They say that first impressions are everything, yet so many companies greet me with so little context:
- I hate calling a company, being routed through their “automated” telephone system, selecting three nested options including entering my account/phone number only to reach an agent who has no idea who I am or what I’m calling about.
- I hate logging into my movie theatre ticket purchasing app (which I use all the time) and seeing that the hot movie to see is The Hobbit. I have zero interest in any Lord of the Rings flicks – stop telling me how ‘precious’ these movies are!
- I hate visiting my go-to sports website homepage in need of my latest hockey fix and seeing a featured story about curling or lacrosse – two sports I couldn’t give a shit about.
Now overall I’d say I’m a pretty easy-to-please kind of guy. Nobody has ever accused me of having ridiculous expectations by any means (at least not to my face). So why do the things above get under my skin? It’s because these companies are not using the data I’m providing to their benefit. In some cases, like #1, I’m entering it. In others, they’re likely able to or already tracking it – but they’re not using it to deliver the content I want.
I assure you I’m not alone in my frustration – consumers now expect companies to provide a tailored experience. What’s best for my friends is not necessarily best for me. I’m sure there are die-hard curling sports fans out there (although I’ve never met one) so go ahead and serve them that content. But for me, give me what I want.
As marketers, we need to take these daily frustrations and apply them to the content marketing strategies for our brands. Why should a prospect or lead come to my site and see the same thing as everyone else? Let’s use data to guide them through a personalized journey.
On the web, this is all possible with a magical little invention called ‘cookies’ which help track where you originated from, which sites you’ve visited and much more. The idea is that by tracking someone’s path we can provide a better, more customized experience for them through the data stored. Basically, my sports site should know I love hockey and maybe the odd basketball story (based on where I’ve frequented) and tailor my homepage accordingly.
Granted there is debate around the privacy concerns held in cookie data, but they are a reality and as marketers, we have to take advantage. There are great marketing automation platforms today including Eloqua, Marketo, HubSpot and many others that will help you gather data through a combination of forms, cookies and other tools to better understand your audience. HubSpot, for example, has a tool (called the COS) that allows you to customize your site messaging for new versus return customers. Imagine being welcomed back to a site versus intro’d to the company time and time again.
Despite this, there isn’t a lot of focus from B2B (or B2C) marketers today on personalizing content marketing using this data. Mobile apps and social networks like LinkedIn or news aggregators like Zite do this – so why don’t brands?
Suppose our marketing team here at Uberflip was preparing an email blast to go out to 5,000 people who we know are Eloqua users that could be interested in our solution. Now, anyone can easily pick a piece of content suited to that persona and add the link to the email. But what happens if they click on that piece and make it through to the end. What are we going to serve next?
Most blogs would at best suggest the next sequential piece of content from their library. #Fail!!!!
We need to ensure that content is built around out the interests of our prospects, leads and/or customers.
This is no different than serving me up a lacrosse story after a hockey read or the 12th installment of the Hobbit after I enjoyed American Hustle. There’s no connection.
At Uberflip, we use our own solution to achieve an optimized and tailored content experience by persona or interest. Take a look at the two images below. These are what we call Custom Collections. One suited to Eloqua users and one for HubSpot followers:
Think of a Custom Collection as a tailored journey of exploration for people you know have particular interests.
Back to my targeted list of Eloqua users. Most blogs cannot accomplish this, but our tool enables us to pick the pieces of content we want to group for specific targeted visitors. Not only will the content tie to the visitor’s interest, but the CTA (call-to-action) will also align with the topic. Note above that in the Eloqua collection, the CTA offers to learn about “using Uberflip and Eloqua together” whereas in the HubSpot collection the CTA speaks to how “HubSpot and Uberflip” work together. Leaving CTAs to random chance would naturally result in much lower conversion rates.
As marketers we have to stop associating this type of experience as the future, and focus on how we can deliver a more personalized content experience now. This past weekend I was watching Netflix with my wife and then later with my kids. When I logged in with my wife Friday night, I was a click away from the next episode of ‘Suits’ based on my past content consumption. When I logged in the next morning at 6am with my kids (who were up way too early) they threw Dora in my face. I did not have to search around and find content suited – they handled this for me. This makes perfect sense for how we should handle our content marketing too.
Let’s stop welcoming a prospect to our site and sending them to find content that interests them. The fact that they came to your site and visited your resources or blog is all the initiative they should have to take. Once they’ve arrived, make it easy for them to navigate and find content with context.
I truly hope that as marketers we can solve this before the commercials we watch on cable TV are personalized – cause that’s coming too.