Effective Personalization Emerging As A Top Priority As B2B Brands Look To Keep Pace On Creating Relevant, Contextual Buyer Experiences

Published: February 28, 2018

Personalization in B2B marketing has been talked about for over decade, but actual execution has been limited. That is expected to change quickly and dramatically, according to several speakers at the 2018 B2B Marketing Exchange.

Given the amount of data, intelligence  and applications  now available for B2B marketers, industry experts predicted hyper-level personalization similar to what is seen in consumer marketing is the new norm.

During his keynote presentation at B2BMX, Brian Solis, Author and Analyst for the Altimeter Group, pointed out that B2B companies are not only competing with each other, they’re also competing with B2C businesses such as Uber and Tinder. Buyers now are so accustomed to receiving these unique, customer-focused experiences in their personal lives, that they demand them when they’re in their buying journey.

1solis“[Uber and Tinder] deliver experience standards and expectations that effect everything marketers do,” said Solis. “They don’t go to work and forget what they do as humans. There’s a new normal that doesn’t blur the line between B2B and B2C. They just want things personalized. More successful companies are looking and prioritizing things like understanding customers’ evolving behaviors and preferences to design more meaningful engagement opportunities.” 

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Ultimately, B2B organizations are in a unique position to evolve their marketing and sales efforts to offer a consumer-like customer experience.

“Personas and segments don’t buy your product — a human buys your product,” said Jeff Marcoux, VP of Product Strategy & Marketing at TTEC, during his keynote session. “We’ve come a long way from where we were a few years ago regarding what’s available to consumers,” he said. “New technologies are creating smarter and more engaging experiences for customers, and today’s customers want to engage with businesses in a personalized and contextual way.”

Evolving And Adapting Segments To Cater Multichannel Personalization Demands

As marketers adapt their strategies to enhance personalization efforts to a human level, an ongoing challenge is to scale that personalization to stay consistent through multiple channels.

“[Marketers] recognize that the key is to provide unique experiences across multiple touchpoints, instead of treating everyone the same,” said Karl Wirth, Co-founder and CEO of Evergage who led a Show & Tell session at B2BMX titled Writing And Publishing A Book As Part Of Your Content Marketing And Branding Strategies. “That’s the goal, but many don’t know how to execute such a strategy.”

Most B2B segmentation models are built off firmographics, which is beneficial to an extent. Experts at the event suggested that it is vital to start leveraging deeper customer insight.

“We’ve made incredible strides on the technology that allows us to create personalized experiences throughout the buying journey,” said Glen Drummond, Chief Innovation Officer at Quarry, who led a workshop at the event titled Segmentation in the Age of Customer Experience.  “But it’s time for our segmentation models to catch up. We need models of the customer that dive deeper into the people behind B2B purchases — into their behaviors, attitudes and tensions in motivation. Only then can marketers create experiences that connect and motivate buyers through their buying journey.”

Marcoux’s Four Steps To Effective Personalization

1marcouxDuring his presentation, Marcoux walked attendees through the four key areas that make, or break, personalization efforts within B2B companies:

1) Data

The priority for effective personalization is data. There is no shortage of data for B2B marketing and sales reps, and Marcoux highlighted five levels of maturity that can highlight a company’s data prowess:

  • Static: The minimum amount of data required to create static email newsletters or websites.
  • Contextual: This is the “Dear {{Name}}” level of personalization, according to Marcoux, where your taking a little bit of your data to add a sprinkle of personalization to campaigns.
  • First-Party: This is owned data that is being collected and leveraged by companies for tactics such as retargeting, Web personalization, email, social and sales.
  • Third-Party: This is purchased data — such as demo/geo, behavioral and weather data — that is used alongside first-party data to further refine targeting and personalization.
  • Data & Intelligence: This is first- and third-party data, combined with intelligence. “You’ve got to provide first-and third-party data and mix in additional intelligence from areas, such as machine learning and AI, to find a whole new level of personalization,” said Marcoux.

However, Marcoux noted that today’s B2B organizations have a way to go before they are making the most of the data that’s available to them. He highlighted research showing only 10% of companies have successfully broke down data silos and aggregated customer information.

“We’re all at varying degrees of data maturity, but the reality is that not all businesses are ready to incorporate intelligence such as AI and machine learning into their first- and third-party data,” he said. “Buyers know that they are sharing a lot of data with us, so they expect us to use it to give them the personalized experiences they require.”

2) Strategy

Marcoux noted that, from a strategy standpoint, it’s a matter of moving away from targeting everyone, to defining key segments and ultimately creating your ideal customer profile (ICP). To do that, you must be able to answer these three questions:

  • Who are my perfect customers? This involves identifying the industries with high retention and renewal rates to “help your company understand where they should be putting their focus,” according to Marcoux.
  • Where do they work? This helps identify the specific accounts where your customer is located.
  • What exactly do they do? This provides insight into the specific job description of your customer, which can help further personalize marketing and sales messaging by appealing to their specific needs and pain points.

From the ICP, Marcoux suggested moving towards identifying your total addressable market. “This includes identifying what accounts fit that profile, where they are located and how many of them are in your database,” Marcoux said. Finally, this insight can then be used to fuel ABM strategies, ultimately allowing you to “target each one by one,” according to Marcoux.

3) Tactics

Marcoux noted that the tactics that many B2B organizations are using still lack detailed personalization because, “sometimes we can’t even get basic personalization tactics right.” He highlighted a few instances where automated emails sent where merge fields did not autofill, as well as print newspapers publishing content with placeholder titles.

Whether it’s on a website, via email or through social media, it’s understandable that all these channels cannot be overhauled for more refined personalization. Marcoux added that it’s important to focus on the “tactics that will have the biggest return.”

4) Sales/CX

In the end, sales need to have the same relevant, contextual conversations that buyers have come to expect from marketing communications. However, leveraging too much data can make conversations too personalized — leading to what many buyers consider “creepy.” Marcoux noted sales must be more mindful of finding a healthy balance of personalized interactions to close deals.

“It’s a matter of how well you know your customer versus how well you should know your customer,” said Marcoux. “You have to be thoughtful of how you use the data and how you come off in the eyes of your audience.”

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