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Stop Thinking About Personalized Content as an Extra

Personalization is not a detail or an add-on when it comes to your content. It should be an integral part of your content marketing strategy so you can build the sort of audience loyalty we all dream of.

“Virtually all (96%) marketers agree that personalization advances customer relationships,” according to Evergage’s 2019 Trends in Personalization Survey Report. And 80% of the respondents say they saw a measurable lift in business from their personalization campaigns.

80% of marketers saw measurable lift in business from personalized campaigns via @Evergage study. Share on X

When you see statistics like that, it makes any argument against personalization (not that we’ve seen many of those, by the way) completely “moo” as Joey Tribbiani would say. It’s a cow’s opinion. It doesn’t matter. It’s moo.

(Apologies if you haven’t seen Friends. I couldn’t resist putting that in.)

What do I mean by personalized content? It’s content designed to speak to an individual or group. Making it relevant and engaging means your subscribers are more likely to open your emails, enjoy reading them, purchase, and remain subscribed.

How can you add personalization to your content? First, let’s get this straight – basic personalization is both affordable and easy to implement.

With that understanding, I’m throwing a few examples, tips, and suggestions your way to get you up and running.

Hello subscriber

Do you still get the odd “hello subscriber” emails?

I do and they frustrate me. They’re irritating not because the senders are essentially showing me how little they care about me, but because they haven’t fixed something that’s easy to remedy with a proliferation of options available.

“Hello subscriber” #email shows sender doesn’t care about the recipient, says @JamesConverge. Share on X

Mailchimp, Campaign Monitor, HubSpot, dotdigital – whatever you use – are all highly capable products that can ensure that you never send a “hello subscriber” email again. Of course, you need the first name of your subscribers, but you should already have that. (If you don’t, add it to your subscription form now.)

In the screenshot above, you can see how the software (Campaign Monitor) we use allows us to add a first name to the email subject. It’s as simple as clicking to add personalization then choosing the type of personalization. In this case, “Insert first name” was selected. When the email goes out, the recipient’s first name will appear in the subject line.

Now, email subject headers are one basic example of how you can personalize your content and communications with your audience, but it’s one that illustrates just how easy it is to do.

That’s the basic level of personalization covered, but what other options are there? Keep reading, friend.

Serve personalized content

You don’t have to stop at “Hello Brian.” (Brian is my imaginary audience member for this article). Deeper down the personalization rabbit hole, you can show Brian some content that relates to the sort of thing he’s interested in.

What exactly do I mean?

Say Brian bought a fishing rod on your website. From that one interaction, you surmise Brian likes fishing. Based on the type of rod he bought (budget or high-end) and where he had it delivered, you infer a little more about Brian – his level of disposable income, where he lives (i.e., when fishing season starts for Brian).

Now you know content – an article about fishing in the north, a video review of accessories for similar fishing rods, or a listicle about the easiest fish to catch based on the season – that Brian is going to be interested in, and therefore is more likely to engage with.

For this step to work, it is essential that you know as much about your audience as possible, to ensure that the right emails and messages go to the right people at the right time. Irrelevant information (especially about products you’re up-selling) will feel spammy, and aggressively salesy – and you don’t want that at all.

Know as much about your audience as possible to personalize #emails and #content, says @JamesConverge. Share on X

Spend time figuring out what it is about your audiences you want to know. For example, does age group matter? What about location? What about household size? Which newsletters did the person subscribe to or which page converted the person into a newsletter subscriber?

As to how you find out that information, surveys, research into reading and buying habits, use of your website, emails, apps, etc., are all useful ways to gather it.

Yes, this level of personalization is harder to implement than simply adding someone’s first name to an email subject line, but the more personalized you get, the more engagement and loyalty you’ll get from your customers.

There’s a fine line between “Hello Brian” and “We’re watching you, Brian.” Landing in the middle is key to the success of any personalization marketing communication. In addition to doing research, take time to plan and test before you launch into massive personalization initiatives. They can be time-consuming and costly to say the least, so make sure you get them right.

There’s a fine line between 'Hello Brian' and 'We’re watching you, Brian' says @JamesConverge. #email Share on X

Let’s use Amazon as an example of how to do it right. Its technology remembers the products you viewed and purchased, and recommends other products based on that information. Most people find that useful – and not at all pushy or aggressive. It’s useful. And, by the way, that Seth Godin book has since been purchased thanks to this recommendation.

Getting suggestions like these when I log into Amazon makes me feel like a valued and known customer rather than one of the many millions it serves daily. And that is part of the reason I keep going back to the site.

TIP: Serve up content like Amazon does product suggestions. Show relevant blog articles, case studies, and thought leadership pieces based on how the visitor previously interacted with your site.

Personalize calls to action

Ah, the CTA – a vital part of any content or marketing campaign. Is anything A/B tested more than a call to action? And there’s a reason why that is. The CTA is the brand’s reason for the content – it’s the call for the viewer to subscribe to a newsletter, read more, or buy a product.

Any time you can make a CTA more enticing, the better. What if you customize your CTAs so every viewer sees them personalized for him or her? That would be cool and darn effective. A HubSpot study, which analyzed more than 330,000 CTAs, found that personalized calls to action converted 202% better.

.@HubSpot analyzed more than 330,000 CTAs & found that personalized calls to action converted 202% better. Share on X

But what constitutes a personalized CTA? One way personalize is to deliver a CTA based on whether the person viewing it is a first-time or return visitor.

Let’s say you operate a smartphone review website. When a first-time visitor lands on the site, the CTA is a suggestion of an article on the top 5 smartphones of 2019. The topic is sufficiently generic that most people viewing this site would be interested in reading.

However, if the person is a return visitor, subscriber, or customer, the CTA would be for an article about flagship smartphone speed benchmark results for 2019. That topic is more personal for a visitor who already consumed the more general content.

No matter where your brand is in personalization, you can do more and should if you want to strengthen your audience relationships.

Remember, as Evergage’s 2019 Trends in Personalization report details, 70% of marketers say personalization has a “strong” or “extremely strong” impact on advancing the customer relationship.

You don’t necessarily have to dive into the deep end. Some of the examples and suggestions require more time or money than you may have. But you should at least ensure that you’ve got the basics covered and you never, ever send another “Hello customer” email again.

Please note: All tools included in our blog posts are suggested by authors, not the CMI editorial team. No one post can provide all relevant tools in the space. Feel free to include additional tools in the comments (from your company or ones that you have used).

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 Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute