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Personalization is no longer optional for businesses or consumers. According to McKinsey, 71% of customers expect personalized experiences, and fast-growing companies are reaping the rewards for their efforts, pulling in 40% more revenue from personalization than competitors.

Despite these glowing statistics, Gartner reports that 63% of marketers struggle with personalization. In fact, Twilio Segment found that Just 24% of businesses say they are successful at it.

If you haven’t quite nailed your personalization efforts—whether for account-based marketing or otherwise—this guide is for you. In it, I'll cover the strategy, tools, and tactics you need to individualize your user experience.

What Is A Personalization Strategy?

A personalization strategy is the method you use to target (or retarget) potential customers through customized messaging that speaks directly to their specific interests, demographics, and behavioral characteristics.

The latest account-based marketing (ABM) software makes it easier than ever to personalize your marketing. So easy, in fact, that it’s tempting to skip the planning stages and jump straight into launching campaigns. But, there’s a problem: effective personalization campaigns depend entirely on your target audience. Without a proper strategy, they can fail.

To ensure success, make sure your strategy defines:

  1. The specific audience groups you want to reach.
  2. Each group’s behaviors, preferences, and unique needs.
  3. Messaging and product offerings that will resonate most with each group.

Whatever personalization approach you choose, make sure to develop it jointly with the sales and marketing teams if you’re planning to run ABM campaigns.

Personalization vs Segmentation

When you segment your audience, you’re grouping it into smaller subsets of related contacts. Personalization is the step that follows: reaching out to your segments with relevant messaging.

For example, let’s say you run an accounting SaaS. Your CRM is full of data from both small businesses and the accountants who help them. An obvious place to start is by creating small business and accountant segments to make sure you’re not sending basic “how-to” emails to accountants (or worse, complicated tax updates to small businesses).

Once you’ve got your basic segments defined, you can group contacts based on more granular data like their job title or the type of software they use.

After you have an intimate understanding of your audience’s characteristics and have segmented accordingly, personalization becomes much easier. It can be as simple as sending different content to different audience segments, but it can also encompass advanced tactics like dynamic content recommendations, individualized advertising, and even AI-powered personalized ads and videos.

How To Build A Personalized Marketing Strategy

how to build a personalized marketing strategy
Building a personalization strategy starts with understanding if it's the right approach for you.

1. Consider if it's the right approach

The value of personalized marketing is well-documented: McKinsey reports that 76% of consumers say personalization is a key brand consideration factor, and 78% say it makes them more likely to repurchase. For companies, personalization regularly boosts revenue by 10-15%.

Still, it’s easy to do personalization wrong—especially if you don’t have enough data to pull it off. Sending messages to unreceptive customers is a turnoff: Twilio Segment says 77% of customers are annoyed when they get notifications for promos that don’t interest them. And Deloitte says that overall, more than 50% of customers say that the personalization they receive tends to feel “off target” and doesn’t meet their needs.

The solution? Make sure you have:

  • Robust customer data
  • The ability to create detailed customer segments
  • A tech stack that makes it easy to individualize your messaging

 If you don’t yet have enough data to do personalization well, hold off—for now.

2. Start with data

Gathering customer data isn’t as easy as it might sound. According to Twilio Segment, 43% of marketers say collecting accurate customer data for personalization is their brand’s top challenge. Changing privacy regulations are another factor; third party data sources are becoming a scarce resource post-GDPR. Due to this uncertainty and change, a Gartner survey found 60% of marketing leaders find it challenging to balance data collection with privacy concerns.

You’ll want to collect data like:

  • Demographic: The basics, like email, location, and job title.
  • Firmographic: Company name, industry, and size of company.
  • Behavioral: Data based on your visitors’ actions, like page visits and link clicks.
  • Technographic: Your audience’s current software tools and usage habits.

Once you have a comprehensive set of data, you can start using it to segment and personalize your audience even further.

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3. Segment audiences

Despite a clear desire for personalization from customers—and the advantages of personalization for companies—Salesforce reports that 61% of customers feel most companies just treat them as a number. To avoid that outcome, take a detailed and intentional approach to segmentation.

Your primary goal should be for your audience to feel like you truly “get” them when they see your messaging. By segmenting your audience, you can reach them with individualized messaging that truly resonates.

It might be helpful to break your segmenting into two buckets:

  1. Identity: Start by segmenting based on big-picture variables like industry, buyer needs, and job title.
  2. Timing: Give your messaging a better chance of reaching customers at the right time by segmenting using journey stage, intent, and behavior.

The latest marketing CRM software and email automation tools will make this process easier; if your current tech stack doesn’t support segmentation and personalization, consider switching.

