B2B Marketers Use Web Personalization Strategies To Engage Buyers

Published: December 7, 2016

B2B buyers expect relevant and contextual engagement from vendors, and progressive B2B organizations such as CenturyLink, Mendix and Auction.com are seeing success by providing personalized experiences on their websites by using a mix of technology, as well as a thorough understanding of their buyer’s journey.

These marketers are delivering on buyer demands. Demand Gen Report’s 2016 B2B Buyer’s Survey Report shows that 69% of buyers rank “relevant content that speaks directly to [their] company” as the most important factor when visiting a vendor website to conduct research.

“We are at the tip of the iceberg of a period of radical personalization in B2B marketing,” said Peter Isaacson, CMO of Demandbase. “We’ve been stuck for the past couple of years in automated personalization — such as names in email subject lines — and we’re now seeing B2B marketers start to get out of that rut.”

4 Steps To Formulating A Personalization Strategy

Neil Passero, Chief Customer Officer at The Big Willow, agreed that a mix of internal and external insight is required to effectively adapt messaging and experiences for known and unknown potential customers.

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“It’s about customizing, not personalizing,” said Passero. “If you can shorten the time it takes them to get information on your site, it’s a win-win situation for you and your target audience.”

Passero highlighted four steps to formulating a personalization strategy:

  1. Make sure you have account resolution by understanding your high-value targets;
  2. Segment based on known targets and known clients. This can be by industry, company size and more;
  3. Align your products and services with these segments; and
  4. Use external intent data to enrich what you know about specific targets and accounts.

For example, CenturyLink, a global communications, hosting, cloud and IT services company, is one company that has had success with aligning personalization initiatives across multiple channels to enhance the customer experience. The company has seen a 30% increase in web traffic from key accounts after implementing a personalization strategy as part of it account-based marketing program.

With a target of enterprise-level companies, Geoffrey Kahler, Director of B2B Web Conversion and ABM at CenturyLink, and his team are tasked with trying to understand who is coming to the company’s website.

“Primarily with the website, we were trying to find how we get info about them behind the scenes to provide a personalized experience to anonymous visitors at the outset,” Kahler said.

The company implemented Demandbase after not receiving ideal results from traditional nurture initiatives. After Kahler’s team was able to identify enterprise level companies, his team segmented its target accounts based primarily on account industry — such as financial services and federal.

“We have nine home page experiences based on industry,” Kahler said. “This way we can prioritize the content that is on the site that is most relevant to that vertical.” The website also has a customization tool that enables people to put their information into the site and helps customize that experience.

“We’re tracking to see what the engagement with that content is, and whether it is generating success better than the other personalized experiences,” said Kahler. He also said that any and all information gathered is fed into Salesforce and pushed to the account reps in real-time. “This helps sales reps tailor their conversations based on the content [their buyers] are engaging with,” he said.

Effective personalization is highly dependent on your data being accurate in CRM and having content to support personalized experiences. 

“You must be thoughtful and understand the path your buyers in key segments want to take and support that,” said Heidi Bullock, Group VP of Global Marketing at Marketo. “It is not about just blindly automating a series of emails that include a first name.”

Auction.com is another great example, according to Bullock. Using Marketo, the marketing team combined the profile data on its diverse customer base — which includes major financial institutions, institutional investors, real estate professionals and individual consumers — with detailed property descriptions in the company’s asset inventory, which changes frequently, to create personalized recommendations.

The company initially used templates in Marketo to integrate content recommendations on the fly into relevant, mobile-optimized email messages. They send customers a single email message that lists the properties that match their requirements — without the company over-contacting them.

Auction.com “saw a 100% lift in click-through rates” with the new initiative, Bullock said, and the company has since expanded recommendations to the website and their ad modules.

“With each expansion, they saw performance boosts that proved data enables personalization at scale, which drives engagement and revenue,” said Bullock.

Interdepartmental Team Communication Leads To Personalized Alignment

Continued communication regarding campaign goals and messaging alignment, as well as data quality, are vital to successful personalization, according to industry thought leaders. Kahler described CenturyLink’s marketing department as three teams: the Segment team, Marcom team, and his WebOp team. The Segment team identifies prospects and establishes go-to-market strategies (identifying customers with needs and how their products meet those needs). The Marcom team develops campaigns and programs to position those products to customers with messaging for a variety of channels. The WebOp team then coordinates with the other two teams to make sure that any messaging found on the website aligns with the messaging the viewer has previously experienced.

“With interactions on the web page, we need to communicate with our Marcom team to make sure it’s a continuation of the engagement they previously received,” Kahler said. “Continuum is based on a thread, starting from the lead source.”

Testing also plays a big role in effective personalization, according to Kahler. The company leverages Optimizely for A/B testing, as well as Adobe Target to divert chunks of traffic to a different experience to gauge response.

After seeing initial success with its personalization initiatives, Kahler said the company is planning to pilot SpiderBook, a data science company that was recently acquired by Demandbase. He hopes the solution will help his team get into the individual contacts within target accounts.

Ultimately, the goal is to gain “a combination of personalized individual and overall account engagement,” Kahler said.

Mendix, a tech startup used by enterprise companies to build business applications, is an example of how effective collaboration and insight from technology can boost personalization. After implementing personalization, Mendix saw a 10% lift in content downloads, and saw its home page bounce rate drop by 6%.

With a small team in place, the company initially wanted to find a way to show relevant content to the right people when they visit Mendix’s website.

“We wanted to improve our demand generation by driving visitor engagement and creating more qualified leads,” said Ben Alvord, Web Marketing Manager at Mendix.

The company turned to Evergage to better understand and segment its website visitors based on who they are and which industries they’re from. This information was then used to deliver relevant content to its target audiences using machine learning.

Alvord said that collaboration between his team (which focuses on the website, organic and paid search), the email marketing team and the company’s event marketing team is crucial to ongoing personalization through the buying journey.

“Our teams meet once a week to stay aligned on our industry-based campaigns,” said Alvord.
“With our sales team, we have a monthly cadence where we set up a monthly game plan. Campaign managers coordinate top-level messaging within monthly campaigns and coordinate channels and deliverables within channels to stay aligned. Since we’re a small team, we’re always talking.”

Customer and prospect data is gathered from multiple sources, including Google Analytics, according to Alvord. Combined with data gathered in Marketo and Salesforce, Mendix’s reporting is gathered into weekly and monthly reports to see who converts — i.e. fills out a form — from the marketing channels and how many become MQLs.

This “ultimately leads to those that turn into deals later down the road,” Alvord said.

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