B2B marketers are digging deeper into data about anonymous buyers, enabling companies such as Iron Mountain and SchoolDude to offer personalized content and web experiences to prospects before they identify themselves.

Personalization efforts are having a positive impact on prospect engagement and conversions, experts note. Some examples include:

  • Iron Mountain, a storage and information management services provider, saw a 120% increase in engagement and a 219% lift in conversions after identifying target accounts on its website and engaging them with personalized messaging.
  • SchoolDude, a provider of cloud-based operations software for schools and universities, leverages account-level data on the education market to deliver personalized content and web experiences for segments based on interactions with current clients. The results: the average number of pages users visited in a session and session duration both increased by about 400%.
Personalization is helping marketers implement emerging strategies such as account-based marketing, said Justin Gray, Founder and CEO of LeadMD, in an interview with Demand Gen Report. "We've been pushing for quality over quantity for some time now. Everyone's message is around surrounding the buying committee."

Research from Econsultancy and Adobe shows that more than half (52%) of digital marketers agree that the ability to personalize web content is fundamental to their online strategy. However, only 41% are committed to providing personalized web experiences, and only 37% are targeting personalized content in real-time.

Progressive B2B marketers are using increasingly sophisticated web personalization tools to leverage firmographic and other insights from anonymous visitors to create more relevant experiences.

"When a prospect lands [on a website] and experiences familiar messages and organic content, it moves a buying decision forward," said Jeff Fuhriman, Senior Manager of Conversion Optimization at Adobe Target.

Fuhriman highlighted three areas B2B marketers need to address when looking to boost their web personalization efforts:

  • Segment their database, then prioritize segments for content creation;
  • Target content by industry, company size, persona, current entitlements (upsell/cross-sell) to speak to prospects in a relevant and resonant way; and
  • Analyze data to understand best targeting opportunities, as well as test versions/formats of content targeting.
"Organic experiences positively impact buying decisions because they help prospects feel that we know and understand their needs," Fuhriman noted.

Successful personalization is often the result of testing various content types with multiple audiences, experts noted.

Using Demandbase, Iron Mountain was able to A/B test content created for target segments and measure engagement. The insights positioned the company to create engaging, personalized content for known and unknown prospects.

"The challenge for marketers is how to communicate with their prospect that is personalized and relevant before they even fill out a form and engage with their brand," said Peter Isaacson, CMO at Demandbase. "The faster you can customize your content, the faster you can convert the prospect through the buying funnel and lead to a close."

Segmentation Helps Identify Target Accounts

As a business, you need to analyze where you need content to resonate with prospects, according to Andrey Akselrod, CTO of Smartling, a content translation management system provider. Segmenting your database helps B2B companies identify commonalities between current clients and target accounts

"You need to focus on your markets one by one," Akselrod noted. "That's the appropriate time and energy to create marketing material that's highly specific to those markets."

Tackling this task early on ensures that B2B organizations are attracting the right customers to their site, allowing marketers to fill top-funnel leads with the right kind of prospects that nurture and sales teams can confidently engage with.

"Most companies have a top of the funnel issue of attracting the wrong companies to their site," Isaacson noted. "Account-based advertising can help target the right individuals that are on the web. It helps you fill top-funnel leads oftentimes before the [prospect's] research starts."

The challenge is that B2B companies are really not prioritizing segmentation, according to Heidi Bullock, Director of Demand Generation forMarketo. "But most marketers get the importance of segmenting their database and having tailored messages for each segment."

Data Remains A Challenge To Personalization

While personalization can drive engagement and conversions, having the right data is a major hurdle, according to Gray. "Whether it's about obtaining more data or identifying the important metrics, there's a long way to go with feeling comfortable where we're at with personalization."

For example, global integrated solutions technology provider Insightstruggled with personalization because it did not have the tools to gather and analyze the data needed to tailor the content experience for users.

"Our ads were generic, developed to appeal to a wide range of online users, and our different go-to-market campaigns had to fight for the same rotating ad space on the site," said Rachel Van West, Marketing Specialist for Insight.

The company has seen a boost in website engagement since implementing a personalization tool designed to help combine real-time behavioral data with the company's existing database, according to Van West. "Our strategy is changing and developing as we learn more about web personalization, but we have already seen improvement with some of the changes we have made."

Once there is a mutual consensus within the organization on which metrics identify high-value prospects, B2B marketers can then start creating content that guides them through a journey to create seamless and natural personalization, sources noted.

"For example, with a first time visitor to the site, the goal is to introduce them to the brand through a video introduction," said Andy Zimmerman, CMO of Evergage. "After they've seen that video, maybe highlight a case study or relevant white paper. Then start considering setting up demos."

Zimmerman noted a B2B tech company that has four different experiences formulated for its homepage, based on the industry of the visitor. If they have data knowing the individual's industry, they can personalize the homepage based on that information. Appropriate experience is gained through data located in their CRM.

"[Marketers] need make the information show up in the right place at the right time for prospects," Zimmerman said. "Interrupted messages only hinder the buying experience."

Data continues to be vital for account targeting. In the first 90 days of using Marketo, SchoolDude saw a 405% increase in the average number of pages users visited in a session and a 394% increase in session duration.

"It is also highly recommended to begin testing ... so you ultimately show your target audience the best performing asset or offer," Bullock noted. "Marketers can test content, visuals, copy and more."

Ultimately, B2B marketers can measure their personalization efforts through other tools to identify the impact it is having on the bottom line, experts noted. "It is also ideal to tie web personalization into marketing automation," Bullock said. "The entire performance can [then] be mapped back to impact on revenue."


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