Content marketing is effective when it is targeted, relevant and curated as per customer needs. In times when we are being over communicated to, brands must move from communication to having a conversation with their audiences. Creating tailored content based on visitor habits, preferences and needs builds connections and encourages customers to engage better. It enables them to progress smoothly through the buying funnel. Ultimately, delivering personalized content throughout the customer life cycle, results in increasing the customer lifetime value.
Content personalization can cut through the noise and create the much-needed impact instantly. There are stats to prove this – 91% of the consumers are more likely to shop with brands who recognize, remember and provide relevant offers and recommendations as per the Accenture Interactive study
While we understand the need to personalize content, often it is not as easy as it sounds. 40% of marketers say their biggest challenge with personalization is linking to data-related technologies, while 34% struggle with poor data quality. (Experian). Here are just some of the challenges marketers endure when it comes to delivering personalized experiences and my take at mitigating them.
Undefined customer criterion – Customers are everywhere. There may be varied and diverse customer profiles which are hard to define and hence communicate to. They may come through different channels, may consume inconsistent format of content, and may not follow an ‘expected’ customer journey as assumed by the business. As a result, there could be no clear segments or criterion that define their profile making it harder to communicate to.
Overcoming the challenge – Start with segmenting your audiences as accurately as possible. Segment your database into smaller groups of audiences that are bound by common interests, characteristics and buying habits . Try to narrow down the criterion by uncovering more detailed information about them. This can be achieved via polls, questionnaires, contact forms on websites and other marketing channels. Collate all the information gathered to derive a detailed understanding about these audiences. Get them to give as much information as possible so you can define the main customer persona/s.
Data! – While data plays a huge role in personalization, it is important to understand where the data is coming from. There are a whole host of companies that pride on sitting on gold mines of data that is authentically collected and resold to. But is it good to buy data and then rinse and repeat your marketing? It is found that 7 out of 10 consumers are comfortable with personalization as long as companies are using their own data and not purchased. (Source: The state of personalization 2021).
One of the main challenges of personalizing content is bad quality data. Bad data is outdated data, irrelevant or just incorrect data. As a result, messages which are meant to be engaging end up being perceived as unsatisfactory resulting in unsatisfactory customer experience.
Overcoming the challenge – Overcome the data challenge by starting with what you have. Check if it is relevant and accurate. Then, analyze the data and draw your conclusions from it. Build a hypothesis from the data that is available. If it is not large enough, look towards gaining more of it, from syndicate programs and intent marketing based on the use cases that you wish to target. The channel and the format of content should be relevant to the segments that you wish to convert. This will enable you to build a healthy pipeline in the process. Intent based marketing will mean that the new data that enters your repository has had at least a few ‘touches’ from a defined set of target audience and is not just anyone completing a contact form to win a £50 Amazon voucher.
Omnichannel delivery – More recently businesses are focused on delivering customer experiences across multiple channels to engage customers with content that is delivered at the right time in the right format. But omnichannel personalization is not easy. It requires data to be synchronized across all the channels in consideration, which often sits across multiple business units across a business. So, this does not only need collaboration of data across channels but across the entire company.
Overcoming the challenge – Having a robust inter-organizational data repository or a CRM-system with definitive control mechanisms in place is key. This will enable data from different business units to flow in, get checked for duplications, tagged for easy recovery, and saved correctly. Stringent quality controls will enable teams across multiple departments to organize, save and use data. Care should be taken to avoid the ‘classic’ disconnect between sales and marketing, so all media is communicated with one another to provide a seamless customer experience.
Failure to track user intent – Collecting and holding data may only be part of a problem, because this data does go obsolete quickly – especially as soon as customers change their IP addresses, phone numbers, internet connections and more.
Overcoming the challenge – Track user intent real time – trace your audience across channels, track your customer’s insights and learn market trends. With complete transparency between sales and marketing it is possible to get a bird’s eye-view on where your customers are in the sales funnel, what and if their preferences have changed, what could be their possible next move towards or away from conversions and more. Tools like Google Console, Google Analytics, survey tools, polls with your data base on a regular basis etc. will enable you to be closer to your audience and will reduce the guess work. This will eventually help in building relevant content strategy that will engage better.
Scalability – Scalability is one of the largest challenges when it comes to personalizing content for a large customer databases. This is true especially when there are multiple personas under considerations, across multiple sites and geographies.
Overcoming the challenge – Having the right technology stack is the first step to enable delivery of a seamless customer experience. But, having just the tech stack is not enough. Companies need to have the right processes and procedures to set in some kind of a structure to truly achieve the full potential of personalization. Being agile and moving fast as customer behaviors change is helpful in crafting content that is real time and relevant. Planning goes a long way in preparation to predict fast changing customer behaviors. This could involve building a framework to measure customer signals or trigger messages that show how customer needs are evolving. This will allow marketers to deliver messages aligned to the changes in their needs.
Content personalization is a strategy that cannot go wrong as long as your content allows the target audience to recognize, remember and recommend your business. It is certainly not easy but it certainly is NOT impossible!