B2B Content Personalization: A Primer & Example

Content personalization is commonly misunderstood. In this post, we define what it is, why it's important and provide an example of how we can use it as part of our B2B marketing mix.


Scott Abel, the Content Wrangler, defines content personalization as "the targeting of content to individuals based on one or more of the following: who they are; where they are; when, why, and how they access content; and what device they use to access it."

Content personalization is valuable because it's relevant, and it's relevant because it's contextual. Personalized conversations can help companies connect their solutions with consumers’ problems and questions. When we are able to weave serial storytelling into the fabric of this conversation, it can be a compelling part of the marketing mix.

The Many Faces of Personalization

Typically, examples personalization focus on e-commerce (think product recommendations such as Amazon’s) or conversion rate optimization through specific micro-moments such as form completions or responses to other calls to action (think gated content assets such as whitepapers, ebooks, webinars, etc). These interactions happen discreetly through product or content recommendations, modal windows, slide-ins, sticky header bars, or footers. The majority of internet users are intimately familiar with this sort of personalization.

It's much less common to see these tactical examples used to supplement a personalized narrative that evolves over time or as a way to reduce the amount of hunting for relevant content a customer needs to do when a site has to be everything to everyone. The aforementioned tactics have their own value to be sure, but a relevant narrative is much more compelling in B2B interactions — particularly when account-based measures are incorporated.

Personalization such as custom messaging tied to the customer's name, time of day, or locale are table stakes, B2B marketers must go beyond the surface. In order to engage 6.8 stakeholders over a lengthy buying cycle, the process needs to start much sooner. We have to do more, and we have to be able to do it before we even identify customers by their name or email address.

A Study in B2B Content Personalization

Let’s consider a hypothetical involving Datos IO, a data management platform that helps clients protect application data across cloud environments. It might be a great fit for organizations that are already using MongoDB, Apache Cassandra or Hadoop to store data but need a backup and recovery solution.

[Disclaimer: Datos.io is not a customer of Blue River. They were selected simply out of familiarity with them.]

Imagine I'm someone who's been tasked with finding a backup and recovery solution for my company's cloud-based application data. Naturally, my research will begin with a web search.

After a quick search, I might stumble upon an article called "14 Game Changing Database Trends for 2016" that mentions Datos IO. At this point, I mentally add the brand to my current "sphere of influence" in data management platforms.

Following more research, I come across another article. This one is from Datos IO's blog and is called "Choose the right backup solution for Cassandra!" Considering my company uses Apache Cassandra, I naturally check it out.

At this stage, Datos IO doesn't know much about me. As a result, I get the same content experience as anyone else might expect. It doesn't matter whether I'm looking for Cassandra solutions, MongoDB, Hadoop solutions, or anything else.

It would make a lot more sense to tailor my experience to my interests — particularly if I’m in one of a few primary audiences that Datos IO is targeting. For starters, the website could suggest additional content specifically related to Cassandra. This might be another blog post ("Will Deduplication Solutions Work for Cassandra?"), a whitepaper ("Comparison of 3 Backup Solutions for Cassandra"), or even a solution overview ("Datos IO and Cassandra").

Alternatively, Datos IO could pop up a Javascript widget like an overlay, slide-in drawer, or modal window to pose a question. My answer to "Are you currently backing up your cloud-based Cassandra database?" could trigger a specific content recommendation, which would allow Datos IO to start a conversation and continue to engage me.

Personalization in the B2B space can also benefit when companies are able to identify a client's industry early in the relationship. If I mention that I work in healthcare, for example, Datos IO should offer content tailored for healthcare. An industry like healthcare has specific concerns and requirements around privacy and security, and Datos IO has a chance so show that it understands those unique challenges.

Content that tries to speak to everyone ends up speaking to no one. Content personalization in the B2B space delivers an opportunity to begin a meaningful conversation built around empathy and understanding.

Adding a Personal Touch

There are several inbound sources that can lead potential customers to a targeted content experience. Whether it’s PPC, SEM, social, or specific referrers (even competitors!), there are many potential pathways. Content personalization can also occur through an outbound sales program, such as cold email.

In a typical cold email sales process, a company collects a database of contacts, creates a cold email sequence, sends our emails, and follows up with referrals and calls. If the emails are crafted correctly, it’s likely they’ll stir up some engagement and provide openings to begin a few conversations.

Rather than wait for potential customers to find personalized content on their own, a personalized content experience could trigger when people click through any cold emails. Aside from being smart, it creates natural alignment between sales and marketing.

While my examples have only touched on potential customers, consider the possibilities of personalized content for people who are already doing business with you. Customers who enjoy the steady stream of personalized content your company provides will be more likely to continue working with you and might even recommend your business to others. Moreover, 68 percent of customers are willing to pay more for your product if you deliver stellar customer service.

Customers clearly prefer businesses that make the effort to add a personal touch. The more you can tailor your content to each individual customer, the happier (and more likely to do business with you) they will be. Content personalization can help you accelerate the buyer journey, create your ideal customer, and turn customers into advocates.

If we have the opportunity to start having meaningful, relevant conversations from the get-go with our exact audience, target accounts, and customers what are we waiting for?