OPINION

Is personalisation in B2B marketing worth the investment?

News

The ever increasing consumer demand for relevant and personalised experiences is driving a shift in marketing strategy for B2B organisations.

Personalisation is a buzzword in marketing that comes in and out of fashion. It was once considered exclusively the domain of direct marketing. Whilst for digital, it became nothing more than including the first name in an email campaign.

Today there is still a certain amount of inertia towards personalisation. But rather than thinking of it as a separate marketing strategy, marketing and digital teams need to realise that personalisation and the customer experience are one of the same.

As consumers ourselves we all appreciate it when we experience that extra personal touch. Think of the difference it makes when your local barber or regular barrister remembers who you are, what you like, and what you don’t like. Personal experiences and individual attention make us come back for more and help us to build that emotional connection with a brand or supplier. However, it doesn’t always translate into the digital space where most of the time you are anonymous.

The time poor consumer has become driven by convenience, but just because shoppers have switched from the local high street to supermarkets and from supermarkets to online shopping, which does not mean that the personal customer experience is no longer relevant. In fact, in a more competitive market, it is what will create loyalty with customers craving to be valued.

"Integrated technology provides the foundations for delivering a personalised customer experience"

Tom Dougherty

Except there is a paralysis towards providing personalised digital experiences  that often comes down to a hesitancy for investing in new customer engagement strategies and technology. Integrated technology is the enabler that’s needed to provide the foundations for delivering a personalised customer experience, solutions that bring together customer data, CRM and marketing automation platforms and most critically a modern website content management system.

Implementing these solutions and navigating complex internal systems and processes can make this rather difficult to achieve. According to a study from Gleanstar and Act-On, benchmarking customer lifecycle engagement in the B2B market, 83% of B2B marketers blame fragmented marketing platforms and systems for preventing automation, which is a key component for achieving personalisation.

Customer experience platforms can often be the catalyst for operational change within digital and marketing teams establishing a universal personalised approach to the organisation's customer engagement strategy. Having an all in one experience marketing platform removes the challenges of integrating multiple technologies which can often increase cost, time and complexity, hindering the effectiveness of the overall strategy.

In the competitive B2B market, where the sales cycle is typically much longer and usually involves direct conversations between individuals the digital experience must reflect this as closely as possible. Research by B2B Marketing and Sitecore reveals that many businesses are segmenting their prospects and customers; “by vertical (62 per cent), business size (61 per cent) and location (38 per cent).

However, this data is not being leveraged effectively. If you are going to create personalised experiences and segment individuals into specific groups, then you need to make sure they are being targeted in the right way. This level of precision relies on personalised content that has the power to effectively influence audiences in a greater way. However at present there is a gap between the potential and the reality, only “11 per cent of respondents said they personalise web content for online visitors and only 14 per cent offer the option to select a persona type”.  With 70 per cent of B2B marketing departments reportedly creating unfocused content, there is clearly a high demand for platforms which provide greater focus to the creation process, which ultimately reduces wastage.

Thanks to the likes of website experience management platform such as Sitecore, organisations can now deliver personalised experiences to help drive increased conversions and sales.  By presenting each visitor with an experience that matches their interests and behaviour patterns, businesses can get increased value from their digital marketing initiatives. Combine this with a greater understanding of your customers through enhanced data profiling and the opportunities for targeted communication are endless.

When, in B2B marketing, the humble website is often the first port of call for prospects to learn more about a business and their products - why are organisations not doing more to make it an equally engaging experience akin to a first meeting in person?

Marketers are beginning to understand this. By 2018, Gartner predicts that 70% of B2B eCommerce sites will offer personalised features for customers with 50% of B2B customers expecting an improved personalised product or service recommendations.

You just have to look to Amazon to see how effective this is in the B2C space; eConsultancy reports that Amazon sees an additional 10 – 30% revenue as a result of using its buying suggestion feature.

Using a data-led approach to drive advertising and customise content is, historically speaking, a B2B strategy but one used in the consumer space. It's slightly ironic then that not more B2B companies are taking this approach to their marketing to further to build a deeper relationship with customers.

So what’s next? The first step is to develop a digital strategy focused on improving the customer experience through personalisation for prospects and customers. A strategy that considers the requirement for a technology upgrade at its core will help lay the foundations for a modern business fit for a generation whose expectations for relationships are ever increasing.

 This article was published on B2B Marketing on 13th July, 2016

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