Delivering Results through Content Personalization [Interview]

Content personalization continues to be a challenge for marketers, as revealed in the “2016Trends in Personalization Study Trends in Personalization” study from Evergage. Although 85 percent of marketers said they were using personalization tactics, 55 percent gave themselves a grade of “C” or lower.

We spoke to Paula Crerar, vice president of content marketing and programs at Evergage, for more insight into the report.

HOW DO THE CONTENT PERSONALIZATION CHALLENGES SPECIFICALLY PERTAIN TO B2B MARKETERS?

“First and foremost, getting personalization into the conversation within their organizations can be a key challenge for many marketers. Sixty-four percent of marketers believe that personalization should be a bigger priority in their organizations, and the top three obstacles that stand in the way of making it a greater priority are the lack of budget, personnel, and skills. Marketers can only do so much with the resources they have, and B2B marketers will only be able to create relevant, personalized experiences when they can dedicate the resources.

As personalization has traditionally been used mostly in the B2C space with companies like Amazon and Netflix leading the way, B2B marketers are a little behind the curve. They are currently tasked with catching up, but they are positioned well to be able to incorporate learnings from B2C personalization into their own efforts.

Finally, B2B marketers are also working to figure out where personalization falls in their broader marketing tech stack. Most B2B marketers have CRM and marketing automation systems, and they need to ensure that these systems play well with a personalization solution.”

WHAT ARE TOP-PERFORMING MARKETERS DOING TO EXCEL IN THE AREA OF CONTENT PERSONALIZATION?

“There are a few things that make top-performing marketers stand out in the area of personalization. First, the type of personalization tactics they employ are more advanced. While there are appropriate times to serve pop-ups to website visitors to recommend content, they can often be seen as disruptive. The more sophisticated marketers have moved beyond this tactic to incorporate recommended content assets in-line with the rest of the page to create a more seamless experience for their visitors.

The data that the top-performing marketers are using to influence their personalization campaigns is more advanced as well. Most marketers use basic page views and browsing behavior, but more advanced marketers use engagement metrics such as time spent on page to understand the true intent of their visitors, and factor that into determining what content each visitor is shown.

For example, let’s say that a CMO is browsing a site that has multiple use cases for its SaaS product. The CMO initially clicks on Use A, but only spends a few seconds exploring the page before she decides it isn’t right for her business. She clicks on Use B next, and spends several minutes scrolling through the page. A marketer that only uses pages viewed to provide a relevant experience to her would assume that she was interested in Uses A and B equally, because she clicked on both pages once. But of course, her behavior indicates that she is interested in only Use B. Any content that is recommended to her on the site should be targeted to that specific use case to be most relevant to her.

HOW CAN MARKETERS RELAY THE IMPORTANCE OF CONTENT PERSONALIZATION TO THEIR PEERS IN SALES, THE EXECUTIVE TEAM, AND TO OTHER DECISION MAKERS?

“If marketers are struggling to demonstrate the importance of personalization internally, there is no greater proof than the numbers. We found that 48 percent of marketers who are implementing personalization are seeing a lift greater than 10 percent in key KPIs such as conversion rates, visitor engagement, and customer experience. And we have numerous case studies of B2B marketers that have used personalization to drive leads, reduce bounce rate, convert free-trial users, and more.

But, if the numbers don’t do the job, encourage them to think about their lives as consumers. As a shopper, I am much more likely to pay attention and respond to something that is relevant to me. If I’m a man who has only ever been interested in men’s clothing on a retail site, it doesn’t make sense for the site to show me any recommendations for women’s clothing, or to email me anything about deals for women’s shoes.

This same principle applies for B2B marketers. If I’m a B2B decision-maker in the financial services industry, I don’t need to see any messages on your site for health care. They just aren’t relevant to me. These stories of one-to-one relevance in the digital age are incredibly relatable and should help marketers convince their organizations that personalization is the way of the future.”

WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE IS THE KEY FOR B2B MARKETERS TO OVERCOME THE TOP CONTENT PERSONALIZATION CHALLENGES?

“The first steps to implementing great personalization are finding the right solution and the right people. The personalization solution should allow B2B marketers to test and run personalization campaigns by themselves, without IT. It should be able to seamlessly integrate with other sources of data within their organizations, and all that data (plus on-site behaviors in the current and all past sessions) should be used to impact an individual’s experience in real time.

These capabilities exist now, so there is no reason that B2B marketers should feel that they don’t have the resources to deliver B2C-style personalized experiences.”

DO YOU SEE MARTECH BECOMING MORE CRITICAL TO CONTENT PERSONALIZATION SUCCESS IN THE FUTURE, OR STAYING THE SAME? WILL IT ALWAYS BE A MIX OF MARTECH AND MANUAL TACTICS?

“There will always be a mix of art and science in personalization, but it’s less about manual tactics and more about the creative component. Content creation is driven by humans (your content marketers are not about to be replaced by software!), but the technology is necessary to get the most effective content in front of the right people at opportune moments. And marketers need the technology to test the effectiveness of their content to help them continue to optimize.”

WHAT PART OF THE REPORT DID YOU FIND TO BE THE MOST SURPRISING?

“Most surprising to us was not how many marketers are implementing personalization, but how many of them don’t feel like they’re doing it well. Fifty-five percent gave their personalization efforts a grade of C or lower, and they gave their competitors similarly low grades with 63 percent giving their competitors a C or lower. Additionally, less than half of our respondents (42 percent) said they were extremely or very confident that they had the tools needed for effective personalization and only 18 percent were very or extremely satisfied with the level of personalization in their marketing efforts.

Marketers are still in a learning phase and not yet experts on all the capabilities of personalization. But despite their confidence and satisfaction levels, their personalization efforts are delivering results and they see the potential for even greater returns in the future.”

Visit the Evergage website for your copy of the “2016 Trends in Personalization” study.

Paula CrerarAbout Paula Crerar

Paula is VP of content marketing and programs at Evergage, responsible for driving thought leadership, brand awareness and conversions. She has 25 years of experience developing and managing content marketing and go-to-market strategies at leading tech firms including Brainshark, Salary.com Dragon Systems and Lotus Development. Paula earned an MBA from Babson College and a BS in management from Boston College.

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