personalization

Your first dynamic site content – in 1 minute

Your first dynamic site content – in 1 minute 1903 1045 kresten

Getting started with targeted dynamic content on your site is easier than you think – in fact it is dead easy.

This time I will walk you though your first dynamic variation on your site in less than a minute.

1. Login into Monoloop on login.monoloop.com

2. Go to Pages section and click the big red + button.


A browser like window opens up.

  • Enter your site URL into the window and watch your site render.

  • Select Edit mode in the window and select the element on the page you want to change.
  • If you selected text – you can now edit the text directly inside the page.
  • If you selected image – you can select or upload the image you need.

  • When finished creating the variation – select Add variation/Change image in the left hand panel. Name the variation and click Condition tab. Now the Condition Builder opens and you can drag and drop the visitor profile parameter from left panel to main canvas to define your target visitor.
  • Click OK when finished defining the target visitor.

3. Click Save tab and click Save button.

 

4. Go to Pages section again and Enable the page.

That’s it – you now have your first dynamic variation live on your site.

How to deliver on the promise of a better customer experience

How to deliver on the promise of a better customer experience 700 400 kresten

Customers expect experiences with your business that address their current needs and interests. They are willing to share their behavioral data – if you are transparent of its use and give stewardship to personal information back to them.

Customers expect that you are able to interact with them in context: Basically that you remember prior interactions and transactions and use that information to service them better and keep them informed about relevant products, services or offers.

Capturing exactly what prospects and customers needs are, what their interests are is a huge challenge. Customers are motivated by different goals, goals that change dynamically in real time. They come from different locations using different devices. They’re interacting with your business at many different touch points and are at different stages along the customer journey. They only have one thing in common: they are all different.

So how to differentiate them and treat them individually?

Personalization is the foundation

Different content for different visitors. True one to one experiences with progressive messages and highly individualized nudging down the conversation funnel is the way forward. Marketing designed as personalized conversations that evolve across time and channels is probably the most challenging and most potent of all disciplines in the digital toolbox. It is also one of the most difficult to deliver on as it require a fundamentally different approach to content creation and new tools to capture data across channels, profile and trigger personalized content – everything in real time.

Most vendors in the personalisation space will tell the same story of how easy it is to start working with personalisation (with their platform) – we have worked in this space for two decades and know it is not true. For most companies personalising the customer experience is a journey – a road that has to be travelled and where learnings have to be earned by a multitude of experiments.

Knowhow is limited

Sure – there are easy gains and low hanging fruits to be captured in most businesses – but getting to the core of the personalised customer experience requires hard work, time and dedication. Technology is the enabler – but it is a people thing to actually extract value from the opportunities that the technology creates. And those people are a scarce resource.

All the processing required to track and analyze and predict the visitors behavior in real time is available as cloud based services. But most organizations struggle just getting management buy in and qualified individuals to take ownership of the discipline. Next they struggle building a team and dedicate them the time to learn the tools to build this stuff inhouse. Using platform vendors to implement is a natural shortcut for many, but it never results in the organizational anchoring that is required to succeed long term. And the agencies have never really invested in getting people with in depth understanding of personalization – so beyond a few exceptions, agencies are not going to solve this challenge for your organization.

The real barriers are the usual suspects: management support, people with knowhow, processes, the organizational culture and technical capabilities.

Management

Most corporate culture do not encourage experiments. They may say they do, but in fact they don’t. The simple truth about experiments is that the majority of experiments will fail and it is still rare to experience corporate cultures that truly accept that in order to succeed you have to fail a number of times. The trick is to fail fast, early and cheapest possible.

When you read white papers from the personalisation industry (including ours) you will find that the recommendations seems to be very basic or very fluffy. The reason is that the technology providers themselves are struggling to find the best way for their customers to capitalize their technology to derive the value from the customer experience that we all pursue. As a technology provider we do have experience to share from clients different approaches and results – but it is way too early in the game to have a “best practise” process that works across businesses, cultures and organizations.

One general and unscientific observation is that companies where management understands the need for personalisation, push for results and openly encourage experimentation tends to obtain success faster than companies where the personalisation effort is rooted in a single department of the organisation or even worse a single individual. So if you are the main sponsor behind the personalisation effort in your organisation – our best advice is to take a good look at the management’s current understanding of the business impact of personalisation. How it impact current customer interaction and how it create value to the business. If those things are not clear – do not expect the support that you will need to succeed.

We have experienced highly successful personalisation initiatives with extreme ROI that has been terminated – basically because there was no or limited management buyin – so this is probably the most important prerequisite. It certainly is not what technology you use that is the most important for your success as almost all platforms are evolving quickly and most are already far ahead of most organizations current requirements.

