B2B Personalization; Marketing Perfection or Just Plain Creepy?

B2B Personalization; Marketing Perfection or Just Plain Creepy?

According to our Account-Based Marketing Research Report, 80% of senior B2B marketers use personalized content to some extent, while 49% use personalization technologies to support their ABM strategy.

How is personalization being used to provide an uptick in ROI? And when does it stop being a powerful tool for conversion and start becoming a creepy intrusion?

We’ve collated our own research conducted among senior B2B marketing in the Insights for Professionals community, along with other industry insights to provide this in-depth guide to B2B personalization. This article aims to bring you up-to-speed with how personalization is being leveraged in the B2B marketing community right now.

Reading time: 14 minutes

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Why B2B marketers shouldn’t ignore the rewards of personalization

Personalization for B2B marketers focuses around delivering the message a customer will be interested in, at the right time in which they will be interested, in order to appeal to the 90% of 18-64 year olds who value personalized messages.

The benefits of personalized content experiences are clear:

  • better engagement
  • superior customer experience
  • faster revenue
  • shorter sales cycles

This is according to the How Do B2B Marketers Deliver Personalized Content Experiences? report from our research mini-series around Content Intelligence in B2B marketing. Every aspect of a company’s presence should be tailored towards an individual, high-quality personalized experience to maintain a competitive edge in today’s digital world.

Consider the frequent emails you receive from any organization you’ve provided data to.

  • Are you more likely to open the messages addressing you specifically, on first name terms?
  • Do you completely ignore any that aren’t directed at you and are instead the generic ‘send to all’ style?
  • If the content is irrelevant or repeated, is this a massive turn-off?

79% of businesses that have surpassed their revenue targets have a documented personalization strategy in place, while 83% have a dedicated personalization budget. It is through content personalization that companies can attract and engage with customers going forward and achieve the conversion they are so keen to see.

2 key personalization pain points faced by the modern B2B marketer

As with most things, there are challenges to overcome when considering personalized content and reaching greater audiences. Here’s some of the more common ones…

1. Tailoring content

A recent ITSMA report concerning ABM leaders reveals their top challenge to be “personalizing and tailoring our marketing to the key contacts at each account.” This aligns to our research conducted among senior B2B marketers in our Insights for Professionals community. Key findings published in  ABM FAQs infographic, shows how 47% of marketers find the biggest challenge to be delivering relevant content to target audiences.

Tailoring the right content to each account and individual is quite the task. With more complex, longer, and nonlinear buyer journeys there are various considerations to take into account when it comes to personalizing the content journey. This can make content personalization less of a simple and straight-forward process…

43.5% of marketers are not personalizing content by industry, while a significant 52% are not personalizing by buyer stage, according to our Full Disclosure; The B2B Content Intelligence Report,

This suggests that half of B2B marketers are not yet adequately personalizing their content in relation to buyer stage and DMU stakeholder to improve the relevance of each message and the likeliness that it will achieve its intended purpose.

2. Scaling up

Marketers looking to personalize at scale while ensuring the quality of their communications remain strong may face a few difficulties. If you were to operate a one-to-one strategy, personalizing content for 5 to 10 key accounts wouldn’t be a huge issue. The challenge comes when you’re looking to scale up campaigns and connect with even more companies; resource constraints don’t always allow for complete personalization and you run the risk of damaging relationships through sending out inaccurate content.

The biggest challenge when trying to scale audience reach is accuracy, according to 73% of marketers, closely followed by data accessibility (68%) and relevancy (65%).

When it all becomes a little creepy…

Personalization can be great when done well, but when done wrong it can be detrimental. Take a look at some of the common pitfalls marketers face:

Don’t be a creep

If you’re targeting someone you’ve not spoken to before, it’s not about letting them know you know who they are. This can come across a little creepy! Instead, leveraging the right indicators and listening are both key to truly showing them personalized value (Content Marketing Institute). Consider if you were to receive a message indicating that a company knows all about you; not only your name but what you’ve been looking at, the behavioral tendencies you portray, things you value and so on. Does it make you feel somewhat vulnerable when it’s too much information?

Inaccurate and irrelevant

As we’ve mentioned, personalizing at scale can be challenging to get right. It can lead to inaccurate triggers and consequently irrelevant content, which some might consider worse than not receiving personalized messages at all. The effect this can have on engagement can be damaging and can quickly change perceptions of your reputation.