4. Consider the customer journey and touchpoints

When you think of personalization, what comes to mind first? If you’re like me, you think of emails and targeted ads. But the world of personalized marketing is vast. Your goal should be to build an omni-channel personalization strategy that covers the whole customer journey.

Some key areas to incorporate personalization include:

  • Awareness: Targeted ads, personalized web content, recommendations
  • Consideration: Product recommendations
  • Intent: Dynamic landing pages, targeted emails
  • Retention: Personalized cross-sell/upsell campaigns

Remember that each of the individual customer personas you create will have a slightly different journey. To maximize the effectiveness of your personalization campaigns and take your best shot at a proper one to one marketing approach, create a customer journey map for each of them.

5. Measure, analyze, and optimize

Measuring marketing campaigns is harder than it used to be. User journeys are complex; it can be hard to identify what “counts” as a conversion, as well as where precisely that conversion came from.

To understand if your personalization campaigns are working, you need to:

  • Establish benchmarks
  • Decide which KPIs and metrics to track
  • Set up data tracking and measurement systems
  • Experiment using multivariate and A/B testing

As with all marketing efforts, personalization is an ongoing task and requires continuous improvement (and cutting your losses). Some campaigns will fail immediately; others will get less effective over time. Make sure to measure, test, and tweak accordingly.

Personalization Tactics And Case Studies

personalization tactics for b2b marketing
There are several different personalization tactics you can use in your B2B marketing strategy.

Content recommendations

If you’ve ever watched Netflix, you know exactly how content recommendation engines work. (Interesting tidbit: 80% of the content users view on Netflix comes from those recommendations, according to Wired). Content personalization is clearly influential—but what does it mean in a B2B context?

B2B content recommendations use AI and machine learning (plus firmographic, demographic, and technographic data) to serve up relevant content to users. Most frequently, you’ll see this take the shape of a blog or content library; as users browse, a dynamic content recommendation engine suggests articles, case studies, and videos that might be interesting to them. Email is another common channel for content recommendations.

Case Study:

Blackboard, an education technology company, used a dynamic content recommendation engine to improve the “bingeability” of their website assets (ie, the tendency to view lots of content in a single sitting). Spoiler: it worked! After six months, Blackboard found that visitors who used the personalized content recommendations viewed nearly 4x more pages and stayed on the site 8.7X longer than other visitors.

Product recommendations

As with content recommendations, most of us intuitively understand how product recommendations worked because we’ve been trained by big B2C firms like Amazon. But B2B buyers aren’t as different as you might assume: research from McKinsey suggests that 35% of B2B buyers are willing to spend $500,000 or more in a single online transaction.

B2B product recommendation engines can guide prospects toward the product offerings (and cross-sells/upsells) that best fit their needs.

Case Study:

Dakota Supply Group, a wholesale industrial equipment distributor, built a product recommendations engine powered by years of its customers’ purchase history (as well as their behavior and account data). The result? A personalized buying experience that—just 30 days after launch—was driving the customer decision-making process for one in 33 orders.

Landing pages

While marketers have a long history of personalizing email content, personalizing landing pages tends to be more challenging; it’s hard to know as much about a website visitor as you can about a contact that’s already in your CRM.

In recent years, software has made the job easier. Landing page tools like Instapage and Unbounce are purpose-built to personalize the experience for users. They make it easy to tailor your landing page content, call-to-action, and offers based on variables like the user’s location and referral source.

Case Study:

Atlantic Relocation Systems, a moving, shipping, and storage company, used Instapage to personalize its landing pages to each user’s geographic region, helping customers quickly see the services most relevant to them. Customers were shown personalized ads based on their geography and then sent to relevant landing pages. As a result of the campaign, conversions increased by 198% and cost per acquisition dropped by 55%.

Customized email marketing

A decade or two ago, brands could get away with blasting generic messages out to their lists. Today, consumers have email fatigue. But within your customers’ crowded email inboxes, there’s one strategy that still works: personalization. Segmented email marketing initiatives can boost earnings by 760%, according to Campaign Monitor.

Personalization can take many forms: you can tweak send times based on your customer’s engagement patterns (or time zone), tweak your copy, and adjust CTAs. Most important of all, though, is using proper segmentation so your emails only land in the inboxes of people who want to receive them.

Case Study:

The Remote Company, a SaaS development agency, used MailerLite to send campaigns according to each recipient’s timezone. This boosted open rates to 51% (previously, the average open rate had been 37%). The Remote Company also used email segmentation to send personalized content to subsets of users. Campaigns that used segmentation saw an increase in click-to-open rates of 50%.

Video experiences

A few years ago, creating personalized videos was a time-consuming manual process. Today, AI tools enable you to personalize videos at scale in all kinds of ways. For example, you can run personalized 1:1 video prospecting campaigns that use AI to individualize the message for each recipient.