Required team capabilities

When you have management sponsorship you in turn have to look at your organization’s capabilities. Primarily what human resources do you have to drive the effort. You will need the following functions or roles – not to be confused with employees:

  • Responsible of building  the pipeline of the highest ranking experiences.
  • Responsible of implementing the experiences in whatever technology you choose.
  • Responsible of capturing experience results, document cross organizational learnings, management reporting and to continually terminate underperforming experiments.

Typically you need project management, analytics and technical capabilities. On the technical capabilities – most platforms (contrary to what suppliers say) requires inhouse html and javascript experience to be really productive – and most web departments have this capability already. Many opt to purchase the technical implementation from an external consultancy, agency or directly from the platform provider. We highly recommend that as a way to get started but also recommend to build this capability in house in parallel so that you use the external specialized capacity to focus on the more sophisticated components and for inspiration for your in house team.

Nurture a culture of incremental improvement

On a monthly basis implement 1-5 of the identified experiments and remove 1-3 of the underperforming experiments.

Celebrate your failures….and succeed!

Be thorough on reporting the failures as well as the experiments that work. Spend 30 minutes on explaining why you think the result came in as they did – good or bad. This is simply the best investment you can do for your business.

In a year you have implemented somewhere around 12-60 experiments and you have gained vital domain specific knowledge about what works with your business and audience. You also have strong assumptions about why. This is business critical stuff that should be shared with everybody who is working with customer facing communication. So share it and request that other add their assumptions on the results – distribute ownership as far into the fabric of your company or team as human possible. If you run a closed show – you will have full ownership and the project will live and die with you. We cannot count the number of times we have seen companies redo the same mistakes because the prior experiment results was not interpreted, shared or saved when a key stakeholder moved away from the company or just switched job description.

Be transparent and forecasts results

Do quarterly management resumes of the experiments that was implemented – what worked and failed. Use the results to forecast the business impact the experiments has on next quarters leads, pipeline, and revenue. This is the stuff that drives business decisions and budget allocations.

Engage the stakeholders in quarterly updates of the list of Experiments and add new experiment proposals and review prioritization of the list whenever new information and results become available.

Want to know more?

Website personalization powered by customer lifecycle stages

Website personalization powered by customer lifecycle stages 512 307 kresten

Web personalization can take many forms and shapes. Let’s cover a often overlooked approach that is simple to understand and implement.

Asking the right question is just as important as knowing what to say. This is the simple principle behind more relevant site experiences – and one of the most underutilized tactics in existence. Main reason, that it is not used more frequently, is the sheer complexity of capturing the answers and responding to them in real time. This is about to change.

By systematically asking your website visitors questions, you can identify new opportunities, uncover needs and map barriers to conversion.

Asking a visitor about their industry, role and interests puts you in a much better position to deliver a relevant content experience – and that is exactly what we suggest you start doing.

With Monoloop it is very easy to capture form data from your website and use that data to trigger conditional content that match whatever the visitor responds.

The challenge is that there is a sea of different content management systems and all with a number of different ways to deliver forms on the site. The good news is that Monoloop supports them all.

Using Monoloop Form Tracker it is a point and click exercise to capture a form submit and insert that data to the visitors profile. It literally takes under a minute to configure Monoloop to capture a form on your site.

Using Monoloop Form Trackers – you can easily avoid pushing call to actions like Signup for Newsletter to visitors who have already done so. You can use forms to easily capture the customer lifecycle stage and target the experience accordingly. For each stage you can add further questions to capture deeper insight into the visitor – and the great thing you can do this for anonymous visitors as well as known and existing customers.

Lifecycle stages and drip irrigation questions

Your potential and existing customers interact with you through your website throughout their life cycle.

By mapping your visitors to the different stages in their customer lifecycle you are able to focus your questions directly to their current stage and gradually learn more about them. Key takeaway is that when you ask focused questions that are relevant to the stage of the relationship – the likelihood of response increases.

No matter what – always keep in mind to only ask questions you will use in the interaction. So if a visitor or customer answers your question – your immediate response needs to reflect whatever was answered. This is where your content personalization should be triggered. Different messages and content for different answers.

Typically we use a variation of a customer lifecycle model that reflects a sales funnel in most companies. Each stage in the model has different objectives and goals – so they also require different questions to be put forward. Let’s take a closer look.

New

The industry, role and interest questions make sense in the New stage. What would you ask in Previous visitor stage?

Well, it could be something like potential and maturity – questions enabling you to estimate the customer value and how far they are in their decision process or their use of services like yours. Simple really.

Known

Looking at the Known stage you could consider to ask questions that more directly map needs related to your solutions or products. Answers that would enable you to decide when and if to invoke any promotion tactics in order to generate the initial purchase.

