Not so long ago, the idea of personalizing each visitor’s experience on your website probably seemed like a pipe dream. Most companies were in the early stages of digital transformation with websites that were largely static brochures. Accessing details about a product required an email or even picking up the phone. Most customers were happy to get a personalized email that included their name.

Fast forward about ten years, and customers are inundated with more company and product information than they can possibly consume. Searching the typical corporate site yields presentations, brochures, whitepapers and even user guides. It’s no surprise, then, that today’s B2B buyers are 57% of the way through the decision making process before they ever engage a salesperson. Below, I’ll break down the first four steps on the path to personalization, but first, we must understand the importance of a personalized experience.

Content Expectations Grow (and Keep Growing)

Content Science predicted more organizations offering personalized content experiences in 2015. This shift in information availability hints at the flip side of the ever-growing information store now available online: customers expect the content they encounter to be precisely targeted to what they’re seeking–or they will click to a competitor. Every visitor now expects a personalized experience.

Think about what this means in practical terms. To meet expectations, a website needs to know what will draw the specific visitor in. It must match content to that visitor, based on what it determines are his or her specific goals, motivating the individual to meaningfully engage (for at least more than the 15 seconds the average visitor spends on a site). Some customers now even expect website content that anticipates their future needs.

personalized contentThese intelligent, experience-centric websites all rely on Web Content Management Systems.

The technology is by no means new, and has reached the stage where actual system capabilities have caught up with vision. Today’s Web CMS systems have the technological chops to help companies transition from delivering brochure-ware to relevant, personalized visitor experiences that drive customer conversion, according to SiriusDecisions’ 2014 report.

The timing really couldn’t be better for the majority of marketers and content teams. We know the content we’re putting out is great. But our confidence in visitors’ ability to find it, engage with it and have a positive, memorable experience is shaky at best. Content targeting with personalization is truly a game changer.

personalized contentIt would be lovely to just push the “on” button and power up instant personalization on your site. But some groundwork is needed first, including:

1. Clearly defining the scope of your personalization objectives.

Maybe your company has only prioritized content targeting for known visitors versus anonymous ones, for example. If only one business unit serves a diverse customer base, your efforts could focus there. Or, you may be looking at a larger scale effort across all buyer types and personas. Whatever the case, clearly defining the scope of your objectives upfront is key.

2. Understanding your visitor segments and/or personas.

How is each segment or persona differentiated by attributes, such as where they are in the buying process or customer lifecycle?  The specific CMS you implement may use slightly different terms or concepts, but any system must be configured upfront with enough data to allow for personalization of visitors’ experiences from the get go.

Ultimately, your CMS will have access to the real-time data generated as visitors come to your site, but it takes time to build up. In the process, content targeting will become more precise organically over time.

3. Translating segments or personas into their related objectives.

What is each persona or segment looking to do when visiting your site? That will depend on all of the differentiation factors you’ve already delineated.

Let’s say a customer placed an order yesterday and is back on your site today. It’s likely that they’re looking to check the status of their order, cancel it or ask another order-related question.

4. Matching optimized content to the visitor’s goals.

Here you’re feeding the CMS the information it needs to engage with each visitor in the desired way, whether it’s anticipating content she seeks or offering other relevant options. The goal is to keep everything the visitor wants in close range, rather than requiring multiple clicks and excessive search time.

Returning to the example of the order-placing customer, imagine if the CMS’ personalization rules could trigger an invitation that she receives on-screen to join a live chat with someone in customer service? And, that service rep already has her contact information and her company’s relationship history in front of him?

personalized contentAll of this groundwork requires the same thing: data.

To feed personalization, most companies dig into every bit of intel they have, including:

  • segmentation
  • brand studies (e.g., awareness, perception, equity)
  • focus groups
  • customer buying process and lifecycle
  • digital campaigns
  • social
  • offline campaigns
  • personas or profiles

It’s rare that a company has every data point at their fingertips, and the amount of history they can dig up may be limited. Most come up with data in at least some categories and just build from there.

personalized contentWith even a subset of these data sources, it’s possible to get started with a relatively quick hit: implementing rules-based personalization to customize specific user experiences.

Let’s say your company has deep customer data, so you’ve begun personalization there with the goal of nurturing existing relationships. One such customer, Coolbeans Corp., visits your site. They’re already using your core software system and are interested in an add-on module. Your WCMS knows this because the customer has navigated to that product page twice over the course of two visits and downloaded a product brochure.

At this point, it could be disastrous (or at least alienating) to direct this visitor to generalized information as if she’s new and anonymous. Luckily, by virtue of CMS personalization rules, the site knows to present the customer with the offer of a related whitepaper, the option to register for a virtual demonstration of the add-on and the ability to request a call from her sales rep (who is referenced by name, based on CRM data).

Delivery of relevant content, including targeted messages and calls to action? Check.

Other Options to Kick Off Personalization

There are opportunities for many other specific personalization wins. Consider inbound campaigns, location targeting and landing pages for visitors coming from specific searches.

PPC campaigns are a great place to start. Or, you could start a bit smaller and focus on only one or two personas by mapping content to each stage of their buyer journeys.    

The personalization experience is a journey. It may lead you into some twists and turns along the way, but even taking some initial steps promises worthwhile results.

The Author

Sue Klumpp is the Senior Director of Business Operations for BrainJocks, an enterprise web development firm and Sitecore Gold Implementation Partner. For fifteen years Sue has owned the digital presence of an array of companies, both large and small, working at times with industry-leading consultants and other times with a hands-on, do-it-yourself approach. With a passion for marketing technology and analytics, Sue uses experience and data to create cross-channel experiences that delight, quickly convert and drive digital success.

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Very practical, sound advice to roll up your sleeves and do personalization the right way. Making the potential of personalization happen–while avoiding the pitfalls–can seem overwhelming at times. These steps will help ensure you make progress.

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