By Bob Johnson published October 10, 2011

Content Ops – It’s Time To Get Personal with B2B Buyers

A column about dynamic design and content optimization. 

According to our research at IDG Connect, B2B buyers complain the relevance of marketing content—defined by how well it supports their purchase decision-making process—has declined by 31% over the past five years. Marketers can’t fix this problem by churning out more content or wishing on SEO magic—though they continue to try. Neither will fix a content relevance issue that buyers say lengthen the decision-making process by almost 20 percent.

The answer is personalization.

Personalization means capturing profile information about your buyers’ interests, needs, behaviors and learning styles—and applying it to something other than the pursuit of leads. Personalization goes way beyond demographics—those “iffy” statistics you pull from registration forms (which buyers admit they fill out inaccurately up to 30% of the time according to IDG Connect’s buyers’ content preference research). You also won’t achieve it by asking odorous questions like, “Are you ready to buy?” No surprise, those responses are also notoriously inaccurate.

Your organization needs to ask questions that uncover your buyer’s role, business issues, buying stage, type and preferred content format—and use that information to create highly customized, effective buying pathways. The impact can be powerful. IDG Connect research shows personalized content improves email open rates by almost 42%.

If a 42% increase in open rates has your attention, take steps to make it happen. First, stop thinking about registration forms as something to score and pursue prospects. Think of them instead as profile forms, where the information provided can be used to tailor, focus and speed the process of finding relevant information.

The buying process is a measured, deliberate journey, not a sweaty sprint. You must build your buyers’ confidence slowly. Each time they visit your site or read your content, you should be engaging in a mutual exchange of value, balancing your desire for more information with your buyers’ reluctance to share. Be transparent: explain to your prospects why you require specific information and your desire to save them time.

Next, take steps to develop targeted content to improve your buyers’ experience. At the very least, you should customize your content by buying stage, buyer role (such as decision maker or recommender), and subject area (technical, business or financial). This type of assessment is critical. Otherwise you’re just engaging in what I like to call “random acts of content.”

Now it’s time for matchmaking (not speed dating).

Don’t forget to push your marketing automation and sales automation vendors to do a better job of managing buyer profiles and profiled content, automating its retrieval, customizing emphasis and even layout, and delivering it in the format and timing that match buyer preferences. The key goal that surrounds the idea of the semantic web is “content in context.” Give me content that is geared towards the tasks, objectives and needs I have as a buyer—and the revenue will follow.

Click here to examine IDG Connect’s research on content  personalization in email campaigns.

Author: Bob Johnson

Bob Johnson is principal analyst and vice president of digital content optimization at IDG Connect, part of the world’s largest technology media, event and research company.

Other posts by Bob Johnson

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