Trialists

For Trialists questions would typically circle around the product purchased, if it serves its purpose and was delivered as promised. You would want to capture things like Net Promotor Score in order to differentiate your tactics to move the Trialist to the next purchase. Depending on the initial purchase experience – the journey should take very different routes to that goal. Satisfied Trialists would take one route, dissatisfied a very different route.

Customers

Customers is an entire journey of itself. One constant question is being keeping updated on the customer’s needs. Nothing is wrong with asking a customer about his needs and if the product/service still serves its purpose. The answer to this questions would trigger different messages for upgrades, resell and cross sell opportunities. Recency since last interaction is the most important factor to determine when to reach out to a customer through channels like email and retargeting. Set thresholds for interactions and purchases and reach out and ask customers what has changed when they cross them. When they respond and land on your site ask them for an update.

Typically you would consider different questions for customers with different needs and value and you would trigger different channels based on value/potential.

Re-engage

The re-engage Audience is defined as customers who has not purchased within the threshold you have set for an active customer. Basically this is a lost customer or a customer with a very high churn propensity. Natural questions to ask is what is holding him back, reasons for any dissatisfaction, changes in needs or barriers that you can help remedy.

Across your lifecycle stages – you would use the answers and Monoloop to filter your content and push personalized messages or content addressing the specific issues for each stage. Not only will this improve the relevance of your visitors site experience, but it will positively impact your business results.

Need help?

If you want to discuss how you can use questions to personalize your company’s customer journey – reach out and let’s start the conversation. We offer a free consultation to get you started.

Building your first targeted site experience in 4 simple steps

Building your first targeted site experience in 4 simple steps 894 400 kresten

Most websites deliver the same experience to all visitors – that is a huge opportunity as your visitors are all different, have different needs, different value and intent.

Using Monoloop you can target experiences to specific visitor profile properties – such as location, previous visits, interests, customer lifecycle stages etc.

So what exactly is an experience?
It’s simple: One or more content elements on one or more pages, targeting a single audience and a single goal.

1. Define the target audience
In Monoloop you can target audiences based on any combination of properties in visitors profile – pages viewed, source of visit, location, interests, previous interactions or any kind of information you may have added to their profile from your external systems.

To get started we will start out simple:
Your single largest audience is likely new visitors – people who never visited your site before. This audience is easily defined as visitors with TotalVisits=1. We have predefined this audience in Monoloop – so you only have to activate it in the Audience section.

2. Define your goals
Your most important objective for first time visitors is to attract them to a second visit. Next objective is moving anonymous visitors to known visitors by getting permission to continue the conversation. Typically you try signing up the visitor for a newsletter or registering for gated content. Both are really good CTA’s for first time visitors.

3. Define your experience
Remove noise is likely the single most important thing you can do for visitors across all audiences. A typical site will have call to actions (CTA) that are relevant for all stages in the customer lifecycle. In this case, try to identify and remove everything that is not relevant for a first time visitor.

A very small percentage of the first time visitors will convert and buy – those who do have done their research and gone through the purchase process outside of your website. However the main bulk of visitors will be in the initial stages of a purchase decision – so you should focus on building rapport and establish a relationship.

If your business has a real USP – something that significantly differentiate you from your competitors – then consider focusing first time visitors attention to this message.

If you have one or two questions you could ask a visitor that enable you to explain your value proposition with more detail – consider asking all visitors those questions upon their initial visit and use Monoloop to trigger a more relevant proposition.

4. Set it up
Sign in to Monoloop UI, Select Audience section and activate New Visitors audience. Then go to Goals section and define your goal. In this case it could be tracking the signup form as a page related goal or it could be measuring how many visitors makes it to the second visit. This would be a condition based goal (TotalVisits=2).

When goals are defined, go to Experience section and create a new experience with New visitors as audience and the goal you just defined. Next add the pages and content elements that constitute your experience – everything using the Experience wizard.

Click activate – sit back and see how your experience impact the behavior of your site visitors.

Profiles is the answer!

Profiles is the answer! 1000 563 kresten

Delivering a truly tailored, personalised experience to your customers, at scale and across any channel, was once a distant dream.

This is about to change.

Every channel and technology that touches a consumer learns about that consumer. If the information can be shared inside an organisation across departments then it can be used to personalize the customer experience. Because most interaction is now at scale and in real time, this data has to be shared through technology.

The latest marketing technology allows you to understand exactly where customers are on their digital decision journey and offer them useful, relevant content just when they’re most receptive to it. Designing such personalised experiences means targeting content to the context of both your customer’s past and current interactions.

This is where profiles come in – if every technology platform is connecting to the profile in real time, then all the customer data and information can be consolidated and shared in real time too. This capability is what technology like Monoloop offers to the marketeers of the world.

