Marketing & CX Strategy

Let’s Get Personal: Personalization in Marketing Is Less Daunting than You Think

01 Dec 2016, Carl Agers

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Virtually every digital marketer agrees that creating personalized and highly relevant digital experiences will drive results. That opinion is backed up by data, too: A recent study just confirmed that personalization is key to the success of top-performing marketers. Complexity, time, and resources are the primary reasons brands delay implementing a personalization strategy, and that delay can and will cost them in the long run. So, let’s demystify this process a bit and show just how attainable personalization can be.


Start small

The reality is that personalization doesn’t have to be a herculean effort. Like most things in the digital marketing world, promises of amazing solutions and results get overblown, and everyone starts chasing the perfect solution. Instead of starting with a comprehensive personalization strategy that requires thousands of hours of planning, new business processes and support from large cross-functional teams, start small, learn fast, and quickly reap the benefits of a simple personalization strategy. For example, can you divide your website audience into two easily identified core audiences? If so, it’s pretty straightforward to serve up a personalized home page to those two segments. Are you running a particular campaign right now? Personalizing your website so that people who have seen your campaign will have a seamless experience from, say, the email they clicked in their inbox to the first thing they see on your website is not rocket science.



To launch a personalization strategy, focus on containing your approach to one or two experiences. For example, if your primary engagement point is the hero area of your home page, then start there. However, because certain politics arise when you tweak a home page, secondary pages offer a safer place to start. For many of our clients, product pages or solutions areas represent the biggest opportunity for impact and therefore a great place to start. Either way, thinking smaller and acting lean will start the process and deliver a quick return on efforts that can justify a larger effort down the road.


Keep it simple

Beyond attempting to personalize too much, it’s also easy to get caught in a never-ending planning cycle addressing every possible user story, KPI, and requirement. Instead, adopt two principles. First, the ever-important KISS principle. Always take the shortest approach. Second, focus on the five W’s (What, Who, Where, Why, When) as the core to defining and executing a lean personalization strategy. Pay particular attention to the order of these, as it is different from the typical order – and for good reason. Each step builds on the previous step.


The Five W’s


Define the one thing you need to accomplish. Here’s a hint: It’s not always a digital success metric but rather a business goal. For example, if you’re selling enterprise solutions, your primary purpose may be to cultivate actionable leads for your inside sales team. Whatever you choose, make it something that everyone in your organization already agrees is a success metric. You will not want to introduce a new metric or measurement criteria in the first step.


Not all site visitors are the same, hence the need for personalization. However, we often tend to treat all visitors as if they are part of the same journey. To focus your personalization strategy, you will want to define an initial audience set that maps to the goals you established in the previous stage. Focusing on repeat visitors allows you to create and present content based on their previous visit. Or, if you’re running campaigns, you can target your audience by campaign segments. It will be much easier to define content to customize when you narrow the focus by audience type.


In some cases, visitor location is a critical factor. Start by ensuring prospective customers that have already been reached by your sales team receive a corresponding message. Other organizations, mobile users, or those from specific geographies, may represent important segments. In either case, if you can simplify your content approach by targeting information by location or origination, take it. If not, use this segmentation variable as part of your data collection within analytics to see if there is value in further segmentation later.


If you can capture why a visitor has engaged with your site, it can be a powerful way to present content. Visitors at the beginning of their journey often use high-level search terms or click on elements like “how it works.” Their behavior is very different than a later-stage visitor, whose intent is to understand things like pricing or specific feature comparison. If your goal is to deliver actionable sales leads, personalizing content for a visitor that engages with pricing or feature comparisons offers an excellent opportunity to provide relevant content and enhance the lead. If this is a repeat visit, presenting a personalized offer in the pricing section can help gauge purchase intent.


It is important to understand when, and at what point in the customer journey, to begin personalizing content. We are often compelled to start at the first touchpoint, however by understanding the who, where and why it should become very clear when to deliver personalized content. Assume for a moment the “Who” are known visitors based on their campaign engagement and the “where” is from a new geography you’re growing. If you can then discern the reason they are visiting is to compare your product to their current product or to a competitor, now is the perfect time to promote an analyst report or an ROI calculator. Presenting this information sooner, while interesting, might not move the prospect down the funnel nearly as efficiently. Of course, timing is everything, and that adage holds especially true with content personalization. It is also how you deliver content that feels appropriate and avoids the creep-factor that personalization can sometimes elicit.

Managed momentum

Building a focused plan will not only kick start your personalization, but also it will help you minimize your expenses and time to deliver results. Momentum and efficiency will become your best friends. Once you begin to demonstrate results from personalization, it becomes much easier to justify additional support and resources, creating natural growth. Being lean throughout will help ensure continuity of your program when the inevitable questions arise on which marketing programs should receive more investment. Ultimately, a successful strategy relies on all moving parts working as they should. Start small, don’t feel overwhelmed, and keep moving towards your goal.