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: info@solosegment.com.

Steve Zakur

About Steve Zakur

Stephen Zakur is CEO of SoloSegment. SoloSegment provides analytics that improve site search conversion and machine learning technologies that improve content effectiveness.

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.

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About Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in internet marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm.

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.

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About Tim Peter

Tim Peter is the President of SoloSegment. An expert in e-commerce and digital marketing strategy, web development, search marketing, and analytics, Tim focuses on the growth of the social, local, mobile web and its impact on both consumer behavior and business results. SoloSegment provides analytics that improve site search conversion and machine learning technologies that improve content effectiveness.

Keep Your Content from Disappearing into the Blogroll

Your content marketing is too valuable to waste

How findable is the content on your site? If the answer is that you aren’t sure — you may have a problem. And you aren’t alone. Many marketers spend great lengths of time on content marketing. But a lot of that content goes unread. The main problem is that the people you want to read it can’t find it.

Madeline Moran

About Madeline Moran

Madeline is the Marketing Assistant for SoloSegment, an AI fueled software company that makes website conversions easier through personalized content recommendation.

5 Keys to Data-Driven Content Marketing

Content marketing is informative, entertaining, and helpful. But great ideas for content aren’t enough. Who decides they are “great”? The customer decides. How do we know the decision of the customer? Data–the more the better.

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About Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in internet marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm.

What’s Wrong with Advertising: The Case for Data-Driven Content Marketing

As content marketing has been practiced today, it resembles custom publishing. Companies tell stories that romanticize their brand, distributing those stories through various channels and amplifying them through social media. Content marketing has come to be more akin to advertising.

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About Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in internet marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm.

Meet Behavior-Based Content Recommendation

The new personalized approach to B2B content recommendation

Understanding customer behavior is one of the most powerful marketing tools available to professionals. The right data that provides you with a glimpse into their intent 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. Behavior-based personalization is 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”

“Product Pricing”

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 behavior-based content recommendation

The value of behavior-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.

Want to get started? We might be able to help. Connect with an expert right now.

Steve Zakur

About Steve Zakur

Stephen Zakur is CEO of SoloSegment. SoloSegment provides analytics that improve site search conversion and machine learning technologies that improve content effectiveness.

SearchChat Podcast: Budget Season Survival Guide

Not enough marketers take advantage of the other kind of search — the one on your own website. Few companies budget for it, while budgeting for content without a second thought. We’ve talked about the cost of value before. But when they search, can visitors even find the content they need on your site?

Steve and I are excited to introduce a new podcast, exploring the topics we are fascinated by: AI, search, and content. Site search is part of a customer journey. When you optimize your site search with automation, visitors can find your content and continue on their journey.

Today we cover the Budget Season problems: proving why site search matters, what makes for good analytics, and how much budget you need to make your search better. And check out our technology solutions if you want to really generate revenue from your site search.

00m 00s – Intro and overview

01m 17s – Start of discussion with Steve

07m 04s – Do clicks mean success?

11m 44s – What do we mean by upstream/downstream traffic to/from search?

13m 12s – Why it matters that Google exited the site search market

14m 58s – How much budget is enough to make your site search better?

17m 27s – How can you get started on improving site search?

SearchChat is now on

    • Spotify

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.

Check us out on Facebook, Twitter, or email info@solosegment.com.

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About Tim Peter

Tim Peter is the President of SoloSegment. An expert in e-commerce and digital marketing strategy, web development, search marketing, and analytics, Tim focuses on the growth of the social, local, mobile web and its impact on both consumer behavior and business results.

SoloSegment provides analytics that improve site search conversion and machine learning technologies that improve content effectiveness.

Tiled Search is the Shiny New Thing! Is it a fad – or here to stay?

If you close your eyes and imagine what a search engine results page looks like you probably see something that looks a lot like Google’s search results. You see a list of titles and text snippets that potentially describe the thing that you’re looking for. That’s what Google and Amazon and practically every other site has trained us to see. What few people see is a grid of tiles. This is probably a good thing as there are few use cases that tiled search results are effective.

Where do tiled search results work?

We don’t see search engine results presented as tiles often but we do see them from time to time. When you see them on a commerce site, tiled results can be quite effective. These results usually include a picture of the thing, a title, pricing, a call to action (usually a cart action), and perhaps a snapshot review or description. The picture is the key to knowing if you’ve found the right thing in a commerce setting and a tile is an effective way to deliver this content. But we also see this on sites that are definitely not B2C related.

