Personalize the experience, not the content

Personalize the experience, not the content

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We’ll never stop talking about personalization because customers expect it. But what is personalization to one person is not to another. And then there’s the question of what and how much to personalize. Lots of questions. Below are some answers.

We’re personalizing the wrong thing

There’s a disconnect between what buyers expect for personalization and what marketers provide, according to research from Uberflip. What they found was that marketing is focused on the wrong kind of personalization. 

Buyers are looking for content relevant to help them take action, not personalized CTAs (61% vs. 32%). On the other hand, marketing is spending more effort personalizing CTAs (54% vs. 36%). 

Marketing is also prioritizing the wrong content assets. In this research, buyers prefer user reviews, product tours, and videos, whereas marketers spend more time on sales sheets, whitepapers, and ebooks. Buyers are also frustrated with the amount of irrelevant content they have to deal with. 

The guidance is to focus resources on product-related short form or visual content that’s quick and easy to digest.

But there’s more to it than creating (and curating) the right content. There’s the entire content experience to consider.

The evolution of content experiences

We’ve all done some type of content experience. The landing page offers a great piece of content with an associated thank you page providing that content for viewing or downloading. Then it went a step further, and that thank you page started offering additional recommended content to encourage the visitor to download more content. That recommended content was typically related to the primary content piece. A lot of marketing campaigns are still here.

But if you are running an ABM (account-based marketing) program, offering a single piece of content isn’t enough. And providing additional recommended content based on content topic or some other basic tagging system isn’t enough. You need to go deeper to create a content experience personalized and relevant to the account and, where possible, to the contact within the account. 

Then there’s the idea of creating personalized content for an account or creating a piece of content that offers information specific to the account. We’re not talking about a full-blown custom content piece – that’s rare. The majority of content in the asset is the same for everyone, with maybe a paragraph or a section personalized. I helped a client do this several years ago – create custom paragraphs for a set of companies that were then inserted into a whitepaper, packaged as a PDF, and delivered to the company. If you’re serving the content in a PDF and have many companies you are working with, the process is time-consuming and doesn’t scale. It’s the wrong place to focus your personalization efforts.

ABM requires a deep level of relevancy and personalization. While you could do that with custom content, what if there was an easier way? Randy Frisch, CMO of Uberflip, told me that we need to do a better job of personalizing the experience, not the content. 

How Snowflake creates personalized content experiences

Let’s look at an example of how this is done by looking at Snowflake, a data cloud platform and one of Uberflip’s primary customer stories – for a reason. When Snowflake first started dipping its toes into ABM, it used Uberflip to create individual content experiences for each account. At the time, Uberflip didn’t provide the full capabilities to create a custom content experience for each account, so the Snowflake team had to do some hacking. It worked. What started as a 30-account test quickly evolved into more accounts and a more extensive, more successful ABM program – all centered on great content experiences. 

At the B2B Marketing Exchange: Next Level ABM event, Hillary Carpio, the Director of ABM at Snowflake, talked about what she and her ten-person team were doing with the ABM program today. Snowflake’s entire ABM story is interesting and worth learning about if you want to see how to build a successful ABM program. But it is the content experience element I want to focus on here. Carpio said they have up-leveled the experience they provide accounts.

Today’s content experience involves the team working with Sales to understand the last conversation they had with the account, the messaging they are driving into the account, who the influencers are, and more. This information helps them understand the key messaging on the page.

The page also includes the Snowflake rep and a personalized message, content selected for the account, events based on the account’s zip code, and a CTA specific to where the account is in the buyer’s journey. These content experiences evolve as the relationship changes. 

To determine what content to provide on these personalized pages, Carpio said content is curated based on a combination of things, including what the account is talking about with Sales currently, as well as firmographics, CRM data, intent data from 6sense, and other sources. They also use a solution called Intellimize to help personalize the experience. 

Carpio talked about a way to test how personalized your content experiences are. She said to remove the customer logo from the page. If they can still see themselves and feel the content, the messages, and the CTAs are meant for them, then you have done personalization right.

Buyers want relevant content

Personalizing content experience is more than creating a page that puts the account’s name and logo at the top. It’s more than showing you know the industry. Buyers want to see if you can solve their problem. And if you aren’t providing content that helps figure that out, they won’t stick around. This is the guidance Frisch provided in his session at the B2B Marketing Exchange event.

My take

Personalized content-driven experiences are critical, and they aren’t just for ABM programs. They are also vital experiences for demand generation and sales development. Whoever creates these content experiences: marketing or sales, and for whatever program: ABM, demand generation, SDR sequences, or something else, knowing the customer as intimately as possible is critical. 

If you’re a small company with a small set of customers, you can do that manually. But in most cases, you’re going to need some tools. Snowflake uses a lot of tools that work together to give them the best picture of their customers. That deep understanding is what enables them to build the best content experiences. They aren’t building custom content pieces; they build overall experiences with curated content relevant to the customer. Neither approach is simple, but one will work much better in the end than the other. Focus on personalizing the experience, not the content itself.

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