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When B2B Personalization is Too Hard to Implement

I had a conversation several weeks ago with a large data company, discussing behavior-based personalization. The VP of Marketing heard me out for a few minutes, and then said “Woah, wait a minute. So it’s personalization? I already have that.”

So I said “Oh, how’s that going? What are you seeing?”

And he said, “Well, we haven’t turned it on yet.”

As it turns out, getting the technology they purchased in their integrated suite to work is harder than the sales rep let on. There are two challenges to getting things going, getting the system properly configured and making sure there’s some content to deliver. I refer to these as the heavy lifts of personalization. 

The Two Lifts of B2B Personalization

The first is the content lift. You need to have the right content to present to the visitor. This could be as simple as small “ads” on a page template with some customer messaging. It could be as complex as fully dynamic pages where everything changes based upon persona, behavior, etc. 

Even the simple method can be trying depending on the number of cells in your personalization matrix or whether the content you’re going to present is structured or unstructured. If it’s simply swapping out one industry case study for another, no problem (as long as you have the case studies). But if it’s more complex messaging, that can be a lot of work.

The second lift can be the most challenging. IT. During the conversation with the integrated suite exec above he said that despite the four modules of the integrated suite all “working” together, there was some wiring (sales folks call this configuration) that needed to be done. The work hadn’t been prioritized relative to all the opportunities. Don’t forget the IT lift.

The Organizational Element of Implementing B2B Personalization

When you write a big contract for an integrated suite of technology everyone looks to justify the investment with some quick wins. So you turn on the things that deliver quick benefits. Analytics and campaign management are two examples of functions that can deliver insight and value very quickly.  

Your business partners in other functions are generally willing to go along with this because the priority for implementing right away is obvious due to the value. But personalization? That’s less certain. You might not see the benefit today. In fact, I know you won’t. That’s not because personalized content can’t deliver value today. It’s because B2B sales cycles are longer. The value of journey progression can be difficult to find in the short-run.

Benefit will likely be difficult to realize because you’ve got to build the dataset, learn, test. That gets deprioritized. Unless you have a pure transactional scenario where personalization benefits can be realized pretty quickly, your peers and internal suppliers don’t want to invest in the resources right away. Not just paying for the product, but also allocating the time of scarce humans to build up your content data.

How do you avoid these B2B Personalization Traps?

Personalization might take time to demonstrate value in a traditional B2B environment but it’s also an absolute necessity for keeping up with the competition. 75% of B2B buyers expect companies to “anticipate their needs and make relevant suggestions” by 2020.

Here are a couple of tips from folks who have gone down this path before you:

  1. Before you sign the purchase order, get your IT team hands-on with the tech so they know the lift. Plan and prioritize this work appropriately so there are no surprises later.
  2. Identify both the short-term and long-term content demands and make sure that you’ve got budget to accommodate both expenses.
  3. Ensure you’ve got engagement from product marketing, product management, and sales.
  4. Recognize that no matter how well you do the above, you’re not going to have enough resources to execute all your plans. Things are going to come up. It will cost more and take longer than you expect. Set expectations appropriately.

Don’t Delay. Get Started on your B2B Personalization Journey

Don’t let yourself be intimidated. There are paths forward. Best in class providers for personalization are relatively easy to deploy. At SoloSegment we’re focused on maximizing the content you already have, in a way that allows you to get personalization benefits without having to go through the heavy content lift. Our technology works automatically to avoid heavy IT lift. If you’ve stumbled trying to implement personalization or haven’t been willing to tackle it: now is the time.

Steve Zakur

With over 20 years of experience in marketing and digital technology, Steve is now CEO of SoloSegment. SoloSegment is a marketing technology company that uses machine learning and natural language processing to improve engagement and conversion for large enterprise, B2B companies.

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