And it is amazingly easy to get started. Signup for an account and drop a single line of script on your site and you are on your way. Start capturing customer identity and build profiles from your site as it is the epicenter of most companies interactions with all its audiences. Then connect your existing channels – one by one – to expand the profile for a full perspective of your customers and audiences.

Get your own account right here.

The end of content marketing – as we know it

The end of content marketing – as we know it 1280 644 kresten

Content Marketing is entering a new phase. The content saturation flooding every possible market, niche or need is challenging the very foundation of the strategy itself. Competition for audience attention is extreme and competition accelerate.

Content Marketing is all the Marketing that’s left.
Seth Godin 2008

Since Seth Godin’s statement, Content Marketing has emerged as the cornerstone of most marketing organizations across industries.

The strategy to attract and identify leads by creating and pushing targeted content is now so mainstream that 88% of B2B marketers in North America use it. On average B2B companies spent 28% of their total marketing budget on Content Marketing in 2016 and 51% of these organizations expect to increase their Content Marketing budgets in 2017.27.000.000 pieces of content are shared online daily – repeat daily!

All organizations that rely on Content Marketing is challenged to make this strategy successful and profitable. This challenge only seems to deepen as the competition for attention of the target audience continue to increase. Content Marketing is more than ever a red ocean strategy. As time goes, it becomes increasingly difficult to differentiate your message and convert the target audience.

Only 38% of content marketers say their Content Marketing is effective.

Constant demand for new content

The constant demand for presence and position are pushing marketing organizations to create more and more content. 63% of content marketers are currently working on finding more and better ways to repurpose content. 23% plan to begin working on it within 12 months.

Reality is that companies only have a finite number of core stories to tell – so the result is often variations of the same story typically targeting different audiences. If you regularly download whitepapers – you know what I am talking about. Too many articles or whitepapers are simply keyword bait to generate form submissions – and nobody likes them. The people who submit gets a lousy inflated content experience, the team who follow up – gets lousy and irritated leads. For many organizations Content Marketing has become a race to the bottom in terms of content quality.

Hyperinflation hits your SEM spending

On average, 3 paid advertising methods are used to promote/distribute content – and as usual, the most important is search engine marketing (SEM).

If you rely on paid advertising to generate traffic to your content you will likely find it increasingly hard to do profitable. Jonathan Hochman examined 50 advertisers on Googles Ad Network from 2013 to 2015. He found that in that period cost per click (CPC) increased with 71,74%. Conversion rate dropped from 8,8% to 3,6% (-59,09%). In total cost per conversion increased from 10.44 USD to 44,50 – that is a 326,25% increase in 3 years. This research was on a limited sample from the US, but it shows the problem: pricing goes up, effect goes down which results in a higher cost per lead.

Feeding your Content Marketing strategy with traffic from paid advertising will add another step in your conversion funnel, it will require budget – but for most there is no way around paid traffic to get a critical mass of leads from the investment made in content creation.

So what to do?

Less is more

The answer is not to create more content – it is to create a better more relevant content experience with a higher value to the target audience. Simply to get more of the target audience to consume more of the content and as a result convert on the real business goals.

Content Marketing practitioners have to address the old data dilemma: Data without content is powerless… Content without data is irrelevant.

Entering Clever Content

Clever content is data driven personalized context aware content. Content that knows who the reader is, what interests the reader has and what brought the reader to this point in the conversion process.

Clever content use a rich visitor profile and dynamic conditional content to render a personalized version of the content to each reader. Rather than serving the same article to all readers, the article is rendered individually to each reader based on what is know about the reader in that exact moment.

Content personalization is the future of Content Marketing as it solves a lot of the fundamental challenges traditional Content Marketing is facing.

And the good news – it is likely you already have all the content you need. Clever content can be built using variations of existing messaging from existing content. Variations that address specific information from the reader. Answers to form questions or behavioral information like previous visits, goals, experiences, interests, purchases, PPC keywords, searches, stages in sales process etc are all part of the scope of parameters your content team can use when writing variations inside the clever content.

For starters a single piece of clever content can replace a huge number of traditional static content pieces – resulting in fewer more focused paid campaigns to attract the target audience.

Clever content has a much stronger impact on the audience consuming it compared to static content – simply because it is aligning the messaging directly with the reader’s profile. 88% said interactive content is somewhat or very effective at differentiating from competitors, versus just 55% for static content.

Clever content changes the focus of your marketing organization from volume to what questions to ask your target audience or what information to track. Mapping your target audience behavior, needs, value and barriers for conversion to serve the right combination of messages in the content.

Clever content can be consumed on multiple levels – as an example a landing page receiving all traffic from paid advertising could have a short abstract that requires no registration or download. This is a teaser for the real CTA (full article/download/registration).

Visitors who bounce will be added to a nurturing programme retargeting them with a flow of impressions that highlight different parts of the content in order to get the visitor back to full content consumption.