So what’s the downside?

A large investment bank has made search it’s primary navigation method. When you load their homepage, smack dab in the middle of the page is a search box. They have a hamburger if you want to try navigation but the user experience clearly has doubled down on the effectiveness of search. It’s a bold move. It says “Our search is that good. Go ahead, we dare you to try and not find what you’re looking for.” So how do they do?

First let’s review the two things that all search results pages have to do really well:

      1. Present high quality search results that answer my question.
      2. Give me some indication of which of the results I should pick as the right answer.

Traditionally, those goals have been achieved in list form. Each entry in the list contains an informative title and a snippet that gives me more information about the content found on each result’s landing page.  So why are search results always presented this way? Well there are a couple of reasons.

      1. It’s what we’ve been trained to expect after two decades of seeing search results. We don’t have to figure out how to use the search results, it’s our cognitive model.
      2. It is an excellent user experience for communicating this information. The title & snippet model contains most of the information you need to evaluate the response.
      3. See 1 above. It’s what we do.

Are tiled results good or bad?

I don’t know. In theory, tiles should be fine if, and that’s a big IF, your search results are awesome and the top three results are the right answer to every question associated with the keyword. The tile also has to tell me which of the three results I see above the fold are the right one. I haven’t seen the data to know whether the tiles are better or not and I suspect many of the tile adopters don’t really know that as well.

The investment bank example above, in my opinion, scores poorly on all accounts. First, I didn’t find many of the results above the fold to have a title that was descriptive enough for me to understand it. Second, there is rarely any additional information presented to help me gain additional insight and what little additional insight there is is behind another click. I might as well click on the result instead of wasting time on the “additional info” click . Third, I know this industry and the titles seem to be more marketing speak than information about the content. It feels like the exact opposite of what a search result should do.

My gut tells me, outside of commerce use cases, tiles search results are less effective than lists because I haven’t seen anyone crack the code on providing enough information on a tile to allow me to know which one I should click on.

So why change?

The list of search engine results is a highly effective method that has few challengers. So why do companies experiment with a change? There are a few good reasons. Most notably, some of our tribe are creative animals and they’re constantly seeking something more innovative, something better. Of course, a new design can’t just be an artistic design exercise, it has to be a usability exercise. Does this change make the experience better and deliver better results for the business?

There is no doubt that the emergence of mobile has changed the way we consume content and voice search will change it even more dramatically. When you think about voice search you can’t scroll through a list of things so perhaps getting our house in order where we can deliver results in terse, well constructed bit makes sense for both tiles and, eventually, voice results. But I think that’s a bit of a stretch. I think most companies do it because they think it looks cool.

I still want tiles.

Fine. But make sure it’s not just something you want, make sure it’s effective for your customers and prospects. If you’re going to give tiled results a try, I’d recommend the following:

    • Make sure you work the design hard. Think about how tiled results fit into the rest of the site’s design and deliver the right information to make the search effective.
      • Test the heck out of the tiled design. A/B test tiled against list. A/B test descriptive tiles against lean tiles.
    • Measure success and whether search success for each of these design changes increases or decreases goal achievement.

The goal of search is to connect, as quickly as possible, your customers and prospects with the answers to their questions. Don’t lose site of that and you’ll be fine.

Want more site search guidance? Try a free consultation with us.

Steve Zakur

About Steve Zakur

Stephen Zakur is CEO of SoloSegment. SoloSegment provides analytics that improve site search conversion and machine learning technologies that improve content effectiveness.

The Ins and Outs of Instant Search – What is it and do you need it for your site?

Autocomplete is the bane of any message sent from a mobile device. However, one place where autocomplete shines is on search engines. Autocomplete, also called autosuggest or incremental search, improves the user experience by making it easier to execute searches by suggesting words and phrases that a matching algorithm determines are appropriate based upon the characters entered into a search box. Google has had autocomplete in their search box since 2008. Following in their footsteps, any company that values its customer experience has implemented autosuggestion in their site search. But there’s a new trend in the type-ahead game that we’ve begun to see cropping up on more and more company websites: Instant Search.

Steve Zakur

About Steve Zakur

Stephen Zakur is CEO of SoloSegment. SoloSegment provides analytics that improve site search conversion and machine learning technologies that improve content effectiveness.