Website Engagement in a Changed World: SoloSegment SearchChat Podcast (2.1)

In the first episode of SoloSegment SearchChat’s second season, hosts Tim Peter and SoloSegment CEO Steve Zakur look at our new report, B2B Website Engagement in a Changed World. Tim and Steve explore the stats that show how important digital has become for B2B companies during — and following — the pandemic. And Steve explains how B2B enterprises can use their own data to improve customer experience and create positive outcomes for their website visitors.

Search Chat is SoloSegment’s podcast dedicated to all things search AI and content marketing related. Who is SoloSegment? We’re a technology company focused on site search analytics and AI driven content discovery to improve search results, increase customer satisfaction and unlock revenue for your company. If you think we might have the answer to your conversion problems, feel free to connect with us.

SoloSegment SearchChat Season 2 Episode 1 – Transcript

Tim Peter: [00:00:00] Hi, and welcome to SoloSegment SearchChat. I’m Tim Peter. In this episode of SoloSegment SearchChat, SoloSegment CEO, Steve Zakur and I take a look at the new SoloSegment website engagement report with a focus on how you can use personalization and content recommendations to improve engagement for your website visitors.

We dive into the stats that show how B2B buyers use your website to learn more about your products and services and how you can use content personalization to improve the experience that they have. All that more on the latest SoloSegment SearchChat, coming at you right about now.

Steve, how are you?

Steve Zakur: [00:01:00] I’m doing really well, Tim. How’s it going to your world?

Tim Peter: [00:01:03] It is a little slice of heaven as always

Steve Zakur: [00:01:07] A light at the end of the tunnel on COVID means we’ll be out of the jails we’ve been in soon.

Tim Peter: [00:01:13] I am telling you, , I think our last episode with the final episode of season one, this is season two of SearchChat for joining us.

But I think our last episode of season one was right before the world shut down. And yeah, obviously that played a role in why season one…

Steve Zakur: [00:01:33] It was a good day ending point as we rebirth re rebirth in our rebirth. Right. As he burst. Yeah. Burst.

Tim Peter: [00:01:40] I like it. Well, welcome to season two and , we’re back. I’m glad to be chatting with you once again. I think we’ve got a lot of cool stuff to talk about over the over the next, , handful of weeks and months and the like yeah. And , Steve, you and I were talking before the show about this new research report it’s almost like we just put together about website engagement in a changed world, and we’ll give people the URL for that later. It will be in the show notes of course, but, , there were some really fascinating findings in the report that I think are going to be really relevant to the folks listening. So, , what, what, when you look at the report, like what jumped out at you as, wow. That’s, that’s crazy. And people need to know.

Steve Zakur: [00:02:22] Well, I, , I think when you look at the context of this report, right, , we’ve been through this year of COVID , we certainly have seen in our business as providers of, , digital marketing technologies, right. We have seen an acceleration of, of company’s appetite for that digital transformation.

I mean, there are, , for better, for worse, there were a lot of laggards out there that, , weren’t making the shift, were relying upon kind of human resources, if you will, to drive their businesses. And COVID kind of forced them to think about how people work in different ways, of course, but also how does digital factor more into their day to day?

So I think one of the new things we discovered was shift to digital is accelerating. But also what we found out was how much, some of the fundamental truths have not changed, right. That, , , people expect. And I think the figure was 80%, right? People in their B2B experiences in their professional lives expect the same kind of customized experiences that they want in their personal lives. And so that’s actually a fundamental truth that why the number might have increased. Really hasn’t changed all that much.

Tim Peter: [00:03:31] Yeah. No, that makes a lot of sense. I mean, if you think about it, , one of the big myths of B2C versus B2B, and it’s not that there’s no truth. It’s to what I’m about to say rather.

But it’s this idea that, , people think when you’re selling to a business that it’s completely different from anything else. And in fact, you’re still selling to a human being, right. I mean, obviously that human being is part of a buying process. Obviously there are more human beings involved or that they have to jump through various, hoops to make that happen.

Steve Zakur: [00:04:02] Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. And, and you have to engage that person , I’ve done B2B selling for many years in many different contexts. And one of the numbers that did surprise me was, , like, most B2B purchase decisions require a six to 10:00 people. So right now I knew it was a lot, I didn’t know it was 6-10.

But , that’s what the research shows that there’s a lot of, , in addition to the person, who’s the decision maker, right? There are a lot of influencers and certainly you’re dealing with procurement and finance and all these other organizations. But , what’s interesting about that is as we think about personalized experiences, , in the consumer context, it’s. Well, what does Tim want? And what’s Tim’s relationship with, and what’s his context and what is his desire, right. And now you’re actually having to address many different contexts, many different goals.

