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The Challenge Of B2B Personalization

Since the beginning of the year, I’ve had 147 conversations with B2B marketing leaders. These aren’t sales calls. I’m not pitching anything. They’re conversations about the issues that are top of mind for these professionals. I guide these discussions with questions around areas we’re interested in, but the main goal is to get a sense of the market. It turns out that personalization is a top of mind issue.

B2B Personalization isn’t easy. B2B Personalization is hard.

One thing that comes up, again and again, is the challenge of delivering personalized content for B2B visitors. Most of these companies (generally large enterprises across a variety of industries) have created visitor journey frameworks so they have the context for deciding what content goes in front of what visitor. So why is personalization so difficult?

Well, it isn’t the data about visitors. There are plenty of first and third-party sources about visitor data. You may have some work to do in order to integrate that data into your systems, but visitor data is no longer the heavy lift. Putting that data to work is the lift. That usually requires an IT lift and a content lift that many companies struggle with when getting started.

The IT Lift for B2B Personalization

Some of the people I spoke with talked about the challenge of getting the CIO teams to help with implementing personalization. What was interesting about several of these conversations was that these marketing teams were running large integrated MarTech suites. They bought these suites because they promised the swiss army knife functionality out of the box. Unfortunately, some of them require “configuration” which is beyond the marketing team’s capabilities.

If you’re choosing a best in class technology, the IT can generally be lower—many of them pitch the ease of getting started—but you’re generally faced with getting IT approval for adding another technology to the landscape. Yet again, you’re working to get priority and perhaps budget from the IT team.

The Content Lift for B2B Personalization

When working on journey maps, we all created the grids that showed tasks and stages for each persona and the capabilities and content that needed to be developed for every digital interaction. One of the greatest challenges was making those designs reality. Content and feature creation was often the biggest hurdle in getting value out of the work. That was a frustration expressed by many of the marketing leaders that I spoke to.

Being practical, they focus on the content and capabilities that have the greatest value and don’t try to do everything. Sometimes they know this because they have metrics. More often than not they choose where to focus using experience and intuition. That’s a nice way of saying that they trust their gut.

What do you do when the personalization engine needs to be fed content for pages? Multiple personas. Multiple stages. Many tasks. Complex page templates. That’s a lot of content. That’s a big challenge for content marketers who are already pressed to feed the content marketing machine. 

Getting Started with B2B Personalization

If you already have a personalization technology as part of your stack but are struggling with either the IT life or the content life, you’re going to need budget to get started. Getting budget is difficult. (I wrote on the things that prevent marketing teams from getting the most from AI). So, you need to start small. Starting small is easier. Much easier.

Find friends. You know who these people are. They’re the folks who are always experimenting with new stuff. You’ll need someone who owns the content. You’ll need someone who owns the product—they’re going to have the business case mojo. And you’ll likely need an IT pal who can help navigate. 

If you don’t have personalization tech in your stack, start with a best in class provider. Most of these providers (SoloSegment included) are relatively easy to deploy. Get them to do a proof of concept. Some will offer this for free for sixty days or so, some will charge a nominal amount but this will make your IT lift low. You will probably need a content person, but some tech will work with your existing content. You’ll definitely need a product person (that may be you) to build the business case.

For either scenario, your goal is to demonstrate value within sixty days of deployment. Set your initial goals low—go for fewer bounces or fewer “bad” exits (an exit without a task completion). Make some assumptions about how this top to mid-funnel progression contributes to conversions, and you’ve got the basics for building your business case. The business case is your key to budget for expanding into a broader adoption of personalization technology.

If you’re a B2B marketer and you want to add your voice to Steve’s conversations, drop us a line at:

SearchChat Podcast: Can You Do Personalization Without MarTech? Would You Want To?

Is martech marketing? Can you market without it? Do mature marketing organizations need to be including martech? 

In a recent blog post we mentioned that 67% of B2B companies doing personalization are either entirely or mostly using manual processes for content personalization. That’s an enormous amount of people engaging in manual processes instead of automation. Why does this happen?

SearchChat Podcast: AI in Marketing–Where Are We On The Hype Curve?

“Come on. All this AI stuff, around marketing and sales, that’s all just hype, right? That’s not a real thing that matters. Maybe it’ll matter someday. But it doesn’t yet matter today.”

That’s a question I got recently, and it got Steve Zakur and I wondering where we are on the hype curve. Is it really just all hype? Maybe not — platform companies are snapping up data scientists the way early internet companies snapped up web developers.

Four things that prevent marketing teams from getting the most from AI

Why is it that with all the marketing technology vendors claiming their products are fortified with AI pixie dust, business results aren’t better? The same goes for internal IT projects. Everyone wants their process to be better–and artificial intelligence, machine learning, and text analytics can provide that something special. And yet, it doesn’t feel like something special is occurring. At least not in the way that lots of consumer products are getting smarter and better.

AI is the wrong name but the right idea

Many people have only recently become acquainted with the concept of Artificial Intelligence (AI), but the term was first coined 55 years ago this month at the Dartmouth conference. The name AI has never sat well with me, partly because calling computers “artificial” seems strange. (I haven’t heard Google referred to as “artificial search” to contrast it with the good old-fashioned searching that human beings do when poring over books in the library.) 

The Deep Dive: What Does Content Marketing Need to Be?

Content marketing can be entertaining, helpful, or informative, or perhaps it can solve your audience’s problem. One good test of content marketing is whether it helps your audience even if they never buy your product or service. Here’s what content marketing needs to be to develop customer commitment.

Must Marketers be Data Scientists?

Big data is having big effects on content marketing, nowhere more than in its ability to make sense of the complexity of human language. Understanding data science is necessary for agile marketing in 2019. Here’s how marketers can utilize data to hone their craft.

The 1H B2B Marketing Restrospective

The second quarter is behind us which also signals the end of the half. So what’s next?

Here in the US we’re taking vacations to recharge. No matter how much disconnecting we do, in those quiet moments we’re reflecting. We’re wondering about where we left money on the table and how we’re going to adapt our plays so that we win more in the coming months.

SearchChat Podcast: Your Customers are Begging for (Better) Personalization

In today’s episode of SearchChat, Steve Zakur and I tackle the TopRank blog and what skills B2B content marketers need to have. How do you take those people coming in the front door, the first interaction on your site, and engage them so it’s not the last page they look at? At the end of the day — no matter what your marketing techniques are, if you can’t measure them, you don’t know for sure how much they even mattered.

What’s Inside Behavioral Data?

Personas have been used for a number of years by B2B digital marketers to craft content that aligns with a visitor’s context. But we all know that personas are also so… 2015. The rise in personalization has revealed both the limits and challenges of persona-based content creation — creating and maintaining content for every persona is a lot of work and getting that content in front of the visitor at the right time is tricky.