Remember when Bill Gates said, “Content is king,” about a gazillion internet years ago? Personalization is the new stronger, taller, king-er king.
Pretty much everything is being personalized these days. And if you think this statement is an exaggeration, have a look at this incredible story of how the Gatorade Sports Science Institute personalized hydration for the Brazilian World Cup team.
Marketers are working hard to personalize, or at least segment, every aspect of every funnel and give their prospects a tailored-as-possible buying journey. It’s working, apparently, because more personalization tools keep popping up. What’s funny is the thing getting the least personal treatment is the content on your very own website.
Personalization Makes Everyone Happy
Segmentation and personalization make sense if you look at the larger scheme of things. We, people, got awfully specific in our tastes and wants in the last decade or two. Let’s not get into the how and why (there’s too much) but rather take it at face value.
When marketers segment and personalize and achieve results by doing so, everybody is happy. From the marketer’s side, it’s satisfying to be able to churn out a carefully orchestrated journey for a “persona” that you know is spot-on. From the persona side, it’s even better—it’s like someone paving a road based on your shoe size.
Content segmentation is nothing new. Take this common segmenting strategy for the various stages of the B2B buying cycle:
- Initial awareness: light and fun content
- Expressed interest: informative content
- Establishing intent: self-promoting content
- Seal the deal: focused, selling content
We’ve all been there, done that. But most of this content activity is taking place outside of your website, on industry blogs, publications, webinars, and so on. It also doesn’t take into consideration one crucial thing: the different decision makers that are involved in the buying cycle.
But since B2B purchases of a product or service can have wide implications on a company, and since sums can get pretty high, a B2B purchase is a group decision. Quite a few decision makers need to weigh in. The CFO will have a completely different set of questions and concerns than the head of R&D. One decision maker will be focused on everyday productivity, while the other on ROI improvements. All of their questions are valid and just, and deserve an answer.
All Roads Funnel to Your Website
The best way to address all these concerns is to cleverly funnel the various decision makers to different content assets on your website. Each asset explains and elaborates a different feature or aspect of the product or service for a specific decision maker.
How do you build this funnel? One way to go about it is by inbound fancy footwork. Cast a wide net of search terms targeting the various decision makers, and lure each to a targeted page. It’s not going to be cheap if you’re going with Paid, and it won’t take a couple of weeks if you’re going with Organic, but hey, Amazon wasn’t build in a day.
Overall, companies in the B2B sphere tend to be very nonchalant when it comes to their own sites. They will put tremendous effort into their content assets “abroad” (creation, distribution, promotion, maintenance) but give very little love to content assets at home. It is like living in a really crappy apartment and driving a shiny new BMW. The BMW gets you noticed, but what will visitors to your apartment think of the futon you bought 11 years ago?
Manual vs. Automated Content Personalization
The next evolution of personalization is automated personalization. If you used personalization tools or platforms in the past, you know that they are a handful; if rules make you go crazy, I’d stay away from personalization. Automated personalization, on the other hand, leaves manual rule configuration out of the equation, or in the algorithm. Either way, you don’t need to bother with them, and that makes all the difference.
Personalizing content is a tall order for automation. Until the pen-holding algorithm is conceived, writing will remain on human turf, and there’s nothing wrong with that; bots can get pretty nasty when given a chance to self-express.
Still, content personalization is high on the priority ladder of B2B companies. According to a recent report from Seismic, it is an effective lead generation tool. But, as the report also indicates, content personalization is still a manual process and takes a toll on the marketing department, which is why many companies refrain from it.
Content Engagement Leads to Conversion
Content personalization needs to occur “naturally” during the creation process, not post-creation. As you plan your content and content marketing strategies, you should outline content pieces for the various stages of the buying journey, the different decision makers, and the personas in your funnel.
Once you have your arsenal of personalized content ready, it’s just a matter of making sure it is being served in the most efficient manner to the right recipients. A white paper that details the merits of automated personalization and reaches the CMO of a B2B company will work, right? As long as it is well-written, well-reasoned, and the CMO actually reads it.
That leads us back to the content on your own website. This trove of content should, of course, appear on your site. As important as content distribution and outreach is, your website is your fortress, the quintessential representation of your brand. It should shine, sparkle, and be brimming with knowledge and information.
The problem that many companies face is how to ensure the content on their site is easily approachable and findable. (I avoid the term “searchable” purposefully, since one needs to know what to search for). The default is the blog, but a blog has an extremely problematic structure, a.k.a. the blogroll. Like a beautiful butterfly, a piece of content lives for only a short period of time (after a long and sometimes painful process of coming of age), soon to disappear in the abyss of the blogroll.
Marketers need to think of more efficient ways to make their content readily available to website visitors. Create sections in your blog that correspond to your audience segmentation, or play around with different blog interfaces. You can also create direct “entry points” at strategic locations throughout the site to specific pieces of content that you know make a strong impression.
It’s worth your trouble. In our experience (backed with hardcore data, below), content engagement does wonders to conversion rates. This makes sense: Positive interaction increases curiosity, trust, and the desire for more interaction. A skillfully executed piece of content has the power to engage and convert.
In the screenshot below, you can see an example from BrightInfo’s analytics console. The company in the example was able to grow their conversions by 229 percent—conversions that occurred when going through BrightInfo content recommendation. They also saw 95 percent growth in engagement, meaning their audiences have read 95 percent more content through BrightInfo’s content recommendations.
We recently launched the ability to A/B test BrightInfo during the trial period, thus making sure growth in conversion and engagement can be attributed solely to BrightInfo and not to any other marketing activities, or to simple coincidence.
Below is an example of the A/B test done to a recently added customer on the trial month of the service:
All you need to do now is create quality, personalized content and make sure it reaches the right audience. Simple as pie, right?
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