Making the Business Case for Marketing Personalization

Picture of Andy Zimmerman for the Rethink Rewind Podcast where he talks about personalization for your website

In this Rethink Rewind episode, we return to our conversation with Evergage’s Andy Zimmerman who spoke with Act-On CMO Michelle Huff in Episode 39. They talk about the business case for personalization for B2B companies, and what marketers can do to get started today.

If you like what you hear, I recommend our webinar this week, The Path to Personalization with Andy on September 28th.

You can expect to learn how to:

  • Create tailored, relevant web experiences for your prospects
  • Boost web conversions through adaptive, industry-specific content
  • And Send emails that are personalized to the individual

This transcript has been edited for length. To get the full measure, listen to the podcast.

Why is personalization important for B2B companies?

Michelle Huff: Why is personalization important for B2B?

Andy Zimmerman: To do true one to one engagement at scale, it requires machine learning. It requires algorithms that can present the most relevant experience, or offer, or navigation, all dynamically at the one to one level. So my experience is different from yours, versus the next person. And that’s really the direction, as I said, that personalization is going in order to be able to do it at scale. And also not have to come up with so many rules. Those are the two ways that you personalize. You can come up with rules, like if this person is coming from this geography, show ’em this. If they’re in this industry, show ’em that. If they’re this, then that.

And those segments are not going away. You still have personas and segments and key audiences that you want to address differently. And you can get very specific and say, you know, for people coming in from North America, in the financial services industry, who visited the site at least once before, who haven’t yet downloaded our ebook for financial services, show them that. And that’s a really valuable campaign if that’s a very important segment for you. But you can’t have thousands of these rules. It gets out of hand. You can have scores or tens of these rules.

But once you get into the high volume, how do you make it dynamic. You have to understand someone at the individual level and apply machine learning to figure out what would be the most relevant thing. It could be that ebook, or it could actually be a different asset. And you can let the system sort of figure out what has the highest conversion rate for people like this person.

So not to get too technical on it, but there’s algorithms, things like collaborative filtering. And we’ve all seen Netflix or Amazon, you see recommendations for movies. And those are good examples of collaborative filtering, which are using machine learning to figure out what’s relevant for you. But a lot of basic sites are doing things like people who bought this, bought that. Or people who looked at this article also read this. And that could be helpful. But it’s not individualized. It’s still looking at wisdom of the crowd. And if you could say, all right, what have people who’ve looked at this have also looked at that. But let’s actually filter this based on this particular person’s preferences. They’ve shown a preference again for financial services, or certain topics, or certain areas. And let’s actually let the system sort of figure out what’s gonna be most relevant.

And that’s the era of sort of customizing algorithms and customizing these strategies to really make them truly relevant for the business, and truly relevant for each individual.

What can companies do to get started with personalization?

Michelle: Wherever they’re at in their journey with personalization, what should companies be thinking about and maybe implementing today to really start to take advantage of some of these trends of where we’re headed with one-to-one customer engagement?

Andy: And one thing I’ll say is, it’s not as hard as people might think. It can sound challenging, as you said. But it’s actually gonna make your life easier. And there’s no question it will drive the results you’re looking for. And the place to start, as you’d expect with any campaign, is what are you trying to get out of it, so what are your goals. And with a lot of B2B sites, it’s about demand generation, or ABM benefits, getting more conversions, or getting specifically more conversions from your target accounts. Or just genuinely giving them a better experience so that they have a better perspective of your brand and engage with your content seamlessly and more frequently.

So there’s a number of things, these are all things that we as web marketers wanna do. So now the question is, if we believe, and I think most people do believe, that personalization is gonna help improve those things. So like anything, what are the low hanging fruit. What are the — think about what are the places that are most perhaps visited. Like we get tons of visits generally to our home page. We usually get a lot of traffic into the blog perhaps from search. If we’ve got blog content, we may have landing pages. And we wanna get more conversions on those landing pages. So where are those people — where are those key entry points where we have good volume, and have the greatest opportunity to drive those goals, generally more conversions and engagement.

And then think about what are some basic campaigns. And I recommend people draw some inspiration from examples. And a lot of examples we provide a lot on our site. I shared a couple just verbally. But there’s lots of great examples now out there of what people are doing that are working. So you don’t have to just guess and hope, but you can actually say, oh, home page experience that is tailored by industry actually works. There’s plenty of evidence of that and plenty of examples. So let me start there. Let me try and start with a segment based campaign that says, for my key industries, if I identify people in those industries, let me alter the home page a bit, and we’ll run a test or two, and see if that’s actually giving us the increase in conversions we expect.

And then you go from there. Oh, that works, let’s try some more, let’s try some more ideas. I think that’s a very healthy way to start. Pick a few target campaigns and low hanging fruit, and prove the value, and then also develop the skills for conception as well as execution of these campaigns. Those are things that in most organizations if they’re not already doing it, it’s gonna be new. The good news is a lot of the same people that are running email marketing and website marketing, they already have the right skills. They can also do personalization campaigns. So a lot of the thinking around project management, campaign execution, testing, and iteration, already generally exist in organizations.

If you don’t have a CMS, that would be a first place to start. Some organizations don’t yet have a content management system. This would really build on that. So that would be an important prerequisite in most cases. But  that’s hopefully some ideas on how to get into it. I’d say the algorithmic stuff is — I think an astute customer these days would actually say, I want that at the same time. Because I wanna run a few segment based campaigns like I described and test out optimal recommendations and perhaps use that on the blog. So   as people come to the blog, how do I algorithmically recommend another relevant blog article to keep them engaged on the site. And running those in parallel, you can get the — you can appreciate the benefit of algorithmic personalization, as well as rule based or segment based personalization.  And you’ll see that there’s an optimal blend and need for both. But eventually you might run more of your site algorithmically in order to scale even faster.

What prerequisites do companies need for personalization?

Michelle: Is there anything then you can do now? Do most people just start, like let’s just start personalizing? Or do they have to have certain things in place first?

Andy:Yeah, well a CMS would be a wise thing to have in place. Beause you’re gonna leverage it. It doesn’t replace — it interacts with over the web, so it’s not a deep integration, it’s a web-based integration. It’s very simple, but it needs a base. So you need to figure out what it is you’re going to personalize. If you’re still running your site off of straight HTML pages, then it’s probably not the right time. That said, that’s one of the few prerequisites I would say. It definitely complements marketing automation, as you said. So if you’ve got Act-On or another marketing automation system, it works very nicely. We have integration points to pass data. So you can actually inform an email system about things that the person’s doing on the website and vice versa. And also recognize when people come in from a campaign. That’s another great example.

But if you’re coming in from an email campaign, the system can recognize, oh this is Act-On campaign XYZ. It was to this audience, this segment. And let’s personalize the landing page for people as they come in. ‘Cause we know how they came in. Let’s make sure that that landing page is relevant to that campaign. And if it’s a different campaign, let’s tailor it differently. So that way you don’t have to have this proliferation of pages. You can adapt the pages based on the campaign source. And so that’s something that’s a nice complement with Act-On and marketing automation systems.

As far as other things, like I said, look at examples. If you’re in the planning stage, get inspired. Watch a few webinars or download some ebooks and videos, things that’ll give you some ideas of what other people are doing and the value that they’re getting, so that you can then say, all right, how would this apply to our business and our site. And you’ll immediately come up with a handful of things that you’d say, oh, we ought to be doing this. Just from seeing what other people are doing.