Thoughts > Design & Engineer

How to Get Personal

August 11, 2020

Personalization is fast becoming a go-to strategy for a wide variety of digital efforts. You see it everywhere, from account-based marketing to website personalization and custom product demos. In short, there is little question that personalization is in vogue. But being popular doesn’t necessarily make something effective.

Too often, I see companies attempting to personalize an aspect of their marketing strategy without a process to measure how effective those personalization efforts are. When implementing any major change, it is important to move beyond just asking “what type of personalization can we do?” and also consider “is personalization even an effective strategy for us?”.

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Why it matters

True personalization is an intricate process that requires coordination across many teams and systems to function correctly. It is a serious undertaking that warrants thought and measurement to ensure that efforts are guided in the right direction. Simply making a change and eyeballing performance can often lead to false assumptions. Without proper structures to measure the impact of personalization on overall performance, it could lead the business in a direction that is at a minimum uninformed and at worst harmful.

Personalized Experiences Highlight Underserved Customers

A personalized homepage experience based on a visitor's industry allowed our customer, a Fortune 500 medical device manufacturer, to improve lead generation rates by up to 100%.

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Typical Approaches

A typical website personalization implementation might involve custom-recommended resources or a unique chat playbook for a known visitor. Often, they are somewhat small elements that hint at a personal touch. Examples may include a first name taken from a form you filled out last week or an article very similar to one you read during your last visit. Ideally, it will be just enough to make you feel like the website is listening to you but not so much that you make an incorrect assertion. The main problem lies in the primary value that personalization is supposed to bring. Of course, knowing my first name is interesting, and showing me more articles tagged the same way as one I enjoyed is also nice. But true personalization should hit on my needs as a customer. Why am I on the site? What problems am I looking to solve? What limitations might I have? These are substantially bigger questions and much harder to answer with most personalization programs.

A Better Approach

A better path to personalization takes a more in-depth, data-driven approach. It starts with developing a strategy for displaying custom content based on data we already have about a website visitor. This data can come from various sources, including Marketo, Salesforce, Clearbit, Bombora, and many others. The main point here is we aren’t just looking at a cookie to see if we know the person’s name. We’re using every tool at our disposal to see if we know what kinds of questions a person may have and offering them an easy route to answer those questions. That does not mean forcing content on them or boxing in their available choices. Instead, it emphasizes the content we have that we believe will best suit their needs.

Next Steps

Once a personalization program, including data sources, custom content display strategies, and efficacy measurement, has been established, personalization possibilities open up substantially. Testing things like custom content based on lifecycle stage or lead score could yield terrific results if executed properly. One major point I would emphasize for the trajectory of any personalization program is to start with a big question, answer it with data, and then iterate on ways you can improve or pivot. By following data on what is and isn’t working, you can find the type and extent to which personalization can work for you.

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