And, , I just think about like two basic ones, right. , maybe the, the business person, right? The person who has decision making authority , they want increased engagement on the website. They want more conversions. They want more revenue. And while the person in procurement wants those things to, they also want, , a great price and lots of good value, et cetera. And so, as you’re thinking about website engagement, it’s not only that you really have to step up your personalization game to meet those expectations, but you also now have to deal with, , what we in marketing called many different personas.

And as if that first task wasn’t hard enough, right? How do you engage people on your website? Now you have to engage multiple personas for the same kind of deal, same transmit.

Tim Peter: [00:05:38] Well, and especially depending on, as you said, what they care about, but also the content they engage with. I think the other thing that was interesting about that stat that you just talked about, about six to 10 different decision-makers is that, , the research shows that each one is independently making use of a half dozen pieces of content or more as part of that process. Right? Some of those, there may be some overlap, but on lots of those there aren’t. So if somebody is coming and looking at your product or coming and looking at your service, they may be looking at, , multiple pieces of content about the same thing, but how do how to show the right one to the right, exactly where they are.
And I think that’s something that’s. , always, always a tough thing to do. Now you talk about this a lot that obviously a solution that people look at when trying to solve for this problem. Is ABM, right. And account based marketing and account based marketing has a really cool tool and a really useful tool, but it’s got its limitations from time to time, , can you, can you talk about that a little bit?

Steve Zakur: [00:06:44] Yeah. , the, when, when you think about the journey that marketing operations or marketing managers go on to. Figure out what technology is now going to help them meet this expectation. , they often start with either technology they already have because a lot of systems have some sort of personalization technology built in, or maybe they go buy personalization technology.

And it also, it starts with, let me get this personalization technology and where I have some personal data. I can use that to fuel the engine and they run into the harsh reality. That is. And we’ve looked at this data for our customers, , three to 5% of website visitors to B2B websites are identifiable and that’s for a variety of reasons.
Sometimes it’s because the buying cycles are long, cookies expire. So you can’t kind of re-identify the person when they return. I think it’s largely due to many folks who lurk in the dark. , there’s kind of a disincentive to raise your hand and identify yourself, right? Cause that you’re going to get hammered by the emails and the phone calls. everything else. Because

Tim Peter: [00:07:49] Wait, you mean B2B sales people…?

Steve Zakur: [00:07:51] I have been guilty of this myself. I must admit. I was a matter of fact, I read this morning and I specifically put in the CRM, do not contact for four days. Cause I know, , I need this person, , first this person doesn’t want me to go hunt them down after 30 seconds after they hit the submit button.
But also, I mean, it’s not good sales process. Right. They need to, , internalize and think about the thing that they’re looking at. So we’ll let them do that. But, but yeah, so there’s that disincentive, right? , when do you want Steve calling you? And the reality is you want sales people, you wanna engage with them much later in the process after you have kind of considered it, et cetera.
Not to say, though, that it’s important or it could be meaningful for both the company and the individual to get engaged perhaps earlier than they’re comfortable with and not having the personal information on 95, 97% of your visitors. That really is where ABM came in. , it was this kind of reality in the marketplace that there was this gap that something’s gotta be done for all these people lurking in the darkness.

And that’s where you saw account-based marketing technologies emerge now account based marketing. Isn’t new, right. We’ve been doing account-based marketing since the fifties. Right. , for 70 years. Yeah. But , recently there, yeah. There has been this gap and these technologies, , what they do of course is they look at the data stream on the website and they try to figure out what the physical location is of the person. And if you can determine the physical location and that physical location happens to be associated with a company, know you connect those two dots and you say, I’m going to start. Yeah. , sending this visitor messages about that are specific to that account, or alternatively, maybe specific to the industry that, that person.

And so account based marketing begins to fill, , that 95%. Whole in, in your knowledge about visitors and we’ve found, , again, based upon data that our customers have shared with us about 15 to 20% of the, of the website, visitors are addressable by by ABM technologies. But that’s a pre COVID number.

And they all said, , because it’s, location-based, , I’m currently sitting at my home. And so you don’t know about my, my home in Connecticut is not associated with solo segment. And so it would be hard for me to be addressed by these technologies. And these companies saw a significant dip in the utility of that technology, although it’s coming back and it’s coming back pretty fast as people of course move back into the office.

