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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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.

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About Madeline Moran

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

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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.

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About Madeline Moran

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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.

Personalization — It’s Not Just for B2C

This past year, the demand for personalization is at an all-time high.

According to a Lytics white paper, two-thirds of customers want brands to adjust content based on their real-time context. Over 40% are annoyed if you don’t. And another two-thirds of those said they skip making a purchase out of annoyance.

That’s not just a problem for retail.

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About Madeline Moran

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

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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.

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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.

What Marketers Can Learn From Facebook’s Privacy Mess

In my work at SoloSegment and with individual clients, I spend tons of time working at the intersections of marketing, artificial intelligence, data, and privacy. I suspect the same is true for you too. Of course, that means we all spend lots of time working with — and worrying about — the role played by Amazon, Google, Apple, Microsoft, and especially given their recent missteps with regard to data and privacy, Facebook. Which is why Mark Zuckerberg’s recent opinion piece in the Washington Post proved so fascinating. Zuckerberg talked about Facebook’s challenges, and to address these asked for government regulation in a number of areas:

“But if we were starting from scratch, we wouldn’t ask companies to make these judgments alone…From what I’ve learned, I believe we need new regulation in four areas: harmful content, election integrity, privacy and data portability.” [Emphasis added]

Why does Facebook think that’s important? The main reason is because, as Zuckerberg continues:

Lawmakers often tell me we have too much power over speech, and frankly I agree. I’ve come to believe that we shouldn’t make so many important decisions about speech on our own. So we’re creating an independent body so people can appeal our decisions.

Whoo-boy. There’s a lot going on here that needs unpacking. So, let’s dive in.

First, kudos to Facebook for recognizing two facts:

  1. Whether intentionally or not, the social giant has actively contributed to divisive, harmful conduct on the Internet.
  2. They probably shouldn’t be the final arbiter of the solution.

I agree wholeheartedly with both points. And good on Facebook for acknowledging their mistakes. Seriously. As, the saying goes, “the first step is admitting you have a problem.”

At the same time, I have a number of issues with the rest of the op-ed due to its potential effects for consumers and competitors alike.

For starters, as Brian Heater and Josh Contine write at TechCrunch:

“The op-ed rings somewhat hollow, though, because there’s plenty that Facebook could do to improve in these four areas without help from the government.”

Yep. Facebook is wise to turn over disputes around its policies to a third party, but why does it need a third party — in this case, the government — to tell them what its policies should be? In part, I suspect, because Zuckerberg and Facebook want to shape whatever form those regulations take.

Don’t misunderstand, I’m not opposed to government regulating customer privacy, election integrity, or use of customer data. I would argue they haven’t done enough in those areas. But I have a huge issue in Facebook driving that discussion.

As the joke goes about where an 800-lb gorilla sits (answer: Anywhere it wants to), Facebook’s size almost certainly guarantees them a seat at the table when it’s time to shape policy in these areas. But, ignoring that reality for a moment, given their past actions, do you really think Facebook has demonstrated it’s the right company to shape regulations around customer data and privacy? Yes, we’d hope they can provide plenty of lessons for others. The question is whether or not they’ve learned those lessons themselves. Offering them a role in the process feels a lot like letting the fox guard the henhouse after that fox has already helped himself to an all you can eat chicken buffet.

Facebook has continually failed to demonstrate that they’re a trustworthy advocate for consumers or competition. And please don’t misunderstand. I don’t think they’re actively evil. They’re simply untrustworthy in the same way a small child is untrustworthy. After all, you wouldn’t let your three year-old play with matches or sharp knives, would you? Of course not. Except in this case, the “three year-old child” is a $55 billion company, which makes it hard to make them sit in in the corner.

Still, the evidence is compelling for why that’s necessary. As recently as early February, TechCrunch reported this about Facebook:

“Since 2016, Facebook has been paying users ages 13 to 35 up to $20 per month plus referral fees to sell their privacy by installing the iOS or Android “Facebook Research” app. Facebook even asked users to screenshot their Amazon order history page…[Update 11:20pm PT: Facebook now tells TechCrunch it will shut down the iOS version of its Research app in the wake of our report. The rest of this article has been updated to reflect this development.] Facebook’s Research program will continue to run on Android.” [emphasis added]

Remember, these are often the accounts of minors. The company also appears to have shared data about users’ health without their consent and stored “hundreds of millions of user passwords…in plaintext.” We talk about these privacy breeches in a recent podcast.

Um, wow.

They also bought Instagram and WhatsApp when faced with competition that they couldn’t defeat. And, frankly, flat-out copied SnapChat’s most innovative features such as Instagram (and later Facebook) Stories when they could.

Is this the kind of company you can trust guiding regulations that will affect your privacy and personal data as an individual, to say nothing of the environment your company must compete in?

Remember, data is an increasingly valuable commodity in today’s business and marketing landscape. Would Facebook’s proposed solutions really protect consumers? Or would they simply pull up the ladder behind themselves now that they’ve scaled that solution and already have access to, oh, I dunno, more data than just about anyone?

Again, beware three year-olds with sharp knives.

(By the way, I’m scrupulously avoiding the topic of government regulation of “harmful content.” My thoughts are summarized best here.)

So, what should you do about all of this? Basically, there are two things you should focus on:

  1. Don’t wait for regulation to do the right thing by your customers. The worst excuse you could make for treating your customers badly is “well, technically, it was legal.“ GDPR exists because marketers did not treat customer data or customer privacy with the attention and respect it deserved. Facebook simply exhibits the worst of these tendencies But they’re hardly alone in acting less than perfectly in this regard. Don’t be “that guy.”
  2. Continue to pay attention to what’s happening with data privacy regulations. And then try to do better. This story has a long way to go. Between Facebook, Google, next year’s US elections, GDPR, the beginnings of the California Consumer Privacy Act, and other efforts around the world, we’re not done with this yet. You owe it to your customers — and your business — to stay informed.

Again, Facebook deserves credit for recognizing that there’s an issue in the way that it — and plenty of other marketers and businesses — treat customer data and privacy. And government undoubtedly has a role in helping to protect consumers’ best interest. However just because both of those statements are true, doesn’t mean that Mark Zuckerberg’s proposed solution is the right way to get there.

Instead, look out for your customers both because it keeps you on the right side of the law and because it’s the right thing to do. Better self-regulation is a strong first step towards doing what’s right by customers. And strong self-regulation practices will likely reduce the impact any government oversight will have on your business. Plus, I don’t know about you, but I find that customers generally prefer companies that treat them with respect.

Facebook has provided a roadmap for what not to do. Learn from their lessons. In the long run, your customers — and your bottom line — will thank you for it.

Originally posted on Biznology

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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.