Case Study:

Uniform, a visual workspace for developers, used an AI-powered platform called HeyGen to run a sales outreach campaign using personalized videos. They created engaging outreach videos using lifelike avatars, which boosted sales by 38%. The campaign also saved their sales team’s time, since videos were created 81% faster.

Social media advertising

For years, you’ve been able to use social media to target ads to hyper-specific audiences. But the advent of AI and machine learning—in conjunction with account-based marketing—has opened new doors for B2B marketing. Now, you can display LinkedIn ads specifically to (for example) HR managers at North American companies with more than 500 employees.

Case Study:

Nixon Medical, an apparel provider for healthcare companies, used personalized marketing to drive a 200% increase in accounts engaged and a 47% increase in targeted accounts reached. Here’s what the campaign looked like: product-focused ads were specifically shown to outpatient healthcare office managers in Nixon Medical’s markets. This approach of focusing on high-value prospects paid off, resulting in a boost in revenue and brand recognition.

Automation

Personalized campaigns have a slew of ingredients: data collection, content management, and campaign triggers (just to name a few). Marketing automation tools bring all of this together, streamlining repetitive tasks and making sure customers get the right message at the right time.

Common uses of marketing automation software include welcome email series, sending specific content to leads based on their behavior, and personalizing customer messages.

Case Study:

Momentive, the maker of SurveyMonkey, a survey tool, used HubSpot’s digital marketing automation tools to boost the efficiency of their lead qualifying operation by 90%. The old system had over 20 lead qualifying processes; the new system, driven by marketing automation, reduced that number to just two, as well as reducing the number of website forms by 90%.

Best Personalization Tools And Platforms

The best personalization tools and platforms include marketing CRM software and ABM software.

With quite literally thousands of MarTech tools available, choosing the right ones for your needs isn’t easy. Here’s the core tech stack you need to start:

Marketing CRM software

Marketing Customer Relationship Management software combines various aspects of customer engagement, sales, and marketing strategies into a single platform. The purpose of marketing CRM software is to enable you to tailor your marketing efforts based on customer preferences and behavior, fostering more personalized and effective marketing campaigns.

Some of the best marketing CRM software options include:

  1. SharpSpring
  2. Creatio
  3. Intercom

Account-based marketing software

Account-based marketing software (aka ABM software) is a specialized tool designed for executing and managing marketing strategies focused on high-value customer accounts. This software provides analytics and insights on account interactions, helping you tailor your approach, build stronger relationships, and drive sales with your most important clients.

Some of the best ABM software options include:

  1. Vainu
  2. 6sense
  3. DemandBase

Email marketing software

Email marketing software is a digital tool designed for creating, sending, tracking, and optimizing email marketing campaigns. It helps you to efficiently reach and engage your audience through mass emails, while offering features like customizable templates, audience segmentation, automated responses, and detailed analytics.

Some of the best email marketing software options include:

  1. BombBomb
  2. Viewed
  3. Dubb

Social media marketing software

Social media marketing software helps you to manage and optimize your social media activities. It encompasses functionalities for scheduling posts, analyzing social media traffic, engaging with audiences, and tracking performance metrics. It can be particularly insightful when it comes to understanding audience preferences, aiding you in your personalization efforts.

Some of the best social media marketing software options include:

  1. Loomly
  2. Agorapulse
  3. HubSpot

Marketing automation software

This tool manages marketing processes and multifunctional campaigns across multiple channels automatically. The purpose of marketing automation software is to streamline and automate marketing tasks, such as email marketing, social media posting, and ad campaigns, making these processes more efficient. Think of it as a smoother way to carry your personalization efforts across various types of marketing campaigns.

Some of the best marketing automation software options include:

  1. SimpleTexting
  2. Ahrefs
  3. EngageBay

The Future Is Personal

A study by McKinsey asked consumers about their personalized interactions with brands. Here’s what customers said they actually want:

  • “Give me relevant recommendations I wouldn’t have thought of myself”
  • “Remind me of things I want to know but might not be keeping track of”
  • “Know me no matter where I interact with you”
  • “Talk to me when I’m in ‘shopping mode’”

As you kick off an overhaul of your personalization efforts, the temptation may be to look at your data and MarTech tools, figure out what they’re capable of, and then design something. Resist that instinct. Instead, start with your customers and prospects: figure out what personalization efforts will add the most value for them—and then start building!

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By Ryan Kane

Ryan Kane has been researching, writing about and improving customer experiences for much of his career and in a wide variety of B2B and B2C contexts, from tech startups and agencies to a manufacturer for Fortune 500 clients.