Recent research from BtoB shows that 46 percent of companies are now using marketing automation technologies in some form, and 20 percent are evaluating different platforms for the future.
Companies are rushing to implement these solutions because, as content marketing has shown us over the past few years, conversion improves when prospects are delivered content that’s relevant, especially if that content is delivered when customers are at the right stage in the buying cycle.
The result is that B2B marketers are working to create different experiences for different customers. Ideally, a CIO gets a landing page with a technical paper and product walkthrough, and a CMO gets a page with case studies and marketing resources. But do traditional marketing automation platforms go far enough in this ongoing quest for personalization? What about buyer personas? What stage of awareness is the visitor?
And, most importantly, how can marketers keep up when personalization always seems to mean creating more content?
Leading Into Personas
Online lead generation, lead scoring, and tracking are all listed as top priorities when businesses choose marketing automation platforms, according to the BtoB research. That’s no surprise given that the key to personalization is segmenting audiences into personas. By building personas based on behavior, title, industry, and other attributes, marketers can personalize customer experiences far more accurately, creating relevant content for each audience.
While this kind of personalization is inevitable, it seems out of grasp for many businesses. An Econsultancy study highlighted the problem in detail, showing that the vast majority (94 percent) of marketers say that personalization “is critical to current and future success,” but most tactics are far from being widely adopted. The top strategy, personalizing by on-site behavior, is being practiced by only 30 percent of respondents. Just 29 percent of respondents said they were using inbound marketing channels (like marketing automation platforms) for personalization.
One of the issues is that the well-worn tenets of content marketing state that marketers should be creating dozens of pieces of content a day, from tweets and blog posts to brochures and case studies. Each new persona could potentially double or triple that workload, if marketers are determined to personalize the customer experience.
Perhaps most striking of all is the breakdown when it comes to smartphones and tablets. Only 13 percent of the marketers surveyed said that they were working on personalization from a mobile level, according to Econsultancy. With Ericsson predicting that 85 percent of the world will be connected to 3G and 4G networks by 2017–making for a total of some 9 billion mobile connections–that’s not a sustainable strategy.
Where The Technology Meets The Content
Clearly, marketers are stumbling on two different obstacles when it comes to personalization: the need for more personalized content and the need to have that content respond to users across new and developing channels, from social to email to mobile. Even with automation solutions on hand, marketers can feel like they’re being asked to produce more collateral than ever before while moonlighting as data scientists and programmers.
Yet there’s no doubt that personalization will grow increasingly important for building customer loyalty and acquiring new business. The democratization of big data and analytics tools will yield big gains to those who invest in them. To ensure customer loyalty, companies will continue to work toward a segment-of-one, trying to attain personalization on an individual level.
The bottom line is that, whether five or 500 prospects visit your Web site, they should receive an individual, content-rich experience that offers them a relevant path to take. To most marketers, that may seem like little more than a dream. They’re already contending with the usual demands of content marketing and new technology. Most marketers curate content to meet that demand, but curation can bring another host of problems, from the quality of sources to the originality of the pieces themselves.
Learning To Embrace The Changes
Technology–the cause of these new challenges and opportunities–will also be the solution. At first glance, all of these issues seem to be disparate, with different sources that demand different strategies. However, when big data and machine learning come into play, standard content marketing practices can be applied to new technology, and everything changes.
Tomorrow’s content curation solutions will empower marketers to discover, trap and deliver content in real-time through social, email, Web, and mobile channels, personalizing on an individual level with less effort than before. By leveraging the power of content curation, which is already a staple for marketers, it’s possible to build the road to personalization.
Next-generation solutions won’t have to be optimized for mobile because their native format will be responsive design. That means consumers will have a dynamic experience across tablets, smartphones, desktops, laptops–even TV screens and smart watches. And as visitors consume the content, these applications will use artificial intelligence to learn from those choices and automatically deliver a relevant, even more personalized experience.
Currently, we’re at a point in marketing where technology and content seem to be coming at us from 1,000 different directions. But very soon, the whole process will be seamless, and marketers will be able to breathe a little easier.