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Personal Content Experiences Matter More Than Personalized Content [Video Series]

It’s like the restaurant owner at that little Italian place down the road that you’ve been going to for years. You and your family walk in. They give you a huge greeting, take you to a front-window table, and bring over coloring books for the kids.

That’s personal. And it’s the best kind of marketing because it delivers you the optimal experience – one that keeps you coming back for more.

Digital technology has been trying for the last 50 years to give us the ability of that neighborhood restaurant. But interestingly, like so many other technologies, digital marketers have yet to make use of the new tools that can help them realize the vision of becoming their product’s version of the favorite Italian eatery down the road.

Why? Because we’ve confused personalized for personal.

#Content marketers have confused personalized for personal, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. #MarketingMakers Click To Tweet

In episode eight of Marketing Makers, CMI’s series for those who make marketing work, I explore the evolution that led us to the demand for personalization today and what we need to know to do it well. You can watch the full show here or read on for the highlights and the corresponding segments of the show.

We forget that the restaurant owner uses that same play for many other families, but each one finds it personal. The owner has seen and met their needs (without their asking.) All other things being equal, we’ll always place way more value in an experience that feels uniquely meaningful to us than whether it was customized with our preferences.

Personalization in marketing is basically a simple concept: Deliver a message to someone that is unique to them. It works because the message is special for the recipient, making them more likely to have an affinity for the creator (i.e., the brand) and take the action you want them to take.

What you must have for success

Success, though, depends on one critical but more challenging factor: You must know something about the recipient to deliver a message that is unique to them. In the case of account-based marketing, you also must know each recipient who sits on that buying committee.

That knowledge is based on data or, more specifically, quality data. Just because I know your name doesn’t mean that I know you. Just because I scraped your content consumption data off a shopping site doesn’t mean I know what you’re currently buying.

To deliver a personalized message, you first know something about the recipient. And that requires quality data, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. #Marketing Makers Click To Tweet

Data assembled carefully and thoughtfully and used judiciously is the heart of a great personalization strategy. It’s what separates mail-merge personalization from truly personal content.

This is where content marketing – developing content valuable to our consumers – comes in. If we gather our data and start to really know the customer, we can start using technology to deliver better and more personal experiences for them.

What type of data you need

First-party data is the real prize for both personalization and account-based marketing that targets content to accounts. You need to build robust first-party data repositories and imbue them with three distinct categories:

  • Explicit data, which you ask for directly, helps you develop deeper, more trusting relationships with your customers, which you can turn into more valuable conversations with them on their beliefs and preferences.
  • Implicit data are the behavioral insights you observe indirectly. This is watching their behavior on your site and adding it to their profile. Implicit data helps you develop empathy for the customers and determine their intentions so you know when (or if) to start selling to them.
  • Ambient data gives you greater contextual and situational awareness of the customer’s needs. This data can inform how you personalize and distinguish your brand’s content offerings, such as deciding to offer customers snow parkas instead of sun hats based on where they are located at the moment.
Explicit, implicit, and ambient first-party data allows you to create robust personalized #content experiences, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. #MarketingMakers Click To Tweet

It’s the combination of these three types of data that enables you to be the restaurant owner – to know your customers, to know them so well you deliver content prepared in advance so that they feel like they’ve been delivered a personal experience made especially for them. When our audience asks, “How did they know I needed to see this right now?” That’s when we win.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute