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Personalized content for more effective content marketing

Don’t call them, they’ll call you.

In today’s B2B world, your prospects don’t want to hear from you until much later in the buying process, so attracting, engaging and nurturing them until they’re ready to talk to a sales person is no longer a nice way to supplement the top of your funnel. It’s an absolute must for long-term survival.

Content marketing is, of course, a great way to attract and engage an audience, but if you’re putting out one set of content for all comers, you’re wasting an opportunity to engage more deeply. Personalizing content will yield much greater results.

Personalization can mean a lot of different things in this context. It can be a part of your website content strategy, email marketing, and social media marketing, with implementation range from DIY-simplicity to enterprise-level technological wizardry. Let’s look at a few ways that might work for your marketing and your budget.

Persona-Specific Content
You have developed personas for your key audience segments, haven’t you? If not, stop reading now and get that done. It’s a basic prerequisite for engaging with your audience on a meaningful level.

Once you know each audience segment well, you can tailor content to their specific needs and present that content in ways that highlights how your capabilities solve the problems they facing.

I would urge you to think about as many facets as you can for each persona: not just industry, but also role within the industry at the very minimum.

Behavior-Based Content
Tracking what your subscribers, visitors, or followers have done in the past can be a great way to home in on what matters to the most – even more than persona-based research.

How did they find your site? Once they were on your site, what pages did they view? What kind of device are they using? If they subscribed to your email newsletter, from what page did they subscribe? Which pieces of your content have they consumed in various channels?

Tracking these data points helps you gain insights into your prospects’ interests that can help you present them with content that fits their needs, rather than whatever content is on your editorial calendar this week or month.

It’s also valuable to know the level of engagement they’ve shown already. You want to match their intensity – if they’re coming along slowly, nurture them slowly. If there’s a sudden burst of interest, that may be a strong buy signal.

Knowing your prospects’ behavior also means you don’t run the risk of asking them to repeat the same action. So your call to action re: downloading a “how-to” guide shouldn’t be displayed to a prospect who has already downloaded it. Those prospects should get a CTA that leads them to the next step of engagement. (A worksheet template? A white paper that takes a deeper dive? Something else? Depends on your product and your audience, of course.)

Tools to Consider
As I mentioned, you can implement any number of personalization solutions with some good old-fashioned smarts and sweat equity. Talk to you web development team and technology teams to see what you can manage internally. Many individual vendors and solutions – the Mailchimps and Leadlanders and Leadfeeders of the world – also have tools that many aren’t aware of. These can be helpful, too.

You can also step up to more integrated solutions like Hubspot, Pardot, and Marketo. All offer suites of tools that can make personalization much easier to implement and to manage. These come at a price, though, so you’ll need to make sure you’re leveraging your investment – and finding the tool that offers the right mix of features at the appropriate price for you marketing efforts.

And, of course, regardless of your investment, you’ll want to make sure your investment is paying off. Before you implement any personalization efforts, think about how you will measure their success. The comprehensive tools will include dashboards that will help you measure process metrics, though you’ll still need to translate those into business metric success for your own firm. (Though some will help there, too.)

If you’re rolling your own solution, you’ll need to roll your own analytics solution, as well. This will probably come from data that each piece of your puzzle provides, and you’ll need to build your own dashboard. (Which can be as simple as a spreadsheet.)

Whichever solution you choose, keep your focus on the moving picture. Don’t get caught up in any one moment in time. Follow trends and make certain your efforts are headed in the right direction over time.

Finally, don’t forget the “creepy factor.” Personalization requires that you gather intelligence on your site visitors, followers, fans, etc. Depending on your audience, and the services you’re selling, there’s a line you may not want to cross. Fewer and fewer citizens of the digital world are truly freaked out about tracking – it’s become quite commonplace so isn’t a surprise any longer – but listen for signs that your audience is uncomfortable and dial back on any components that are counterproductive.

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Andrew Schulkind

Since 1996, Andrew Schulkind has asked clients one simple question: what does digital marketing success look like, and how can marketing progress be measured? A veteran content marketer, web developer, and digital strategist, Andrew founded Andigo New Media to help firms find a more strategic and productive mix of tools that genuinely support online brand goals over time. With a passion for true collaboration and meaningful consensus, his work touches social media, search-engine optimization, and email marketing, among other components. He views is primary goal as encouraging engagement. Getting an audience involved in your story requires solid information architecture, a great user experience, and compelling content. A dash of common sense doesn’t hurt, either. Andrew has presented at Social Media Week NY and WordCampNYC, among other events, on content marketing and web-development topics. His technology writing appears on the Andigo blog, in a monthly column on Biznology.com, and for print and online publications like The New York Enterprise Report, Social Media Today, and GSG Worldwide’s publications LinkedIn & Business, Facebook & Business, and Tweeting & Business. Andrew graduated with a B.A. in Philosophy from Bucknell University. He engages in a range of community volunteer work and is an avid fly fisherman and cyclist. He also loves collecting meaningless trivia. (Did you know the Lone Ranger made his mask from the cloth of his brother's vest after his brother was killed by "the bad guys?")

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