Damaging relationships

Fully personalizing your content requires time and energy; tailoring it specifically to each individual account on your list involves focus and accuracy, as discussed in our recent blog Content Personalization at Scale is Easier than You Think. The impact of not doing this, or not doing it well and rushing it, can impact relationships with accounts and prompt them to lose trust and even look elsewhere.

One-to-one personalization holds the key

56% of B2B marketers say obtaining the right audience intelligence to create Ideal Customer Profiles (ICPs) is one of their biggest challenges. With the revolution of accessible tech platforms, decisions surrounding how to personalize content have greatly advanced thanks to the adoption of AI, machine learning and predictive modelling.

Such technologies have the ability to collect, analyze and translate extensive amounts of data into actionable insights that effectively detect the most accurate triggers for content personalization. Various levels of personalization can be achieved as a result, not only with greater ease but also on a larger scale.

AI technology and accessible machine learning, used to identify the most accurate triggers for personalizing content, have made one-to-one personalization far more accessible – as we’re about to find out…

The ability of AI to support one-to-one personalization

Given the increasing costs of new customer acquisition and customer loyalty wavering, delivering individualized experiences and maximum relevancy has become imperative. Machine learning and real-time processing now make it possible to make sense of the abundance of untapped customer data and react to customer signals in-the-moment.

Machine learning

This method allows you to accurately identify topics most relevant to your target audience through leveraging Natural Language Processing (NLP). Its intelligence allows strategic tagging and categorization of content within a centralized content platform which, if supported by machine learning capabilities and an AI recommendation engine, can use algorithms and models to analyze, interrogate and draw interpretations from any patterns in first party data against real-time buying signals.

The interpretations will then trigger intelligent content journeys to guide the right messaging to the right audience. The more accurate the categorization of content, the higher the relevance.

Lead scoring

Another effective technique for translating user actions into signals of buyer intent is lead scoring. This uses event based triggers at key touchpoints in the buyer journey, triggering corresponding workflows which deliver a sequence of personalized communications.

Attaching a ‘lead score’ to the activity of a prospect allows scores to be monitored against set behaviors to give you an indication of how they act, providing you with implicit data and user activities. You are then able to marry together the implicit data with user activity, to see a highly sophisticated level of data to further enhance personalization capabilities.

Master personalization with 5 key steps

Once you have the mix of perfect content to engage and nurture the prospect, you should deliver it across B2B marketing channels in a sequence of controlled touchpoints. Establishing the best fit for one-to-one personalized communications by integrating various different channels such as email marketing and paid social, strengthens the likeliness of success.

Here are 5 key ways to master personalized content; follow these and you can’t go wrong…

  1. Ensure sufficient content for each journey

It’s all very well adopting a personalization strategy, but without enough appropriate, engaging and relevant content you are likely to fail at the first hurdle. Prioritize content creation as often as possible.

  1. Keep messages relevant and accurate

Use content atomization and repurposing to break content down into personalized areas. This will ensure higher levels of relevancy and accuracy in your targeting.

  1. Understand fully what each persona cares about

Personalization is most meaningful when it offers differentiated experiences based on the unique needs of each buyer in the decision making unit (DMU).

  1. Adopt an AI-centric approach

AI aided capability allows you to personalize content at scale and with high relevance, which can fast-track decision making and display superior brand value.

  1. Utilize machine learning to gain an abundance of data on your prospects

Simply using first party data and marketing automation might not give you enough to go on. Effective machine learning needs training data to base its decisions on. Running campaigns across various different keyword categories provides access to key user behavior insights.

One-to-one personalization is far more readily achievable to B2B marketers now, with AI and machine learning capabilities having really evolved. To maximize its potential, you will need a well-defined audience with a rich set of data displaying specific and clear characteristics, preferences and behavioral tendencies. The availability of intent data and real time buying signals has enabled personalized content to be effective, accurate, and more likely to reach accounts at vital touchpoints in the decision making journey.

So have you decided, is B2B personalization marketing perfection or just plain creepy?

For more information on how AI and machine learning is enabling B2B marketers to advance their strategies, check out our latest report: Full Disclosure: The B2B Content Intelligence Report.

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Amie Lovell

Meet Amie, Marketing Manager here at Inbox. She looks after everything from our content and blog articles to newsletters and social. Her passion is delivering engaging content that resonates with our target audience while promoting thought leadership, to drive brand awareness and trust in what we do.
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