Leads for the sales funnel will also be significantly more qualified based on the self profiling done in the Content Marketing initiatives.

The stories in clever content can evolve in time. When the marketing organization develop new angles on the existing stories – previous readers can be notified with email or browser notifications – creating a continuously progressive evolving customer experience that pops the subject matter top of mind in the target audience.

Clever content can be delivered across most digital channels: web, email, mobile apps and may be the end of Content Marketing as we know it.

Get started

There are multiple platforms out there to get you started building anonymous visitor profiles and design clever content.

We have one which is free for smaller websites – check it out on www.monoloop.com

The future of customer journeys

The future of customer journeys 150 150 kresten

The customer journey is at the heart of the digital transformation and tells the story of a customer’s experience interacting with a company. Starting with the initial contact and continuing through all subsequent interactions, via all touch-points. Your job as a marketer is to understand the various points at which customers engage with a brand, its products/services and its marketing messages, and to ensure the most impact of each interaction.

Marketers plan typical customer journeys and prepare the best ways to interact with customers at each stage of the journey. While focusing on customer journey mapping as a means of improving customer engagement, satisfaction and long-term loyalty is gaining traction among marketers, there are two very different methodologies of how to approach it.

The static flowchart customer journey and the real time segmentation methodology.

Flowcharts

The typical approach relies on a number of static customer journey maps like this:

The flowchart approach offers two advantages:

  • Control and visibility – The marketer knows exactly what each customer will get at each point of the process map, and in what order, because the marketer designed it in advance.
  • Easier internal communication – Because the flowchart can be shown to other people in the organization visually, it is easy to explain the plan and communicate about it with other people in the company.

The flowchart of customer journeys is a powerful way for marketers to visualize how they engage their customers. Flowchart customer journeys are great for the traditional marketing funnel, which is linear. However it is limiting, and typically only succeed at addressing a fraction of one’s total customer base. When customers jump around from one stage to another, skipping particular stages and even going backwards (e.g., to return to behaviors typical of earlier customer life cycle stages) the flowchart structure tends to show its limitations:

  • Flowchart journeys are static – pre-planned journeys can only cover common paths that customers take, but they cannot address unplanned or deviations in customer behavior.
  • Limited flexibility – pre-planned flowchart journeys cannot cover every scenario, inevitably leaving many customers behind, or treated too generally, or even incorrectly.
  • Flowchart journeys relies heavily on the marketer’s inherent abilities – only few marketers will be able to foresee and visualize the huge number of different journeys to adequately cover all scenarios.
  • Flowchart structure assumes a single journey for each customer – It is difficult to manage, modify or combine multiple journey maps, even though many customers shift behavior from one path to another during their journey.

Just imagine the typical customer journey of web interactions on the average ecommerce transaction. It typically takes multiple visits, multiple devices and lots of pageviews on different categories before the first product are added to the basket – even more before the basket converts into a transaction.

Covering this use case with static customer journey maps and predefined interactions is almost impossible to do. During most of the customer life cycle, there are literally an infinite number of different combinations of behaviors and paths that customers can take. In order to most effectively communicate with each individual customer in the context of his/her actual activities, behaviors and preferences, the pre-planned map-based approach simply won’t work. No matter what customer journey maps a marketer can plan, customers will inevitably follow many different journeys of their own. Customers will not follow it exactly, rendering it irrelevant to those customers. To make it more relevant to more customers, the marketer needs to continually add more and more nodes and branches to the map. Covering just a few more common customer journeys will quickly force even the smartest and most motivated marketer to create an exponentially more complex flowcharts. These limitations essentially make it unsuitable for managing the journeys of the majority of your customer base. In reality the flowchart structure is not manageable and the cost increase exponentially with the complexity – so it is not financially sustainable either.

Handle infinite journeys using real time segmentation

A newer, and more comprehensive, approach takes a completely different track: instead of pre-planning the various journeys that a customer might take, this approach focuses on dynamically segmenting customers based on their behavioral profile.

This approach focuses on using customer data and a set of criteria defined by the marketer to segment the customers. Each segment has its own call to action and storyboard of experiences to served in specific locations of the customer journey. Segments are calculated for every customer in real-time. These criteria may include any combination of profile information such as:

  • Previous Visitor
  • Visitor is a Customer
  • Customer historic transactions are in top 10%.
  • Customer total number of site visits is in top 20% of site visitors.
  • Total product views in this session is in top 20% of all site visitors.
  • Customer has previously purchased within the last 180 days.
  • Customers top product category interest is xxx
  • Customers top product interest is xxx
  • Customer responded to xxx PPC campaign on Google Adwords

The nature of this structure is that customers enter and exit segments dynamically – simply by consuming content and responding with different behavioral patterns and treated accordingly. This resembles what a personal salesman would do in real life – constantly responding to what he learns about his customer. It could look something like this:

Or it could be built like stages in a traditional conversion funnel. No matter how you slice your journey stages every customer receive targeted experiences at that particular point in his/her journey when they enter or exit a segment on their journey.

