A tactical guide to personalization | Turtl
Everything you need to know to start and scale personalized content operations
guide to personalization
Everything you need to know to start and scale your personalized content operations
of consumers in 2019 only engaged with marketing messages that were tailored to their specific interests. (Source: SmarterHQ)
**If you’re not personalizing your content,
you better get started! Here's a helping hand.**
*Chapter One* How to break down your audience
How personal are you going to get?
To target and speak to people differently, you need to decide how you’re going to split them up. This is essential, as it determines the degree of personalization you'll need to build into your content. Here are your options:
The broadest way to split your audience is through segmentation. This is where you use top-level demographics like industry, job function, and geography to steer your content strategy. This is a good place to start while you gather more specific data about your audience.
You can get a little more defined by building customer personas. These include more specific information on the common pain points, priorities, and needs of segment subsets. For instance, in our case, we sell to marketers and salespeople - two different segments. With marketing, there are lots of different types of people with different priorities – from the CMO to content writers – who we want to build relationships with. We flesh those roles out into personas through user research and by looking at trends in data on what content different roles interact with.
3. Buyer journey
When you're targeting a persona, you can (and probably already do) get even more specific by personalizing content based on which stage they're at in the buyer journey. Contextual data, like which types of pages on your website a person has read, can give you the insight you need to understand where they are and what their intent is. You can then send or surface the content that best serves that person's indicated needs to encourage them to progress to the next stage in their journey.
If you're in B2B sales or marketing then you're likely to be exploring account-based marketing (ABM). This approach requires you to create content and communications that are specific to each target account (business) and the interests, context, and needs that the organization has.
You can do one-to-one account-based personalization or one-to-few. The former means you specifically tailor your content and communications to a single target account. The latter - one to few - means you tailor your content and communications to speak to a few accounts at once. This is less time-intensive but can be equally effective if you have a number of accounts that face similar contexts and challenges.
Individual content personalization is the most granular way to tailor your output. You create and build custom content specific to one particular person’s unique context, interests, and pain points. Your output is as relevant to them as it can be and as such far more difficult for them to ignore.
You really need to know that person to pull this off. Or at least your CRM system does. It can be incredibly time intensive and costly to do personalization at this level beyond personalized emails and offers, which many of us will be accustomed to. But new technology can help.
The more interactions you have with a lead or prospect, the more you’ll learn about them, which will allow you to increasingly tailor your next interaction with them. This can be automated, but we'll get to that.
To what degree do you currently split your audience for targeting?
- By segment
- By persona
- By stage of buyer journey
- By account
- By individual
*Chapter Two* What to personalize and when
Where data and creativity collide
There are lots of different ways you can use personalization along the digital buyer journey, and lots of different assets you can personalize. Before you worry about formats, though, you need to focus on data and workflows.
There are three types of personalization, broadly speaking:
This one requires the user to make active choices that in turn impact the experience they have. They're in control, and very aware of the personalization at play. They need to be motivated enough, though, to use it. Product filters are perhaps the most common examples of this.
The second type is overt, but passive for the user. They can clearly see that they are being presented with a personalized experience, but they're not actively controlling it. It may directly reference them, feature information about past interactions they've had, or feature something clearly custom to them.
With the third type, the user could be entirely oblivious to the fact that they're receiving a personalized experience, but they do or should feel that they're getting a very relevant and convenient one, which keeps them tuned in.
What all three have in common is a user-centricity that relies on you getting to know your audience.
No personalization without data
In order to get started with the 'what' and 'when' of personalization, you need to be capturing some kind of meaningful information about your customer.
With active personalization, you're explicitly asking them for that information at the point of interaction, which requires a certain degree of buy-in on their part. For passive and unstated, you're using the information you've already captured or discovered to provide a convenient and valuable experience.
As a buyer moves down the funnel, use the most contextually informative data you can get hold of. Like which products they've spent the most time browsing, or which topics they engage with the most. Pair that with demographics, like industry, or location, and you'll start to have the insights needed to create meaningfully personalized digital interactions.
Your organization will likely be capturing a lot of data about the people who interact with your brand at different touchpoints. This data is a goldmine for your personalization efforts.
Capturing all this data is step one, then you need to decide what to do with it. What are the behavioral events you're able to capture that will steer how and when a particular content piece or offer is sent out or surfaced to the user? You'll need to define rules and criteria at each stage, and create the appropriate workflows within your automation platforms and content management systems.
As soon as someone interacts with a digital product you own - including your website - they reveal information that you can use to enhance their experience.
