Is there still a need for marketing personalisation?

All articles | Strategy
Published Apr 04, 2019 | Written by Keith Errington

There is a wealth of opinions about the essential need to personalise your marketing efforts – not only in the world of B2C but also for B2B.

Endless articles have been written about the drivers for personalisation – arguing that customers want more personalisation.

Yet at the same time, there is a massive kickback against the intrusiveness of modern marketing with personal privacy a key issue for many customers. News stories about the unwanted and unprompted violations of people’s privacy by some of the top social media companies such as Facebook, and the search engine giant Google are not helping the case for personalisation.

Some marketers have been pushing the boundaries of what is legal or what is morally acceptable for some time, resulting in the introduction of new regulation such as GDPR and steep fines.

So it seems customers apparently want more personalisation, but they also want more privacy and are unwilling to share personal details. So how can you deliver on personalisation without the data?

I believe that there is a key misunderstanding here, organisations that are conducting the research are concluding that respondents want more personalisation – but let’s look at what that means.

The Truth About Personalisation

Some years back, direct mail marketers ‘discovered’ personalisation and now had the technology to deliver it, so we saw a spate of leaflets through the door addressed individually to the recipient.

It wasn’t long before the marketers realised that this clever technique wasn’t improving sales, in fact, it often put people off.


Because it is not the form of address that needed to be personal, but the offer.

What people really mean when they say personalisation, is that they want offers and solutions that are relevant and useful to them – not that they want to be targeted for their interests or addressed by their name.

Unfortunately, too many companies are out there wanting to sell you complex data collecting systems that hoover up customer data, so they use the research to justify this and ignore the customers’ desire for privacy.

But you can target customers with relevant and useful solutions without collecting personal data – you just have to understand the market they are in, their business and their needs.

But, wait a minute, isn’t that just what B2B businesses have been doing all along? They often operate in niche markets with specific requirements and with a long and often complex buying process – so almost every sale is personalised.

There are a number of areas where personalisation is essential, and all of them depend on an understanding of the market and your audience.

Personalised offers

This will come as no surprise to any veteran B2B marketer, but your businesses solutions and offers need to be tailored to your market and your different types of customers.

It’s really marketing 101 to ensure your products and services are right for your market, but the way you package and offer those solutions can be further personalised to different customer segments.

If you understand your market and your customers you can personalise offers to particular issues customers face, to seasonal variations in the market, to particular niche markets and to help them with their product offers and solutions. The key here is to ask yourself what would make your offer more relevant to your target audience in their situation, right now?

Personalised attraction

Two areas where personalisation also comes into play are search and social. Search because your strategy needs to be personalised to your target market. Getting your search strategy right is an in-depth, time-consuming process that we’ve talked about elsewhere, but without the right approach, you won’t attract the business you need, and your brilliant content will not get seen.

Social media is another area where careful thought about audience and strategy is essential to attracting visits to your website and creating engagement with your customers. By its very nature, social media is personal and repays a personal approach. It’s worth remembering that your marketing should be about attracting people to you – it’s not about stalking your customers or being creepy.

Personalised website

One area where B2B companies may not be implementing personalisation to its full and best effect is on their websites.

If you are promoting your solutions and offerings via search engine advertising, SEO or social posts, it’s important that you have corresponding landing pages personalised to those offers. There is nothing worse than following a link that promises something specific, only to end up on a generic product or services page.

Now that might be fairly obvious, but it is also important to make sure your site as a whole appeals to all your different customers. And the way to do that is by clear signposting and pillar pages.

Remember that visitors may arrive at your site through a random web search and so may not be landing on an appropriate page – if you have clear navigation then ‘lost’ visitors should be able to quickly find what they are looking for. For that very same reason, you should have a good search facility on the site too. Remember to set up site areas by the issues your products or services address – as well as by the products or services themselves.

It is also important to set up areas for prospects and customers at different stages of the buyer’s journey and the customer’s familiarity of the product. So have areas for new, ‘clueless’ prospects as well as for ‘know it all’ long-standing customers.

Likewise have areas that are suitable for managers just wanting an overview of what your products and services mean for their bottom line, as well as technical areas for specifiers and engineers.

Personalised sales process

The most traditional part of B2B marketing is the sales process itself, and this has always been the most personalised aspect over the years. B2B customers have always appreciated the consultative approach – one where sales people listen to them, understand their problems and suggest solutions tat meet or even exceed their needs. Research shows this is no less important today, with that consultative approach if anything proving to be more important to the modern B2B buyer.

The key to personalisation

There are two ways to target your audience, you may use one or other, or a combination of both. The first is to use Buyer Personas to create profiles of typical customers, and the second is to use Account Based Marketing (ABM) – where you go after specific accounts.

The second is probably the easiest to personalise by its very nature. ABM involves getting to know your target business – who the key personnel are and what they do. You need to understand the business – its mission, philosophy and culture. You should also have an understanding of their products, services, solutions, offers, and unique propositions. Spending the time to know and understand your target account is never wasted and pays dividends when you make your approach, as it will enable you to deliver a personalised, relevant and useful pitch.

We’ve written about the different aspects of defining and working with buyer personas on many occasions as they are the key to an inbound, content marketing approach. The more thoroughly you define the personas, the more likely you are to get your personalisation right.

Everyone in marketing is agreed that personalisation is important from B2C to B2B, it’s how you define that personalisation that is all important. It’s not collecting as much data as you can and then creeping customers out – it’s taking the time to understand your customer’s issues, problems, challenges and requirements to deliver a personalised product or service, coupled with a truly personalised buying experience.

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Published by Keith Errington April 4, 2019
Keith Errington