The main advantages of the real time segmentation approach to managing customer journeys are:

  • Dynamic and adaptive – customers are treated based on the segments in which they are presently located, each customer’s experience continuously adapts itself to changes in the individual customer behavior.
  • Multi-dimensional – customers may be in multiple segments at the same point in time and be served messages accordingly. This way you can address the customer on multiple levels and with multiple subjects simultaneously.
  • Easy to scale and evolve – simply by adding more segments – and the most effective experiences for each – the number of customer journeys handled can increase rapidly, even exponentially, without having to re-engineer anything that was previously built.
  • Greater experience depth – focusing on customer segments allows the marketer to easily write and design content and entire experiences that deeply address the customer’s current state. No assumptions or guessing is required as segments is always calculated by the individual customer profile.
  • Higher reach – no customer is left behind, this approach can easily serve relevant messaging to every customer, at every point in the journey. There is no need to limit treatments to particular junctions on particular pre-planned paths.

The real time segmentation approach does not force the marketer to consider and define “hard-coded” journeys. Instead, the marketer need only consider – and address – the customer’s “behavioral DNA” at any point in time, without necessarily worrying about how the customer reached that point.

In this approach, customers create their own unique journeys, and the marketer is always ready for them, with the best messages, offers and incentives – no matter how they arrived at the segment where they are right now.

This approach is infinitely more flexible, and therefore more powerful. The marketer can begin by defining a limited number of customer segments, and the related experiences that each member of the segments should receive to encourage them to take a desired action. As time goes on, the marketer can define more segments to ensure that more and more customer journeys are covered.

The realtime segmentation approach allows marketers to address an infinite number of different customer journeys, by focusing on customer segments and what to communicate, instead of hard-coded, pre-conceived paths. This approach provides greater reach with greater flexibility and adaptability, but more importantly, it delivers a better customer experience.

The end game for content marketing is personalization, but very few gets it…

The end game for content marketing is personalization, but very few gets it… 698 400 kresten

A new report by Forbes Insights, in association with PwC, triggered a couple of increasingly familiar conclusions to me about content marketing and personalization:

  • All recognize personalization is important – but relatively few are really engaged.
  • There is a massive lack of understanding of personalization and how you create personalized content.
  • Resources are wasted on content marketing misaligned with business objectives.
  • Most still confuse personalization with targeting segments/personas.
  • Most content created is static and focus is on targeting the right audience (segment) rather than building dynamic content for the individual.

Many companies do content marketing but lack a content strategy. Mostly that means pushing content creation into the marketing department with no strategy to build on. They may produce content but it’s rarely personalized, nor is it integrated with business objectives or aligned with the stages of the sales process.

What company type are you?

92% recognize the value of delivering personalized content, and measuring content effectiveness. 8% do not.

 

25% of the 92%, consider personalized content critical to their marketing strategy, they have executive support and expect to ramp up content investments by +25%. Forbes Insights call them Trailblazers.

67% recognize the value of personalized content and measuring effectiveness – however they do not rank it as business critical, they do not have serious executive support and only expect to increase investments slightly over the next year.

Majority is not really engaged – and will likely not succeed

While the majority of respondents (59%) personalize content by the broadest means, target audience, Trailblazers, are more likely to be more precise. They are able to identify, in very specific terms, the customer being addressed,
gathering data about that individual, translating the data, and ultimately
serving up tailored, relevant content. The majority (51%) of Trailblazers personalize content by marketing persona, and to a lesser extent by individual (43%), in accordance with purchase history data, and other behavioral data. So even the majority of Trailblazers are trying to approach personalization through basic targeting and segmentation (personas). Our field experience suggest that they are not likely to succeed as the core requirement for personalization is individual profile information and the ability to render dynamic messaging and experiences to individual based on that information.

“Achieving personalization takes commitment. The largest share of executives in the survey (58%) say that they are improving their ability to deliver personalized 1:1 content by building a strong data analytics foundation. Many are also looking to speed their ability to create and distribute content”

Executives think they are building personalization capabilities, but in fact they are building data collection and analytics capabilities to improve targeting. They focus on faster content creation and distribution of static content rather than understanding the nature of dynamic content and how to build this knowhow internally. But with two million daily posts being published – more of the same is not likely to be successful – its like swimming in the red ocean – most will drown.