When starting out, it's totally ok to use common sense to shape hypothesis for this, which you can then return to and refine based on performance data down the line. You'll probably need to do this for top-of-funnel personalization, where you don't yet know much about the person who is interacting with your brand.
Lower down the funnel, you have more data and can be far more precise. This is where most personalization of the non-automated (and therefore resource-heavy) variety has taken place. In B2B, Sales reps tend to reach out to potential buyers directly and manually pull together customized pitches and proposals. In fact, until pretty recently, Sales were the store clerks of the B2B world – they built your company's customer relationships. These days your website is your storefront, clerk, shopping aisles, and product catalog all in one. And you have the power to present it all in different ways depending on who walks through the "door".
Is your data house in order?
- Yes, it practically sparkles 💪
- We're getting there 🤞
- Are you trying to wind me up? 😭
- A data what now? 🤨
Chatbots are the new store clerks
In the last chapter, we talked about splitting your audience based on where they are in the buyer journey. You can create a personalized experience for people at different stages of their journey, even at points where you don't have much information about them yet.
As soon as someone interacts with a digital product you own - including your website - they reveal information that you can use to enhance their experience. That's assuming you have some kind of tracking set up, like Google Analytics (GA). If you do, then you're already collecting information about a user when they land on your content:
- How they got there (source)
- Their general location (based on IP)
- Which kind of device they're using
- Whether they've visited before (since they last cleared their cookies)
And so on.
You'll also know which page they're reading and can (with the right tool) work out in real-time from the contents of that page roughly what their intentions are for visiting.
Intelligent chatbots can help users find answers to their questions, entertain them, and collect useful information for you to use for further personalization when the user returns.
What can you do with this information? Conversational marketing. With clever chatbots like those provided by our friends over at Drift, you can use the above to personalize what the bot says to a user, where it suggests they look next and to nudge them into a conversation that further personalizes their experience.
A landing page just for you
You might already be using certain tools that serve up a different version of your brand's website depending on a visitor's IP address. This is pretty common in e-commerce, for instance. But there are tools out there now that let you take personalized website experiences a step further. You can pull your content together into a custom landing page for a given persona, account, or individual automatically. This is great for doing account-based paid advertising campaigns at scale, for instance.
Personalizing content at scale
Speaking of scale, how about going one step further than landing pages, and creating personalized thought leadership at scale? Or customized product collateral at scale? Content automation tools like Turtl make it possible to configure long-form content for personalization. This makes it possible to autogenerate custom product explainers that are uniquely curated and personalized for each of your target accounts. Or create custom thought leadership reports where each and every chapter included is highly relevant to the reader.
Put your face on it
Video isn't just a great format for your top and mid-funnel activities. Personalized videos have taken off in a big way in the SDR and Sales circles. It's never been easier to create and use personalized videos at scale thanks to providers like Vidyard, and it can take your email or proposal from a bland dime-a-dozen experience to a warm, attention-grabbing relationship starter.
*Chapter Three * Create a dynamic content library
No more reinventing the wheel
Personalizing content in any major way calls for you to break your content into discreet modules so it can be used dynamically - just like Lego bricks
Okay, we're going to detour into Lego for a minute, bear with. Forgetting for a second about the agony of standing on it barefoot, Lego brings a lot of joy to a lot of people. Why?
Well for one, there are no real rules. There are constraints, sure, like the shapes and colours of the pieces in your collection. And there are instructions if you want to create a predefined build, like the Millennium Falcon. But you are absolutely free to fit your pieces together in whichever way you want and build custom creations. This kind of control feels good.
How do you feel about Lego
- Lego is life
- Lego = evil foot torture
- Stop talking about Lego
Who's in control?
Control happens to be one of the underlying reasons personalization is effective in digital comms, according to a study from the University of Texas. Even if a personalized experience doesn't involve the recipient making any actual choices, something that is overtly tailored to you gives your brain the impression that it's more in control. And people feel much more positive towards you when they feel like they're in control of the situation.
But how you deliver personalized content is about more than just presenting tailored experiences to your readers. It's about equipping people across your company with the ability to quickly and easily create customized collateral for a variety of contexts. Again, control comes into play. Your content and creative team want to control the messaging, branding, and information being used publicly, while your colleagues around the business want to control what's being sent to their contact lists.
Returning to our Lego comparison: The design team at Lego HQ control which blocks are made available to us users, and how they fit together. We play within those constraints, but control which blocks we choose - selecting the most suitable and relevant ones for the project at hand. This is what your content operations could look like with a modular content approach.
