Considering Personalization in Your Content Strategy

Sep 25, 2015

Personalization is an exciting topic to a lot of marketers. The road to getting the right technology in place to execute is often a time-consuming and arduous task; leading many to be frustrated when they realize it looked simpler to execute in the software demos.

The best way to overcome any anxiety toward creating a personalization plan is to go back to the basics and ask, “How will personalization benefit our customers?” The real value of personalization is to improve a visitor’s journey. No matter what type of business you are in, you have business goals that define your marketing strategy. While the same principles hold for donations, student applications, developing loyalty, selling services or receiving donations, for the purpose of this post let’s assume your goals are based around selling more products.

What would make it easier for your customers to decide to buy? You can make it easier for the visitor to find what interests them. And you can make them more certain about their choice to part with hard earned money.

Personalization builds a relationship. Your best friend would never give you a chocolate birthday cake because they know you hate chocolate. The guy that washes your car knows a perfectly detailed car with lots of your favorite scented car freshener gets a better tip. At your favorite restaurant your server knows you and your lovey will order an appetizer and one entrée which should be served together with two plates. People are usually the most loyal to businesses that get to know them.

When you are a potential new customer in a store you appreciate a salesperson that pays attention to your signals. If you’re looking at dress shirts in solid colors, a good sales person won’t offer you patterns. If you’re walking around a car lot looking at 4-door models they probably won’t start showing you 2-door. This is what personalization does on the web. It takes cues from behaviors and information given to continually provide more relevant information or suggestions.

If you don’t already have them, define personas.

While the jury is not in total agreement on the number of manageable personas you should have, most experts recommend starting with 5 to 6. Sure you might have a legitimate reason to have more personas, the idea is to narrow down the number of buckets to make the planning, execution and maintenance manageable. But with that said, you should determine which personas generate the most revenue for your business and concentrate on them. So how do you categorize the personas? Moms, Dads, Kids? Singles, Couples, Families? CMO, CTO, CFO? Concert goers, Sports enthusiasts, Theatre lovers?

What clues can you gather?

A good place to begin mapping out personalization is to list the clues a buyer can give you about themselves, their interests or preferences: where they live, the colors they like, favorite sports team, preferred vacation destinations, favorite music genre, and the challenges they face in their profession, etc. With these you can chart out the different variables that matter to each personas buying decision.

How do you make personalization function?

How you actually set up personalization depends on the platform, but generally the principles are the same. You need to establish how you will gather clues from your visitors, which can be implicit or explicit. Implicit clues will be things like past behaviors such as pages visited or previous purchases. Explicit clues will be based on information that visitors have given you through forms (perhaps their city), or from account registration (such as information gained from Facebook sign-in like age or favorite films).

How does this all tie together?

Now you need to tie the personalization variables to pieces of content. Developing your personalization plan will often identify gaps in content. Sometimes people are surprised by how much content they need to create to benefit from personalization for each persona type. So the hidden positive in the grueling personalization execution planning, is that you may start to think more deeply about what prompts each different buyer to move closer to that buying decision. And even better, as you continue to gather information about your visitors and buyers, you’ll gain even deeper insights.