Top barrier for personalization – is not really a barrier

When asked about challenges of creating personalized content, executives cited budget constraints and fragmented technology infrastructure among their top challenges. Thirty-eight percent of respondents said budget was the biggest challenge to producing relevant content, despite the fact that 87% of respondents plan to increase their content-marketing spending the next fiscal year.

This finding expose the irony of the status quo: personalization is not only more efficient in converting than targeted static content, it is also orders of magnitude cheaper to produce – simply because you produce a lot less content to serve the target audience with a relevant message. It seems that most organizations still think that more content is better. For now – dynamic keep losing out to static content.

When it comes to technology, the ability to build a cross channel real time digital profile of the customer is now more of a commodity with solutions on all price levels. Even the lower cost solutions, would likely serve most organizations, as the majority of executions are conceptually light weight.

Massive lack of understanding of personalization

According to PwC’s 2015 Global Digital IQ® Survey 26% of all digital investments is happening within the Marketing function – this makes me conclude that there must be major confusion among the majority of executives on how to deal with the personalization challenge and massive lack of understanding of the nature of personalization and how you create it. Touting resource scarceness the main reason for lack of traction is likely a result of this confusion. Executives seems to look at technology to solve the lack of direction and skills within the organization – if so, it will not have a happy ending.

Make your own conclusions and read the full report here.

From publishing to personalization

From publishing to personalization 698 400 kresten

The proliferation of digital channels has evolved into the single largest communication revolution since Gutenberg. However while the web fundamentally changed the way we connect and interact – the way we build websites has not changed in the same order of magnitude.

Almost all websites are still static – every visitor receives the same content and websites suffer from amnesia – they cannot recognize previous visitors and use the individual history of interaction to deliver more relevant content or better service. The lack of recognition, memory and personalization are the key reasons why the web still has to deliver as a relationship building tool and the lack of relevant user experiences it is the primary driver why marketers are struggling with lower conversion rates and lackluster ROI.

Most people have difficulties grasping the fact that it is possible to really personalize content to the individual. It is natural as most have been trained in defining target groups and targeting messages to individual target groups.

However segmenting only takes you so long. In reality it fast becomes too complicated when the number of segments increase and variations of messages has to be created. Many have pursued this track in the belief that a gradually finer grained segmentation was the path to real one to one marketing. It simply is not. Segmentation has never been the road to personalization and it never will be – basically because it is a fundamentally different way of creating content.

Personas is not getting you anywhere

Marketing technology providers have pitched the concept of building personas as the framework for personalization. In fact this phenomenon has haunted web development for years – but it is still an abstract that just makes the creation of personalization more complicated and is still good old segmentation just in different words.

When you create content to personas – you create to someone who does not exist. An persona is a virtual representation of an imaginary individual in the target group. Personas are fundamentally built on mountains of assumptions – and as most know, when assuming, most fail the majority of the time. Same with personas.

The foundation for personalization is profile information

If you want to create personalized content you simply stop assuming anything. You need to have tangible personally identifiable information about the individual visitor. Stuff like gender, interests in the content categories and individual products or content articles. Information like engagement level, prior interactions, converted goals and how the individual visitor compares to the average visitor on all parameters that are captured about visitors.

With this information – it is much easier to create compelling content as you know exactly what property about the visitor you are using to twist the pitch or angle your story. This IS the big difference between doing segmentation and personalization.

Personalization is simple

One to one marketing is not a distant abstraction – personalization is a simple creative technique. Real personalized content is build from the ground up with two things in mind: what subjects do you want to convey and what profile information is available about the reader.

You structure your content in a number of building blocks that each focus on one or more of the subjects you want to address. For each subject you create variations of the message that match a piece of profile information you have about the reader.

5 profile fields = 1.280 variations

You may angle the subject depending on gender (sex, 2), if it is the first time the reader visit your site (new/previous, 2), if the visitor has purchased before in your webshop (yes/no, 2), what kind of product category the visitor site behavior demonstrate most interest in (category, 10). You may even have different call to action (CTA, 4) based on what seems to be the visitors readiness to convert (Readiness, 4).

In this simple example you have written 2+2+2+10+4+4 = 24 blocks of content. But when those pieces are combined with visitor profiles it becomes 2*2*2*10*4*4 = 1.280 potential variations of a single piece of content!

The point is that you only used the following 5 information about your reader:

  • Gender
  • First time visitor
  • Prior purchase
  • Most interesting product category
  • Readiness to convert

When variations runs into the thousands, tens of thousands or millions – people trained in segmentation gets nervous and tends to back peddle to more manageable numbers of variations. This is of course always done at the expense of the customer experience – content simply lose the most important characteristic of all: relevance. The more your content reflect known properties of the reader – the more likely it is the reader will find your message relevant.

Not rocket science, right?