Tim Peter: [00:10:16] Sure, sure. Which, which we know. We know many people are gonna end up back in the office. We know many people are going to end up working from home. We know many people are going to be in a hybrid scenario. Right. I mean, it’s, it’s not, , I think, I think, and I’m sure you’re going to talk about this in a moment, but I think it’s the situation where , you can’t be prepared for the either or of, oh, there’s going to be people who work in the office a hundred percent of time, or, oh, there’s going to be people who work from home a hundred percent of the time. It’s going to be a bit of an and , but it doesn’t, it doesn’t fill that entire gap that you’re talking about.

Steve Zakur: [00:10:50] Absolutely. And, and, , we, we kind of figure on average, it’s about 85% of those visitors who really are truly anonymous and that’s going to be. what you’ve got to crack the code on is how do you engage those 85?

Tim Peter: [00:11:03] And that’s for all of those reasons, right? It’s not just work from home. It’s not just cookies.
It’s not just, ad blockers or things along those lines. It’s all of this added together?

Steve Zakur: [00:11:12] Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. And, , you mentioned ad-blockers, that’s a, that’s a great point. , we often think about like the the exogenous factors within the industry or within the software industry that is or within the regulatory environment as being kind of the villains in our ability to engage.
But part of it, I mean, , all that stuff right. Is based upon , kind of the desires of the humans, right? The people, people don’t want their privacy trampled on, don’t want their data trampled on. And so , not only do you see the challenges in the regulatory and software industry, but you also see what’s happening, but the people are doing right.

They’re using ad blockers as a perfect example. , people are learning how to delete their cookies. Our study shows that almost 50% of people are deleting cookies every 30 days in their browsers, I was like, whoa. , that used to be something nobody knew how to do. And now. Apparently half the people are doing it.
So it’s those sorts of things that are going to impact the ability to address those.

Tim Peter: [00:12:15] Right. By the way, I, I, I feel bad. , comedy is always timing and the timing on this is completely lost, but, , I, I admit I missed a part of that because I was looking up the word exogenous. But I get what you mean, right? The external value.

Steve Zakur: [00:12:30] I used the big word. I’m sorry.

Tim Peter: [00:12:33] I feel like we’re going to have the SAT question.

Steve Zakur: [00:12:36] They’re coming up to this.

Tim Peter: [00:12:41] Perfect. Perfect. All right. So. So, , you kind of set up the scenario where you’ve got for all kinds of reasons, internal reasons, external reasons, exogenous reasons that, , people, people don’t know, marketers don’t know who the folks are on their, their website. And it really poses the question of how can organizations personalize the website experience when they don’t know who the person is 85% of the time.

Steve Zakur: [00:13:12] I mean, that is the big question. And , it is at its heart part of , a question we pose and it’s very interesting. Several folks have mentioned this to us. It’s this, , personalization, privacy kind of paradox, , can these two things coexist together and , at the heart of it, , it’s getting people to raise their hands, getting people to say I’m ready to engage.

And so there’s no trick. There’s no trick. What you have to do is to present kind of the compelling case that the pain that they’re feeling can be solved with the solution that you’re providing. And I think the quicker and the more compelling and the more compelling way you can do that, of course, you’re going to make those conversions.
And one of the great challenges, especially in large enterprise companies, so if you have tens or hundreds of thousands of pieces of content, it is likely you have the right piece of content to convince every visitor. Right.

Tim Peter: [00:14:11] Right.

Steve Zakur: [00:14:12] So it’s not a content problem generally. It’s not a content problem. The problem is it’s a findability problem.
Right. So how do you connect this person with the right content? Now, if you have an awesome search engine that’s one way you can do it, right. They can ask the question that I am searching for this thing. Please present it to me. , that is a place where a lot of companies honestly do not invest a dime.

Right. They see, they see searches cost. They think of search as Google and they don’t understand the value prop of, , searchers are generally your best opportunities, right? 87% more likely to convert something like at least 43% more likely to buy and sometimes much more than that. And so search is the first place you can make your content more find-able because again, I bet you have the answer on your website now

Tim Peter: [00:15:06] Right. Yeah, of course.

Steve Zakur: [00:15:07] So. Set aside search, everybody’s navigating your website. , now the question is, how do you in real time figure out, oh, well this, I might not know it’s Tim, but based upon the content that Tim is looking at how do I figure out what additional content might help him progress on his journey and move along?
I mean, for years we’ve done up by, we marketers have done. , related product links on websites, on pages and those sorts of things. So it is possible to do that manually to have every content owner, , tag their content in a way that that allows , maybe some sort of related products thing to guide people along.

Tim Peter: [00:15:50] Sure. Of course.

