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Why B2B personalization must go beyond Amazon

Amazon has the best (and best known) personalized Web experience, but B2B marketers face challenges that Amazon doesn’t. After my post yesterday on the deepening of personalization across the Internet, I was asked to explain a bit more about what kinds of personalization techniques are in use at ibm.com. I’ve been away from ibm.com for several months now, but I am happy to talk about what IBM is doing to personalize their customers’ experience. If you think that personalization techniques begin and ends with Amazon, read on.


IBM has focused in three major areas:

  • Identity. Using Tivoli products, ibm.com allows customers to sign in and get access to material that requires authentication, such as extranet sites built expressly for their companies, or support information available to those with special service contracts.
  • Recognition. Even without registering, IBM customers can be recognized based on their company’s IP address. IBM can identify the company and personalize tasks and marketing messages based on the company itself, or its industry or other firmographic factors.
  • Participation. For customers who frequent the site, IBM also allows individual customers to choose their favorite subjects to create a personalized experience. You can create a profile with your interests or tell IBM more about who you are, which is used to deliver information that is more relevant to you. IBM even places a button on pages that adds that interest to your profile while you are browsing.

ibm.com personalization
In these ways, IBM is similar to many companies that want to provide a more personalized experience, but who have struggled to emulate Amazon’s consumer-oriented experience. IBM and other B2B marketers deal with companies where several people make any purchase decision. And where half the visitors to its Web site are coming for support for existing products. And where purchases are far less frequent and contain fewer clues about what someone wants next. And where most of those purchases happen offline. B2B personalization is just plain tougher than what Amazon does, as wonderful as that Amazon experience is.
Amazon has done a great job at teaching the world how a terrific personalized experience can work, but the deepening of personalization that is occurring now depends on techniques that Amazon doesn’t need. It’s fun to watch B2B marketers try to deliver a great customer experience that breaks the consumer mold.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. 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. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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