You know how Amazon always seems to know what you want to buy before you do and then shows you those things right on their homepage? Or how Netflix knows just the show for your weekend TV binge? Or how any other company that seems to always know what you’re interested in and shows that exact thing to you?
That’s personalization at its finest.
In this consumer-centric world we live in, it’s becoming an essential - and expected - element of a successful marketing strategy.
Before we get into the why, let’s level set so we’re all on the same page.
There are almost as many definitions of personalization as there are marketers, but it really boils down to this: Personalization is the communication tactic where you, the marketer, utilizes what you know about your audience (broadly or through an individual’s behavior) to enhance their experience and make them feel like your message is designed just for them. There are different levels of sophistication when it comes to personalization, but you don’t have to be Amazon to join the party. In fact, don’t wait to jump in. The success of your content marketing strategy depends on it. Here’s why.
Consumers demand personalization
Fifty-one percent of consumers expect that by 2020 companies will anticipate their needs and make relevant suggestions before they make contact (Salesforce). Consumers maybe don’t know they are demanding “personalization”, but after experiencing it with the big brands, they aren’t satisfied with anything less. Mass marketing is a thing of the past. Sure, you can still communicate to the masses, but not with the same message for everyone. Mass marketing as we once knew it is just noise now and it won’t help you accomplish your business goals.
Personalization is more effective
These stats speak for themselves...
- 78% of U.S. Internet users said personally relevant content from brands increases their purchase intent (One Spot).
- Marketing campaigns without content relevancy have an 83% lower response rate (Constellation Research).
- Personalization reduces acquisition costs as much as 50%, lifts revenues by 5-15%, and increases the efficiency of marketing spend by 10-30%. (McKinsey & Company)
You’ll fall behind with your digital marketing if you don’t
It would be bad advice to say, “Use this tactic because your competitor is.” But when the vast majority of companies are maintaining or increasing investments into personalization (Evergage) and your consumers are expecting it, you’re falling behind if you aren’t personalizing content.
The question at this point is not so much of “why”, but “why not”. If you can’t come up with a great reason to exclude personalization from your content strategy, get started.
Getting started with a content marketing strategy
If you feel like your entire content marketing strategy could use a boost, here are some building blocks of content strategy you can asses. Personalization is a big world with endless opportunities, so we suggest starting with building solid buyer personas and mapping out their journeys. Once you understand your audience you can start building custom elements of personalization into your content and schedule.
1. Know Your Audience
Developing your buyer personas (or ideal customer profiles), and documenting the typical buyer’s journey will help you develop a content map that corresponds to the journey and the personas. Start with documenting the demographics of your target audience. From there, take your understanding a step further by asking who they are. What questions/concerns does your audience have? What do they enjoy? What frustrates them? Why would they benefit from your product/service? What motivates them? What causes them to hesitate? What factors do they consider when making a purchase? What problems of theirs are your solving?
Personas should be constantly evolving as you glean more insight from conversations, feedback loops, and analytics. Get to know your personas like you know your friends. A deeper understanding will make your marketing stronger, your business more successful, and your customers happier. And who doesn’t want that?
2. Know Your Content
Now that you have identified your persona, their profiles, buying questions, concerns related to your product/service, take inventory of your current content that addresses those concerns/questions.
Though the audit process can be tedious, it will empower your contributors to create more targeted, more valuable, and more effective content. Getting a handle on your current content makes you aware of your content gaps—the important answers to your buyers' questions at the various stages of the sales/engagement funnel. What is your audience looking for that you’re not currently providing? What additional value can you bring to your persona through content development? Again, the better you know your persona, the better you’ll be able to create content that feels customized to them.
3. Know Your Content Schedule
What is the first thing you do when you schedule a meeting? You create a calendar invite. Calendars keep you on track and ensure you don't miss an important meeting or opportunity.
Similarly, a content calendar is one of the most important pieces of your content marketing strategy. The problem with content marketing calendars is that one size does not fit all and what works for one team may not work for another.
There are plenty of templates you can download, or simply use a Google Doc. My suggestion is to start simple—don't over complicate it. What you really need to get your head around is the content you have planned for release, the format, and the author. Start with a few weeks or few months and once you’ve found your flow begin planning further out.
Go forth and strategize
Quality content not only shows your customers that you know your business, it also creates a sense of trustworthiness, increases your rank in search engines, and if done right helps "fill the funnel." Personalization takes the user experience a step further.
Though there are other techniques involved in building a robust content marketing strategy (SEO, analytics reporting, competitor research, and user testing, to name a few) the journey begins with one step. Start small if you need to, just be sure to start. If you’re not sure where to start with your strategy or what tools to use, we’d love to talk with you about the opportunities available with Acquia’s customer experience solutions and other solutions.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published on April 13, 2013, and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.