Steve Zakur: [00:15:51] But the reality is. People do that very poorly. It was there was one study that was done recently, actually, not recently, it’s now about five years old, but it but it shows that, , people who tag content disagree with themselves about 30% of the time. So not necessarily the right way.

Tim Peter: [00:16:09] That’s like within a two week period, right? I mean, it’s not, it’s not like they’re tagging this content and really they’re coming back to a year later it’s like, they’re tagging the content. They’re coming back to it a couple of weeks later and going, I would tag it like this, and it’s not the same as what they’ve done.

Steve Zakur: [00:16:22] Correct.

Tim Peter: [00:16:22] And that’s just human nature. I mean, we, we’re not card catalogs.

Steve Zakur: [00:16:28] Correct.

Tim Peter: [00:16:28] We’re not computers. It’s not how we think.

Steve Zakur: [00:16:31] So, , what’s left. So what’s left is well, there’s a lot of data, right, right now. And , 10 years ago, it was really hard to discern what that data means and it’s getting easier.

And , when we think about how do you help people with this findability problem that is to say, how do you help visitors on your website find the right content. Well, we’re really thinking about is, is, , three sets of data, right? What is the intent of them? And, , when somebody is looking at a piece of content, they might not be able to tell you what their specific intent was when you can kind of discern what, what people who look at this page as in general, what their intent is, because you can look at the reasons people have come to that in the past. And , some of that’s done by your search engine, right? Your search engine sends people to pages, but also gives you some insight into why people are on those pages.

And so, , we think of, if you can harvest this intent data that exists on your website, you don’t need a third party for this, but if you can look at this intent data on your website, that’s one thing that can clue you into, , the why of the, why they’re there.
And the second thing we look at of course, is the content itself. , there are, , you don’t have to rely upon the people, to the content owners to tag the content on any longer, because today there are so many technologies that can essentially read , especially electronic content can read it very effectively and , you can do topical analysis on it.

You can do industry analysis, a lot of different things you can imagine you could do with that content. Again, give you some sense of why are people on this website and now what are they looking at? What are they interested in? And and then the final piece of the, the equation is actually the visits themselves of all the people over time, because , for anybody who’s ever looked at, , reports about paths through websites, there are as many paths through websites as there are people on the website. Right,

Tim Peter: [00:18:22] Right..

Steve Zakur: [00:18:22] Yeah. They’re all kind of, , snowflake unique animals. But of course there are patterns in that data and there are patterns in that data, especially when you look at all your conversion moments. And then for large enterprise B2B, it’s primarily things like download the white paper, look at the case, study, contact forms, those sorts of things. But , there are patterns in the journeys that lead to that point. And if you can discern somebody on that journey early enough, Well, now you have an , an opportunity to influence that journey, perhaps intercept them before they abandon and move them along.

Because the goal of course is to help people discover that content that demonstrates that you are the solution to their problem, so that instead of raising their hand in a month or two months or their second visit, third visit fourth of the fifth visit that you get them to raise their hand. Now. And share their information so that you can put them now, move them into that bucket, which is odd this is a personal person with personal information that we can now actually engage and market to.

Tim Peter: [00:19:29] No, that’s cool. That’s cool. So, Steve, I’m gonna set you up here to do a little commercial. How would one do it?

Steve Zakur: [00:19:35] How would that do that Tim? Well, some of our customers do that with our products actually the, all of our customers do that with our products.

So So, , I talked about search and navigation modalities, and I talked about them because you really do have to consider both. Now. I think it’s, it’s kind of most common for us as marketers to think about. , the navigator on the website, the person who lands on a page and how do they move along and engage with the content and get to the next thing.

Right? We talk about these visitor journeys and personas and those sorts of things. And that’s what we’re trying to do with our guide box product is exactly that right? To see, to look at the data stream. Some of the data I talked about earlier to look at those data streams. And even though we don’t know anything about the person themselves, Look at the behaviors and through the understanding of those behaviors and of behaviors that lead to conversions, guide people to those positive outcomes.

And by the way, it’s not only positive outcomes for the company, right. It’s positive outcomes for them because they have pain and they need to be it to be solved.

Tim Peter: [00:20:36] Right. I mean, one of the reasons we personalize is to actually create better experiences for customers. Yes. We want to create better experiences for customers because they had lots of good things happen.

Like they buy from us and they tell their friends and their family and their fans and followers all about doing all that kind of stuff. But it doesn’t happen if they don’t have a good experience at the first place, if they don’t actually accomplish what they’re trying. So that makes total sense.

