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. 

Outrun Your Competitors With AI

There’s an old joke about two guys walking through the woods. All of a sudden they see a bear, and the bear starts moving towards them. The first guy sits down, pulls a pair of running shoes out of his backpack and slides them on. The second guy says, “What are you doing? You’re not going to outrun that bear.” And the first guy says, “I don’t have to outrun that bear. I just have to outrun you.” 

SearchChat Podcast: Key Marketing Lessons from MarTech East

Steve and I spent time together recently at both a Red Sox game but more importantly, at MarTech East in Boston. The shift in conversation was wildly fascinating: the focus seemed to be personalization, privacy, and security.