The new personalized approach to B2B content recommendation
Understanding customer intent is one of the most powerful marketing tools available to professionals. The right intent data will allow you to effectively connect potential customers to the content that is going to help them achieve their goal. So where do you find intent data? It exists in the systems you use today. Introducing “behavioral personalization,” a strategy to offer intent-based content recommendation. If you know where to look and you have the ability to mobilize that data you can use it to progress journeys, convert more business and win more often.
Intent: Let your customers tell you
We often talk about website search as being the most common personalized experience. Website visitors identify their need, and if the search engine works well it delivers the content that answers their question. It’s the simplest, most direct method of personalizing the customer experience. Personalization isn’t the only thing that search does. It is also the first inklings of the data you need to drive effective content recommendation.
The search box on any website fulfills not only the search term input function, but also gathers meaningful data about customer intent. This is the real source of search’s power. There are lots of topics that a searcher can query. Many of those also give you insight into why they’re asking those questions. Successfully deciphering intent can not only lead to better search results, but more importantly can lead to more conversions.
Simple Intent: The Keywords
Let’s consider two searches.
“Product X Value”
It’s obvious that these searches will yield different results. If you deliver a results page with relevant content it will help the searcher move forward in their journey. But what’s more important than the topic they’re interested in is what the topic tells you about their intent.
That first term probably indicates someone who is in the interest phase of the process. They’ve gotten beyond the top of funnel messages and are going deeper. Not only are they going to need the right content to answer the question, they may be ready for messages that move them into consideration.
Nosing around pricing content is a clear indicator of someone who is considering a purchase. This is where journey progression becomes even more important. Answer the question effectively and they’re doing business with you.
Both these search terms give actional information about the intent of the visitor. They provide signals about what you should be serving them at this stage of the buying process.
Complex Intent: All that other data
Intentions that are apparent in search term data can also be found elsewhere. One of the most effective places to look for how intent manifests itself in your data is in your web analytics system.
The patterns in visitor journey data can illustrate intent very clearly. If someone is spending a lot of time with content that is in the consideration stage of your journey, that’s an obvious signal. But what if the signal is not readily apparent in the data?
This is where advanced data science tools can be brought to the challenge of understanding what the visitor is trying to achieve. For one of our clients, we’re beginning to use unsupervised machine learning techniques to interrogate tens of thousands of visitor journeys each month.
These methods help us construct models that show patterns of visitor behavior that are associated with intent. Once you can identify the snippets of behavior that are more closely associated with goals, you can understand what behavior signals intent for those goals. Knowing this you can recommend content at just the right moment to help drive visitors to those patterns.
The value of intent-based content recommendation
The value of intent-based content recommendation can be directly measured. Reduced exits and bounces that increase top of funnel progression are the first signals you’re onto something. You also likely have some conversions associated with specific tasks, such as downloads and contact forms, that can be directly measured.
Of course, what you really want to measure are the purchase conversions. In a B2B world making those connections can be difficult, especially if channel or field sales are a big part of your sales engine. However, you’ve been dealing with this challenge for long time. Instrument the tasks and activities that lead to contacts and monitor the activity. All things being equal, if you can reduce the top of funnel abandons (i.e. exits and bounces) you’re going to see more come out at the other end of the funnel.
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Stephen Zakur is CEO of SoloSegment. SoloSegment provides analytics that improve site search conversion and machine learning technologies that improve content effectiveness.