Steve Zakur: [00:20:59] Absolutely.

And , I talked about search earlier and this is kind of the stepchild that I think a lot of folks need to focus on. We have a product called SearchBox and , it helps make search better, no matter what search engine you’re using, because a lot of the problems with search are not the search engine.

It’s not the people who are managing the search engine. It’s not the content, right. It is actually feedback from customers, from users, from visitors on the website. About their experience. And if you look at the data streams, both of what’s happening in search and what happens after a search, you can gain a lot of insight into what makes search successful.

And by using that data using that data, feeding that data back into your search engine, you can automatically make search better. And I think I mentioned this a little bit earlier. I mean, searchers are more likely to do business with you. Because if you think about it, they’ve been frustrated by they’re looking at this site. They can’t find something. I mean, if you go to that search bar, instead of going back to Google, that means you’re a dedicated, committed individual. And so there’s a lot of value in, in making search better. And so that’s why we encourage folks, , If you don’t need our SearchBox product, you think you can do better on your own.

Absolutely. Go for it. Make your search engine better because there is gold in those searchers and searchers. And if they’re frustrated , they’re going to go away and now your competitors get shot at right.

Tim Peter: [00:22:23] Right. Makes perfect sense. It makes perfect sense. Steve that’s great stuff. I mean, any last thoughts you want to leave folks with, I’m just looking at the time, it’s time to wrap up.

Steve Zakur: [00:22:34] Yeah. , I think it’s, I think that there, , kind of the big thought. For, , now that we’re in season two and kind of returning to this thought of engagement, we certainly have to reflect upon, , what’s gone on in the past year, as far as the business environment, especially the digital business environment and , I’m going on my first business trip a Monday.

So I’ll be like in Chicago for three days, it’s going to be kind of strange. Yeah. But But, , we are going to be getting back to it and we’re going to be getting back on planes and seeing people and back into the office. But I do think that, , fundamentally, , digital is here to stay.

I think while the zoom calls will go down , video is going to be an important part of how we communicate and. , I think websites, we all thought they were important before. But I think this notion of digital engagement is going to be increasingly important. And by the way, we see it in our numbers. Right. We see, , the boards that we’re doing with our clients is increasing. So, , this is, this is the big thought it’s if you were behind before and you haven’t already started to accelerate your digital transformation , you at least have to get ahead of your peers in the industry, because I think people have religion on this and they’re moving and and the laggards are no longer going to have the ability to kind of make it up with humans. I think that digital is definitely something that folks have to address.

Tim Peter: [00:23:57] Sounds like a perfect place to wrap up. I would like to say just another quick commercial, , if anybody wants to learn more about website engagement in a changed world and some of the stats that Steve has been referencing today, what I encourage you to check out SoloSegment’s new report, “Website engagement in a changed world,” looking at how handy that is, which you can find at SoloSegment.com/website-engagement. And we’ll post a link to that in the show notes again, that is SoloSegment.com/website-engagement.

Steve, thank you as always for great discussion. I’ll look forward to catching up with you here on SearchChat next time. Have a great rest of the day.

Steve Zakur: [00:24:35] Thanks. You too, Tim.

Tim Peter: [00:24:46] SearchChat is brought to you by SoloSegment. SoloSegment focuses on site search analytics and AI driven content discovery to improve search results, increase customer satisfaction and unlock revenue for your company. Make your search better and learn more at SoloSegment.com.

If you liked the show, please go ahead and subscribe to us. You can find our episodes SoloSegment.com/podcast or on Spotify, iTunes, Stitcher radio, Google podcasts, or whatever your favorite podcatcher happens to be. You can also find us on Facebook at facebook.com/SoloSegment. On Twitter using the Twitter handle @SoloSegment. Or you can drop us an email at info@SoloSegment.com. Again, that’s info@SoloSegment.com. With that, my name is Tim Peter. I hope you have a great rest of the week and we’ll look forward to talking with you next time on SearchChat. Take care, everybody. .

Why Privacy-First Martech Matters

Cloudflare announced this week that they were introducing a new, free privacy-first analytics tool, using data from their CDN, but eliminating any personally-identifiable information (PII) commonly collected in competing tools. SoloSegment CEO Steve Zakur talks about why privacy-first martech is the right way to go for your business:

Prefer to read? Here’s a transcript of SoloSegment CEO Steve Zakur’s comments on Cloudflare’s anonymous analytics tool and privacy-first martech for you: 

CloudFlare, a leading cybersecurity and content distribution network, announced yesterday they were launching a new free service called CloudFlare Web Analytics. And the most distinctive feature of this tool is that it doesn’t collect personal information. So this is not some secret play by CloudFlare to, you know, to hoover up all this personal information about your visitors. It truly is a privacy-first [marketing] technology.

