Personalization is something marketers have been talking about for years; but, in many ways, B2B is still catching up to the trend.
2020 was a defining moment for many B2B marketers who were forced to abandon old habits. For many, that meant both delivering more personalized content strategies that aligned with their audiences' changing needs and supporting a transition to all-digital, account-based marketing plans.
Some made the shift better than others.
We knew that just inserting "COVID-19" into messaging wasn't going to work well, or for long—just as adding "Hello, [Name]" to emails didn't. Even the clever direct mail with favorite sports team swag got old.
Personalization should make you seem more like a cool mind-reader and less like a creepy stalker.
Here are five tips for a personalized content strategy that will get you and your customers ready for what 2021 brings.
1. Decide which audiences you need to reach
Don't assume you know whom you need to reach, especially because sales teams continually reconsider target accounts based on market dynamics. Sales and Marketing should be in violent agreement about who buyers are, including target accounts and roles within buying groups.
Work with Sales to list those buyers in order of importance, then—since you can't create personalized content for everyone all at once—prioritize where you can accomplish the most.
Bonus points: Work with Customer Success and account managers to understand who needs attention from Marketing post-sale, starting with cross-sell and upsell efforts.
2. Relearn the digital context and competition within your buyers' experiences
Our buyers have changed, and what we thought we knew about them has changed.
Go back to the data drawing board to gather both first- and third-party data to rebuild insights about what your buyers are doing: sales cycle length, interaction volume and type, campaign response, website experience, and content consumption behavior.
Build profiles to look at personas and roles, as well as broader buying group and account views.
Also, your internal data merely shows how buyers respond to what your company offers. If you're not offering what they like, they're finding it elsewhere. So get insights about how other companies invest to reach those buyers and accounts, including what the buyers are searching for (intent) and what content assets they consume in general. Then, build personalized content they'll likely respond to.
Bonus points: Look at those buyers whom your target market competitors are less focused on; that way, you can spot gaps where your company can stand out.
3. Create configurable (personalized) content building blocks for every buying stage
Although it's impossible to crank out every permutation of a message that most companies' complex buying groups and journeys would require, it is possible to create a map of common needs, interests, and preferences, and then build messages and assets that can be configured to reach different audiences. Think of it as the content 80/20 rule: The key is connecting messages and assets to buying stages and needs.
Start by mapping the stages of your buying journey, and determine which roles or personas are involved at each stage. Go back to your prioritized list from our first tip, then look at what actions the buyers take and what assets they tend to consume.
Use your data from our second tip to define, by persona, what information your content needs to cover and what the best form is for it to take. Create a content calendar, and start building. Don't forget to take existing content, especially long-form assets, and break them into components that meet your current buyer interests—the perfect opportunity for personalized content.
Bonus points: Think like a product-led growth company and look for ways to incorporate customer advocacy into your content strategy as a different take on personalization. There's no more trustworthy or effective way to reach a buyer than to show them how someone just like them achieved results from working with your company.
4. Activate messages and assets based on buyer behavior triggers
By now, it's clear we're looking at personalization that's much more than an email or website greeting. Those things are a nice touch, but they aren't gamechangers. What really accelerates buying decisions is providing exactly the right information at the right time.
Again: the goal is for your buyers to feel as if you're a cool mind-reader, not a creepy stalker.
So set up digital campaigns that trigger outreach (e.g., content syndication, display, LinkedIn ads) based on real-time buyer behavior. Search behavior, campaign response, virtual event attendance, and sales interactions all reveal what's on your buyers' minds and where they are in the process. Use those cues to put your message and content building blocks in front of buyers where and when they're most likely to pay attention and find them valuable.
Bonus points: Don't stop with digital campaigns. Provide suggestions to your sellers in the form of account insights and alerts, plus resources for follow up, so you never miss a chance to help.
5. Test, measure, improve, repeat: a proven personalized content process
Even the best plans don't work the way you want them to. Start deploying and testing your personalization right away. As you build content and create triggers, see what effects they have. Continue to monitor buyer behavior and update accordingly.
The beauty of digital marketing is how easy it is to learn and adapt in real time—and how everything is measurable. Digital tactics make it easy for marketers to track every investment and provide transparent reporting on performance.
- Are you getting the response you want?
- How do digital channels work together and separately to create engagement in your target accounts?
- What specific paths lead to faster buying cycles?
Use all of that information to both improve your campaigns and prove Marketing's value to your company.
Bonus points: Separate tracking for older customers and new accounts. Preferences and journeys for customers who already know you may differ from ones who don't.
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