Your Content Marketing Strategy Is Broken – Here Is Why and How to Fix It

Your Content Marketing Strategy Is Broken – Here Is Why and How to Fix It 698 400 kresten

Content marketing is everywhere and it is not going away anytime soon. A survey conducted by IDC found that CMOs at some of the biggest technological companies in the world regarded building content marketing competency as the second most important initiative in their organizations, just after ROI. However another study from the CMO council shows, less than 2 percent of marketers believe their content marketing strategy is highly effective.

One of the primary reasons behind this disappointing figure is the lack of clear objectives. A survey by Content Marketing Institute asked B2B marketers what they thought an effective content marketing program looked like in their organizations. The responses ranged from building an audience, generating leads and sales to publishing content consistently, elevating brand perception, and better traffic (!). Content marketing, just like any other forms of marketing, should have one very clear objective – to generate leads that convert into customers. Secondary goals, like publishing content consistently or elevating the perception of the brand, are merely drivers not objectives.

But understanding the core objective is alone not enough to succeed with content marketing. The underlying reason very few marketers find their content marketing strategies effective is because the audience experiencing the content find it irrelevant and therefore do not convert.

Swimming in the red ocean

The strategy adopted by the vast majority of businesses today is to churn dozens of static and generic articles related to their industry and what need they try to solve. Most are very traditional spray and pray initiatives, that rests on the hope they bring relevant referral and search traffic back in return.  With more than 2 million blog posts being written every single day,  this is plainly wishful thinking – and praying for luck has never been an effective strategy.

Most Content Marketing is fundamentally flawed

Content marketing strategies deployed today often include PPC advertising, SEO and email marketing outreach in the initial steps. These are extremely targeted as they reach the customer when they are searching for the product and intent is high or the message (email) is highly personalized to increase relevance.

In contrast to the targeted outreach, the content experience itself is too often not meeting the reader’s expectations. The effort fails simply because the content itself is not targeted. I is still only a static piece – it lacks personalization and is often not perfectly aligned with the initial outreach.

Bridging the gap between outreach the content experience

To be relevant, the content you produce should be targeted to the individual you are reaching out to. If that is done, the engagement increase and so does the conversion rates from content to the call to action – either in the form of leads or sales.

Personalizing your content to the individual reader is simpler than most expect. The requirement comes down to content creators who knows how to ask the right questions and write conditional content.

This is how it works:

  1. Define the main reader types (roles, needs and value to your business).
  2. Identify the questions that define your reader types (eg. “What is your role in your business?”)
  3. Write your generic content (blog post, article, whitepaper).
  4. Write variations of sections, paragraphs and sentences that address your readers role, needs and value to your business (eg. “Being a C-level manager you are familiar with the choice between building internal knowhow or outsourcing parts of the organization’s service deliveries….”). Remember to write variations for each possible answer to each of your reader questions. Also write variations that cover readers not answering the question – typically you would use that as the generic version.
  5. Create a simple web survey with your questions and the answer options and code your generic content with the conditional content variations so they match whatever the reader have answered to your questions. This can be done in simple javascript if you have the skills or you can use a web personalization platform like Monoloop.

The flow of the content marketing initiative changes to something like this:

  1. Reader respond to your outreach initiative.
  2. Reader arrives on your landing page where the questionnaire is served.
  3. When questionnaire is submitted, your content is rendered with all the right variations that match the reader’s profile.

Depending on how good you are at aligning your core pitch to the reader profile – you will drive the reader further through your content than any generic content would ever be able to do. Simply by addressing the readers answers….yes, it is that simple. Suddenly the readers content experience is perfectly aligned with the targeted outreach or the search the reader did in order to reach your content in the first place.

Personalization is the future of content marketing

Of course, this is only the start. If you are using a web personalization platform, you would benefit from a rich visitor profile that covers the visitor’s entire prior interaction with your site(s) and any information you may have collected during those visits (purchases, downloads, goals etc). Using this profile information in your content creation only increase the relevance of the content experience you deliver. You can also use the web personalization platform to reflect the visitors latest content experience and whether the visitor did or did not convert to the next step or goal in the content marketing flow – effectively building experience journeys directly into your existing website.

Businesses executing content marketing strategies often rely on email capture as a means to achieve their lead generation target. But a lead captured off content that is not uniquely targeted to a customer often ends up as a bad lead – and bad leads kills your business. By focusing on capturing leads solely off content that is personalized and targeted to an individual visitor, businesses should see vastly better leads  and a database that convert better.

Web personalization technology is already mature. This year is likely to see this technology graduate to other areas of marketing, including content marketing. This way, the content your visitors consume and click will become increasingly personalized and targeted. Leads for the sales funnel will also be significantly more qualified based on the self profiling done in the content marketing initiatives.

Could this be the answer to challenges that marketers face with building lists of relevant leads? We will have an answer this year.

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