My name is Steve Zakur CEO of SoloSegment. For many years, we have had this pact with Google in using their analytics tool. And that pact was they’ll give us an awesome, full featured analytics tool for free. And we have to then send them all the data about our visitors. And so, you know, that worked out pretty well for us but not so well for our visitors, our prospects, our customers who were getting their information sent over to Google. 

And increasingly we’ve seen moves by industry. Apple has been a real leader in this area with ITP and some other areas, other things, but also regulators, GDPR, CCPA, all those sorts of regulations in moving to protect the privacy of individuals. And I think we’re going to see more and more of these privacy first tools. In fact, SoloSegment has focused on this right from the beginning. We have a thesis that there is plenty of information out there about the behavior of website visitors, that you don’t need to know who they are in order to engage them. Whether they’re searching or whether they’re navigating on your website they give off a trail of behavioral information that allows you to help them achieve their objectives without needing to know who they are.

So, no matter what technology we’re talking about, whether it’s SoloSegment’s personalization technology, GuideBox, or web analytics by CloudFlare, look for those privacy first applications, because those are the technologies that not only allow you to achieve your goals, but to do it in a way that you can protect the personal information of your website visitors. Thanks very much. Hope you have a great week. Take care.

You can read more about how to personalize your content while protecting customer data in SoloSegment’s new ebook, The Six Personalization Truths Every B2B Marketer Needs to Know.

6 Truths B2B Marketers Must Know About Personalization

You’re a serious B2B marketer. You’ve seen the stats. You know the score. B2B customers expect personalized experiences to help them find the products and services that meet their needs. And personalization can help you drive more leads. Which is good, because “drive more leads” is what you keep hearing from your sales leaders and senior execs, especially now when your sales teams are stuck in WFH mode. As “face-to-face” has become “shelter in place,” there’s more pressure than ever for your website to drive the leads in-person events once did. 

But some critics are saying personalization is dead. And lots of companies have attempted to use personalization without seeing results. How can all of these things be true at the same time? There’s a surprisingly simple answer: 

Most personalization platforms weren’t built for B2B buyers

These platforms are excellent at helping you understand more about Alice and Bob, a married couple with 2.5 kids and a puppy who drive a crossover SUV and like to go camping. But none of those consumer attributes have any effect on Alice or Bob’s buying behaviors as execs at their respective companies. 

The mismatch between consumer-centered personalization platforms and the needs of B2B buyers represents just one of the six personalization truths every B2B marketer needs to know outlined in our latest ebook, called simply enough, “The Six Personalization Truths Every B2B Marketer Needs to Know.” 

Other truths about B2B marketing that you need to know include:

  • The key reasons your site visitors expect personalization — and how those expectations influence your technology platform needs
  • The surprising connection between site search and personalized experiences — and why most companies fall short at making that connection deliver results
  • The increasing likelihood that shifting regulations and actions by technology giants like Google, Apple, and Microsoft only make it harder to close the personalization gap for B2B marketers 
  • And the plain truth that the ability to close the gap using artificial intelligence and machine learning exists today — and can work for your company more easily than you think. 

Of course, there’s one more truth that you already know: you’re facing increasing pressures from your customers and your company’s senior executives to solve their problems and deliver results. Sales wants more leads. Your customers want more relevant information. And you want to drive more revenues for your business. How can you meet all these goals? The solution may be easier than you think. 

Are you interested in learning more about how you can put personalization to work for your business? Check out the new SoloSegment ebook “The Six Personalization Truths Every B2B Marketer Needs to Know” today. And learn how you can use personalization to support B2B buyers — and your business — more easily and more effectively than you ever thought possible. Just click here to check out the ebook. And learn the solutions that can help you improve your customer experience — and business results — today.

Why B2B Marketers Must Embrace AI and Personalization

“We’re in challenging times,” everyone says. That’s a fact. But here’s a question: When is that not true for B2B marketers? Sure, things are definitely tougher than usual at the moment. But, who are we kidding? You’re always hustling, in bad times and good, to either outperform the economy or beat your competition. So, let’s take a moment and talk about how you can accomplish both of those goals, in good times and bad: Artificial intelligence (AI) and personalization. And, more importantly, how you can make AI and personalization work together for your customers… and for your company.

