It's All Personal — Is Your Content?
Your prospects and clients don't think of themselves as one big group — and if you want your content to be effective, you shouldn't consider them as a single entity either.
The more relevant the content is to your client, the more likely your client is to read it. Clients also are likely to invest more time engaging with content that fits the context of their life.
Does your approach to content treat readers as individuals with unique interests that are attractive to your business?
Content personalization, one of the top four content marketing trends for 2015 as cited by Chief Marketer, is what will distinguish you from the masses, and your clients are coming to expect it from their trusted providers.
We asked Ann Gynn, blog editor at the Content Marketing Institute, to help us better understand how content personalization can help marketing initiatives.
How do you create personalization?
Gynn: Everybody likes to see their name in print, but to truly leverage the value of personalization, you need to go beyond the "Dear <insert first name>" mail-merge correspondence.
Personalization can take several forms. Besides addressing the recipient on an individual level, as noted above, you can personalize a message by sending it from individual relationship managers. You also can personalize your communication by developing content that speaks very specifically to the unique needs and interests of your audience.
Explore how your CRM and email software can work together to identify all that you know about a person and his or her relationship with your company. That doesn't mean you dump everything you know about the person into a single enewsletter or make every other sentence "personal." When I receive an email that uses my name over and over, or is written in a way that forces the personalization, I am likely to be turned off more than if I received generic content. Your recipient personalization should flow naturally in the content.
Don't forget to personalize the sender too. Rather than just using "ABC Bank and Trust" in the "From" line, why not send the enewsletter from "Jane Smith of ABC Bank and Trust"? As you know, personal relationships are the key to success in the commercial banking industry. So promote in your correspondence the relationship between the corporate bank client and the client's bank relationship manager. Plus, you also can track which relationship managers have better open and click-through rates. RMs who maintain better rapport with their contacts often receive consistently higher click-through rates.
Can you explain more about how personalization affects content development?
Gynn: Actually, personalization should be a consideration when content topics are first being discussed. The Content Marketing Institute's 2014 B2B Content Marketing research report identified five popular ways marketing pros personalize content:
- Reporting industry trends
- Profiling individual decision-makers
- Noting company characteristics
- Identifying where (in which stage) a client/prospect is in the buying cycle
- Personalizing content to match preferences noted by content consumers
Go beyond the individual data in your CRM to identify your key target audiences, their industries, similar job titles or responsibilities, etc. Use those categories as the basis for developing your enewsletter content and your thought leadership pieces. Using someone's first name is a nice introduction, but providing that same person with content relevant to him or her builds a relationship.
How do buyer personas affect this?
Gynn: Buyer personas are descriptors of your target audiences. You should develop buyer personas for each target audience — ask your front-line relationship managers for their input. These buyer personas allow you to create a more specific "picture" of the individual for whom you're creating the content.
Consider this example of a buyer persona: "C-level executives for auto-related manufacturing companies with revenue between $25 million and $50 million who are responsible for bottom-line growth."
With this buyer persona, we can identify several content areas of interest: leadership, auto industry, manufacturing industry, growth initiatives and innovative ideas. Sending and sharing this type of content shows recipients you understand them and their business. If you sent this group an enewsletter with content about how to operate with a small team or how to take advantage of holiday sales, it would signal that you really don't know or care about their needs and interests.
Does personalization affect engagement rates?
Gynn: Yes — personalization has a big impact. Mailer Mailer's 2014 Email Marketing Metrics Report revealed the impact of personalization on open rates: When senders personalized the message or body of the email, they saw average open rates around 17.6% — more than 50% higher than open rates for correspondence sent without any personalization (11.4%).
With the email opened, the next priority is to have the recipient take some action (e.g., click on a link to read the white paper or request more information). According to the Mailer Mailer report, personalizing the email almost doubles click-through rates:
- Personalized subject line and message — 3.4% click-through rate
- Personalized message only — 3.1%
- No personalization — 1.8%
Interestingly, emails with only personalized subject lines have much lower open rates (1.8%) and click-through rates (1.1%). Those results may indicate that recipients are wary about personalized subject lines — they don't want to be duped into thinking you care about them only to open and discover content that doesn't speak to them, and certainly isn't personal. Personalization makes a big difference in direct mail too. The Direct Marketing Association reports that recipients are 74% more likely to respond to personalized mail than to generic offers.
Get better results
The bottom line is that your content will be more effective and deliver better results if it's personalized. After all, if you don't care to take the relatively easy steps required to tailor content for your clients, why should they care enough to do business with you?
The Content Marketing Institute aims to advance the practice of content marketing through its blog, ebooks, online training, consulting, webinars, Chief Content Officer magazine and in-person events, including Content Marketing World. You can reach Ann Gynn at [email protected] or (888) 554-2014.