Modular content involves you creating components or modules of content that can be used in all sorts of contexts and content builds. The benefits of this approach include:
- Less time spent recreating the wheel
- With the modules already signed off, the content created from them doesn't need to be
- The ability to deliver personalized content quickly and easily
- Avoidance of version control problems
Modular content strategies allow businesses to update and manage content centrally. HQ can make sure everything's accurate and consistent, and remotely update all instances where a module appears in assets sent out across divisions of the business.
1. Define what modules look like
One of the first questions you have to ask is ‘what exactly does a module of content look like for us?’ A module should be something self-contained, so it makes sense out of context, but small enough in scope to be applicable to a variety of channels, audiences, and contexts. Like a product description, or an industry-specific chapter of a report. Set requirements for modules so content creators are aligned on what they need to do.
Once you have a definition of what a module is for your particular strategy, you can begin to either produce content by building it up from smaller modules, or by breaking up and adapting existing resources into independent components ready to use elsewhere.
2. Create a user-based tagging system
One thing to do before you start creating and publishing anything is to establish a taxonomy for how modules are going to be tagged within your library of content. This is absolutely necessary for the creation of any kind of automation but also helps users across your business locate and use what they need.
of content, in general, ends up wasted because people don’t find it or use it
3. Create your core content
You can take a modular approach to any format, so long as you bake it into the entire planning and production process - particularly for more costly formats, like video ads. This goes back to how you've defined your modules. Within each one, you can also determine whether certain elements can be personalized at the point of distribution - such as dynamically adding in the recipient's name, a custom note or video, an image of their website, or references to their key competitors.
For long-form written content, especially key documents like product overviews and thought leadership reports, you can build out the core material as a single project. Write each chapter to work independently, and then tag each module to link it up to your decisioning mechanism or make it available to anyone building content from your module library.
A practical example
Say you’ve created a report on the marketing-finance rift. It's great for anyone who wants an in-depth guide, and the time to invest in reading it. But it's not ideal for readers who are short on time or just looking for a specific bit of analysis.
You've created the report with a modular content approach, so you can break out and tag each chapter to stand on its own:
- ‘Improve transparency with better data tracking’
- ‘Involve finance in strategic decision-making’
- ‘Less emotion, more behavioral economics’
These, shorter pieces, can then be targeted and personalized for subsets of your audience. You've also equipped the content with dynamic fields to allow for personalization within the body copy.
Say your sales team is pulling together a resource for a client who is particularly interested in data tracking. Without having to edit a thing, they can pull in the relevant chapter from your report into their custom resource, and adapt the title to reference the client: "How [client] can improve transparency with better data tracking."
What do you most want to use personalization for?
- Pitches & proposals
- Product brochures
- Onboarding documents
- Landing pages
- Recruitment brochures
- Thought leadership
4. Maintain your library
The creation and maintenance of your content library is an ongoing effort, but with the right tools, every change you make to a module can be pushed live automatically everywhere it's in use. This means you can easily iterate, update, and replace elements remotely and in one go, without having to reissue the full materials to the satellite teams that are using the content, or manually update every webpage.
*A checklist* Scaling your operations
People, processes, and technology to scale your personalization efforts
A checklist for scaling personalization
⬜️ Core content (module) owners
⬜️ Automation workflow owners
⬜️ Frontline content distributors
⬜️ Customer experience owners
Executing personalized customer experiences at scale requires clear roles and for teams from across the business to work together. No silos allowed. Agility is key, and scaling agile initiatives well requires experts working across the customer journey to be brought together regularly to evaluate performance and pivot as needed.
⬜️ Module creation guidelines
⬜️ Module review & sign off process
⬜️ Trigger mapping
⬜️ Performance review process
What are the behavioral events you're able to capture that will steer how and when a particular communication or offer is sent out? When starting out it's totally ok to use common sense and hypothesis for this, which you can then return to and refine based on performance data down the line. This can range from a complex centralized "brain" that automates decisions and distribution to a tool that helps frontline staff shape an offer or piece of content.
⬜️ Content creation tools
⬜️ Content automation tools
⬜️ CRM or other central customer data hub
⬜️ Performance tracking tools
You need tools that capture the data required for decisions and triggers. You also need tools to support the creation and distribution of personalized content across digital channels. The latter depends on the format and nature of the personalization you would like to do, but the wrong tools, or lack of them, is the biggest barrier to scaling the personalization of communications beyond emails and webpages, which in the B2B space is where the real value lies.
✅ Simplified production
No design or coding skills are needed to configure dynamic, multi-media content in Turtl that is both modular and personalizable
✅ Content automation
Equip your frontline content distributors with the ability to assemble and personalize collateral in a matter of seconds, without having to edit the central documents
✅ Performance tracking
See how each individual reader interacts with your personalized documents, as well as the overall performance of your core materials