The Core of Personalization in Marketing

If youll allow me to grossly oversimplify a complex topic for a moment, every B2B marketing plan in existence can be summed up by a similar set of steps. What every effective B2B marketer must consistently do is:

  • Uncover customer needs
  • Create offerings that address those customer needs
  • Let potential customers know those offerings exist
  • Build trust that your offering actually works
  • Work with your sales team to encourage your prospects to hand over their money in exchange for those offerings
  • Repeat

I know, easy, right? Of course I’m skipping some details; if there ever was a case where you’re allowed to say, “the Devil’s in the details,” this is the one. That’s why it’s called, “grossly oversimplifying.”

But the fact remains that everything you do as a marketer and a manager exists to help your current and potential customers achieve their goals, to create offerings tailored to what they need at the immediate moment. Fundamentally, thats all that personalization is at its core again, as long as you’re willing to grossly oversimplify it.

Why You Struggle to Deliver Personalized Experience

The problems with accomplishing this in practice and at scale blow that gross oversimplification completely out of the water. Forget what I said before. This is where you can say that “the Devil is in the details.” As our Chief Product Officer mentioned the other day, its true that both the future of marketing requires delivering personalization at scale and that a number of significant challenges exist that makes it difficult to do that. These include the following facts:

  1. While digital channels like your website, email list, and social media presence make collecting information easy at least relative to the past its tough to make sense of the sheer volume of data now available
  2. The technology necessary to handle such large volumes of data can be expensive and difficult to implement and maintain
  3. Customers are increasingly uncomfortable with letting you collect and store their personal information and tools like intelligent tracking protection (ITP) and enhanced tracking protection (ETP) exist to make it hard to do so
  4. Regulators, always willing to listen when large numbers of voters, um… people have concerns, increasingly create barriers to collecting and storing customers personal information (think GDPR/CCPA/other alphabet soup regulations)
  5. Companies frequently must create rules to address steps in the customer journey and the content that supports each of those steps
  6. Despite your best efforts, its impossible to know many visitors to your B2B website and other digital channels because you cant get their personal data or because their individual information isn’t relevant to their business purchases
  7. And, the costs associated with addressing these non-trivial challenges makes it tough for you to deliver an impressive ROI for any investments you make in personalization quickly, which is even more important in the current post-COVID environment.

Thats not “a gross oversimplification.” Its just gross.

Fortunately, we’ve put together some ideas for how to deal with these challenges in our new ebook “Six Personalization Realities B2B Marketers Need to Know Right Now.” Check it out when you have a moment.

Fact: Personally-Identifiable Information (PII) Won’t Be Around Forever

Privacy and its implications for data collection are worth diving into in a bit more detail. Privacy regulations as well as customer attitudes about privacy will require marketers to shift focus away from personally-identifiable information (PII) and towards some other source of anonymous, but still useful data. This appears inevitable.

For instance, Samuel Scott argues persuasively that personalization is this years most overhyped marketing practice,. In particular, Scott cites concerns about privacy as the biggest risks for both companies and their customers. Given the downsides of cost and legal risk associated with data breaches, those concerns seem warranted.

And, to be fair, there is a lot of hype around personalization. The European Unions General Data Privacy Regulations (GDPR), the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), and similar legislation didn’t come from nowhere; many jurisdictions clearly take the hype seriously.

You also want to consider how little personal information about B2B buyers is even relevant to your selling process. Does the fact that your buyer is “42 years old, drives a midsize crossover SUV, and has affinity for dining and travel” help you progress them towards a purchase of your products or services? I didn’t think so.

What some forward-thinking marketers are moving towards and I believe must move towards is using anonymous behavioral data instead of PII. Various techniques exist that allow you to offer personalized experiences without PII and still drive improved business results. My expectation and to be 100% honest, a big reason we founded a company that does this is that successful B2B marketers will increasingly seek out options that provide the benefits of personalization without the regulatory or brand risk associated with capturing and storing vast amounts of PII about their customers. But to do that well, you’ve got to add artificial intelligence into the mix.

The Role of AI in Personalization

Knowing how to personalize without PII isn’t easy. It requires a fair bit of data about your customers’ on-site behaviors, about your content, about what makes customers click and connect, and how to tie all that information together in real-time. That’s where your ability to use AI in your personalization efforts matters. As a friend of mine likes to say, “AI makes big data… little.” Artificial intelligence and machine learning must play a key role in helping you make sense of the data you’re gathering so that you can put your oversimplified marketing plan into action. Or, even better, the real-world, results-oriented, complex marketing plan that you actually put together.

