you don’t own will continue to be a big issue. That being said, highly targeted, data-based marketing is only going to get easier, and that plays directly into content and personalization.

Any last nudges for the skeptics?

Personalized content can and will help you build better relationships with your consumers and make – or break – you in any industry. Even if you’re unsure, or if you don’t feel like your data is in good enough shape — let this be the push you need to clean up your data and start collecting the right information about your customers. Personalized content is relevant to you because it’s relevant to everybody.

One final thought about personalization: It should always tie back to strategy. Lucky for you, we’re experts at that too. Let’s chat.