The internet and inbound marketing are a match made in heaven. All you need to do is pop a few big data algorithms into your website and voila! Your site can now be personalized each time your website visitors make a certain click or browse a particular page. We’ve seen internet personalization develop over the last decade with Google’s click tracking, filtering certain ads into users’ lives based on websites they’ve viewed, but now it’s possible—and necessary—to personalize your actual company website in order to foster more meaningful user engagement.
So what is website personalization exactly? It’s a way of tailoring content on your website to the individual visitor. When any given person clicks on your home page, it might offer basic information about your company and products. But once they click on a certain CTA, download a particular white paper, or identify themselves as, for example, a sales professional, CEO, association executive, layperson or what have you, then “smart” website modules or personalization tokens adjust themselves accordingly.
At the end of blog posts, for instance, you might position a particular Call-to-Action button that reflects their interests (based on information you’ve collected about them via forms), or perhaps the geographic location from where they’re browsing your site. Sidebar suggestions on your home page can filter information that might be valuable to them. Some companies even create buyer personas that most accurately represent their most promising visitors and build different versions of their website that apply to each buyer persona. It’s all very Matrix-y.
The thing is, website personalization is an approximation, meaning that while you can guess what your buyers might be interested in based on what they engage with on your site, you can’t always be sure of their exact goals and desires. And as with all internet-related things, website personalization has to be understood and appropriately dialed back in order to leverage what could be a really fantastic and important tool.
As more companies begin to take advantage of this increasingly popular inbound technique, it’s important to clarify a few things about personalization so that more small businesses can apply it to their sites and wow their prospects.
Clarification #1: It’s Not Content Personalization.
But they’re closely linked! While companies can have content written that is geared toward certain audiences (and every piece of content should be catering to the interests of someone you are targeting), it typically doesn’t find the user. The user finds it. Website personalization, however, can change that model and help deliver that content to a user on-site depending on anticipated user needs and past user behavior. That could include rotating CTAs, “Other Users Who Read This Also Looked At…”, one image that is substituted for another based on user data, or even a whole new customized home page that shows up after the user makes their identity or “buyer persona” known and visits again. While content drives the sale, the website is the tool that can steer them towards a conversion.
This is also where you will want to answer some important questions about how you nurture your audience. One of my favorite user experience questions that I’ve come across is “Where in your conversion funnel are people most likely to drop out – and why? What can you do about it?” If one of your visitors has downloaded one “top-of-the-funnel” piece of content, when they return to your site for more, why would you want to serve up the same Call-to-Action offering the same content? If the standard CTA redirects to a landing page for a tip sheet or eBook, consider displaying a more “middle-of-the-funnel” CTA for a webinar or case study in its place when the user comes back!
Clarification #2: Website Personalization Is Not for Your Business – It’s for the Customer.
It seems like an obvious one, but if you’re not fully tailoring user experience on your website to, well, the user, you’re already dropping sales and missing out on conversions. Personalization is most effective if it touches on the four core principles of user experience: remember, understand, help, and surprise/delight. It’s that last one that many companies simply don’t get.
How is your website helping you surprise your customers? It’s easy to think that simply having a responsive site that will adjust pages accordingly will do the trick. More distinct touches like banner headers that say, “Hey, We Remember You!” or “Here’s Where You Left Off…” are more likely to build trust with the user, effectively nurturing a lead.
Clarification #3: Good Personalization is Good Segmentation.
Its’s not just about gender and age. Particularly in the B2B space, most companies are selling across these particular demographics – and they don’t really influence the marketing. Really, really good personalization on a B2B website will incorporate geographic data, industry info, whether or not they’re a returning visitor, access to applicable online behavior, etc.
The primary goal here is to help users filter through all of the information that isn’t relevant to them, so use personalization techniques and smart content geared to those “segment-able” traits. By segmenting all the leads in your contact database according to job role and industry, in addition to the content offers they’ve already downloaded from your website, you’ll be able to more effectively customize their experience.
Clarification #4: There Is Such a Thing as Too Much Personalization.
It’s kind of like walking into a store for the first time and having a sales associate greet you by name. It’s just weird and creepy. (“Who the heck are you? How do you know me?”). The same goes for online personalization. Not only will too much personalization drive away your visitors because it makes them feel unsafe and insecure with the information they could input on your website, but it also lowers the value of their interactions on the site. Your visitors could surprise you, so don’t slice them too thin. Like we said earlier in this post, website personalization is an approximation. Your customer is smart – they don’t need you to tightly hold their hand as they make their way through the conversion funnel.
Personalization is a next step forward. We’ve already seen it in sites like Netflix and search engines like Google. It’s not a new phenomenon in the internet world, but it’s still relatively new for SMBs and should be taken advantage of accordingly. In fact, most marketers think it’s the most important marketing tool for the future. And if your small business can leverage the right analytics, it’s time to put them to the test and see how they can make a difference for your user.