AI-powered personalization tools can help you make sense of the continual streams of data the torrent of data that you collect. A well-designed AI-powered personalization platform can be run as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) to minimize implementation costs and complexity. And, if done really well, personalization driven by artificial intelligence would use customer behaviors not increasingly regulated, increasingly unavailable personally-identifiable information to connect customers with the content they need. Hmm… I wonder who could possibly have made an AI-powered, behavior-based personalization tool that works that way…

Fact: AI in Personalization is Coming

All kidding aside, we’re not the only ones who think this way. Recent data from Adobe shows that 9 out of 10 companies show a positive ROI from their personalization efforts, with more than 40% seeing greater than a 6:1 return. But few organizations only about 4 in 10 feel that they have the personalization capabilities they need. This is the gap that B2B marketing executives your competitors are working with their IT colleagues to close. Why? Because there is also significant data showing that customers prefer personalized experiences.

For starters, take note of the potential returns already mentioned. Also, B2B buyers have said in study after study after study that they expect personalized experiences and will find a better option if you don’t meet those expectations.

Oh… one more reason it’s important for you to think about how to provide these experiences? CMO tenure has reached its lowest point in a decade. Not many marketing executives can afford to miss out on these kinds of opportunities… or at least not for long.

Conclusion: Why B2B Marketers Must Embrace AI in Personalization

We live in challenging times. Whether those challenges come from the difficulties of coping with large amounts of data, customer privacy concerns, regulatory changes, IT integration efforts, costs, global pandemics or all of these at the same time your job as a B2B marketer is hard. There’s no way to grossly oversimplify that fact. Adding to the complexity, it’s clear your buyers expect personalized experiences that help them achieve their objectives or they won’t be your buyers. And pressure to deliver from the C-Suite isn’t making this any easier.

Your competitors increasingly use artificial intelligence to interpret and understand the sheer volume of data they’re gathering. Remember, AI makes big data little. But also remember that personal information is going away. And it may not even matter in B2B in the first place. Instead, effective, forward-thinking AI-powered personalization platforms use anonymous data to determine not only where customers are in their journey, but also the right messages and offers to present customers from existing content.

So, yes, “we’re in challenging times.” Again. And this probably won’t be the last time. But you’re going to be fine. Artificial intelligence and personalization can help put those challenges to rest. And that’s a fact you can happily embrace… even when times are tough.

Curious how we can help you connect AI and personalization for your customers, for your company, and for your future? Give us a call at 862-234-0365 or drop us a line. We’re here to help. And, if you want to learn more about how to put personalization to work for your business, check out the “Six Personalization Realities B2B Marketers Need to Know Right Now” ebook today.

SearchChat Podcast: Is Anonymous Information Really Anonymous?

In today’s podcast episode Steve Zakur and I respond to a recent article that criticized anonymous data, with the main critique being that it isn’t really anonymous. If you can grab the IP address and dig further to find identities, is that really anonymous personalization? Our answer: not really, but that isn’t what anonymous data really is. 

SearchChat Podcast: Cookies are Dead. Now What?

Time and time again we see that people are uncomfortable with the ways companies are using third party data. GDPR was just the beginning. The latest move representing the new wave is Google’s recent adoption of ITP. This podcast episode tackles the move from personal data into anonymous data through behavior-based personalization.

SearchChat Podcast: Gartner Predicts the Death of Personalization

Gartner’s prediction that personalization will be dead by 2025 was an attention grabbing headline. Irresponsible use of personal data continues to unnerve consumers. But if consumers increasingly expect companies to know them, how can personalization be dead? This podcast episode explores personal data and the possibilities for anonymous data.

SearchChat Podcast: Google Is Evil

Google’s business model was built on a symbiotic relationship between companies who want their content to be seen, and Google rewarding them for quality content. To be fair, this was so Google could sell ads, but it worked out well for mostly all parties involved. 

That’s broken down. In this episode of SearchChat we talk about the failures of SEO, and how marketers must improve their conversions to make up for decreased organic traffic.

SearchChat Podcast: Marketers Succeed at What They Rehearse

On this episode of SearchChat, SoloSegment’s CEO, Steve Zakur and I talk about personalization and the lessons we’ve learned from working with clients. We talk about the data that you need to get started and lessons that you can learn about how to deliver on a personalization initiative from both musicians and the military.

SearchChat Podcast: Making Companies More Human with Mark Schaefer

In this week’s episode of SearchChat, we interview Mark Schaefer, co-host of Marketing Companion Podcast, on what it means to make companies more human. What does he reveal? That the needs and expectations of our customers are seriously far off from where companies think they are.