What ads do you see when you open up Facebook? What emails do you get from companies that reference you by name? Have you ever looked at one of these marketing efforts and thought, “Wow, I actually could use that product?”

(Personally, I see lots of skincare brands, pet products and art supplies, all of which definitely catch my interest.)

If you can answer these questions, congratulations! You’ve experienced personalized marketing (and hopefully bought something cool to boot.) This concept isn’t new, but it is evolving, and adding it to your content marketing strategy sets you up for success in 2018 and beyond. If you haven’t hopped on the personalized content train, it’s time to start doing so – pronto.

 

What is personalization?

In a nutshell, personalization strategies use data to create and deliver relevant content based on the subject’s interests. In doing so, the content appeals to that person’s sense of individuality. He or she feels like your business really pays attention, which is what everyone wants, right?

Why content personalization needs to be part of your strategy

Simply put: Personalization brings results. Research shows that 79 percent of companies that exceed their revenue goals have a documented personalization strategy.

Why? Personalization increases the likelihood of engagement. Think about it; you’re more likely to interact with a business that knows what you want, rather than one that has no idea.

Furthermore, personalization meets client expectations. How many times have you had a customer expect you to know their needs before they tell you? Personalization – derived from your collection of data – can turn you into the mind reader that clients expect you to be.

Ways you can personalize content

There are countless ways you can segment your audience into different groups to deliver personalized content – cat lovers versus dog lovers, people who watch CNN over MSNBC and so on. Of course, these examples are probably meaningless to you, so try the segments below for better luck:

  • By industry: A doctor’s office is much different than a fast food restaurant, but both need a billing solution. With that in mind, sending a diner manager an email about working with insurance won’t have the effect you want from a marketing campaign. After all, you’re not speaking to that manager’s specific needs.
  • By size: Even two businesses within the same industry can vary in terms of need based on their sizes. A startup of 20 people will need less from their human resources management software than a firm of 200.
  • By prior activity: Think one of your current clients would be interested in a particular upsell? Create content specifically for that client and the associated product. Show them how their needs are best suited by this addition – or, if they haven’t noticed they need anything yet, put the thought in their head.
  • By stage of the buyer’s journey: Gated assets aren’t the best content pieces for brand awareness, just as tweets aren’t great for finalizing a sale. Whether your client is at the beginning of the buyer journey or near the end, you’ll have more luck creating content that addresses them at their particular stage.
  • By persona: Who are you writing to: your die-hard reader, someone who’s never heard of you before or a potential client currently with a competitor? The answers to these questions guide how you’ll address an appeal to your target reader.
  • By account: Account-based marketing is a pretty big buzzword these days, especially in the B2B sector. It takes personalization a step further by treating each company like its own market. This is a great strategy for acquiring high-value customers or ones with multiple stakeholders.

Creating a personalization strategy

Determine who you will target

Are you trying to upsell to your existing customers or find new ones? The answer will guide the rest of your strategy.

Use data to understand their current details and their needs

Data is the driving force behind personalized content, especially in 2018, with advances in AI and machine learning.

These tools will make even more sophisticated discoveries about your visitors – eventually to the point where they will be able to make personas for you. To get an idea of this, consider how Netflix gathers information about its users, then automatically segments them into various categories based on their habits and preferences. People in these categories are given similar recommendations and experiences.

It’s easier than ever for businesses to obtain copious amounts of marketing data, leading to more specific insights on their various target audiences.

Create content that appeals to them

What type of content does your audience engage with most – blog posts? White papers? Focus on this rather than throwing anything and everything at the wall.

This may mean excluding other audiences – for example, writing a search-optimized blog post rather than an email-nurtured eBook. That’s okay – not every piece of content needs to appeal to your entire audience.

In fact, that last statement pretty much summarizes the whole of personalized content. Your business will see more success taking a targeted, personalized approached as opposed to creating content for mass appeal.

Work toward one-to-one personalization

While speaking to every member of your audience as an individual isn’t possible at this stage of the marketing technology game, it certainly seems to be on the horizon. ABM is the next step in the process, and as AI gets better at targeting individuals and predicting their preferences and actions, one-to-one marketing can’t be too far behind.

In the meantime,  refine your personas and other personalization segments. This way, you ensure your focus remains on what works and ignores anything that doesn’t.

What are some ways your business plans to employ personalized marketing this year?

Autumn Green is a Brafton writer living in Chicago. She thought she wanted to be an artist growing up, but her time in college taught her that writing is much more fun. On the weekends, you can find her browsing museums or buying cookbooks.