How to use personalization to boost sales & marketing effectiveness

Make it personal

Whenever you hear people talk about how to use personalization, someone will eventually mention how creepy it can be. It’s a common objection, yet the data is conflicting. According to Accenture, 75 percent of consumers are more likely to buy from brands who recognize them and offer recommendations based on past purchases — and their unique needs.

The challenge is figuring out how to use personalization in the first place. There are so many tools out there that technology is no longer an excuse. But what about the process of effective personalization that boosts sales and marketing efficiency?

In this guide, I’ll explain what personalization is, followed by the groundwork and steps you need to integrate it into your sales and marketing systems.

What is personalization?

In a nutshell, personalized sales and marketing creates a one-to-one experience between your organization and clients. Here’s a simple definition:

Personalized marketing is a strategic process that segments customers into hyper-targeted audiences and serves content that those audiences will find most valuable. It is a process that involves big data, analytics, and marketing automation software.

The end goal of nailing down how to use personalization is, ultimately, generating more sales. By serving the right message to the right prospects, you’re better educating them to decide on whether or not to buy from you.

Beyond sales, there are several other benefits:

Brand loyalty

Consumers now have an understanding that sales and marketing professionals have access to a huge amount of data about them. As such, they expect us to treat them as individuals. Learning how to use personalization, therefore, presents a strong competitive advantage.

Consistent messaging across channels

The term “multi-channel” is no longer a buzzword. Your customers are communicating with you across email, apps, social media, telephone and everything in between. The experience should be consistent across all channels.

A better customer experience

People are constantly handing their personal information over in exchange for eBooks, whitepapers, and other value-driven incentives. With this information, you can provide a more personalized experience when they return to your website, app, blog or store.

Getting started with personalization requires understanding your customers. You likely have large amounts of data on them already, which will allow you to segment them properly.

Segmenting your customers

Personalization is all about getting the right message to the right people at the right time. For example, you might send a discount for products that particular customers have found an interest in. Or educational emails around a common challenge shared by buyer personas.

For example, Evergage segments their website visitors by industry. Here’s what the non-personalized home page looks like:

How To Use Personalization EvergageAnd this is the home page tailored to professionals within retail organizations:

How To Use Personalization Evergage RetailAs you can see, the copy below the headline has been tailored to focus on the needs of retail organizations. They also have testimonials and client logos of other retail firms.

To do this, you need to know these people are.

 

The personalization process begins by segmenting your customers using various filters based on demographic and behavioral data. In a nutshell, segmentation will help you to:

  1. Plan your marketing and content strategy — Segments allow you to create content that helps individuals solve their challenges.
  2. Guide the sales pipeline —Create the right sales message for each type of customer. Segments allow you to better train and guide your sales reps on how to serve different types of prospects.
  3. Optimize for conversions — Your landing pages, website copy, and sales enablement content will all benefit by catering to each customer segment. Learn how to use personalization to show them you “get” them.

Buyer personas are the simplest place to start. These are documents that carefully define each type of customer. Include information such as:

  • Demographic information (age, location, income, etc.)
  • Professional information (job title, role, responsibilities)
  • Interests (what they read, where they hang out online)
  • Challenges (what keeps them awake at night, what challenges make their role difficult)
  • Value proposition (why would they find your solution valuable?)

Using buyer personas, you can create sales and marketing funnels that guide each group of customers from awareness to close.

This example created by The UX Design Guy illustrates key information for a business owner persona:

How To Use Personalization Owner Persona
You must also define lifecycle stages to map how deep your customer relationships are. This is key, as the way you communicate with each segment will depend on how well they know you.

New subscribers who have never heard of your will need nurturing with educational material, whereas prospects at the consideration stage will require guidance to decide whether or not to do business with you.

Putting these two forms of segmentation together, you’ll have a clear guide on the content to create, as well as your sales process. The next step is to create that content.

Serve marketing messages based on segments and behavior

Now you’ve mapped out your customer segments. It’s time to create content that will serve and guide them through the sales funnel. While your personas define the nature and topic of the content, the format is decided by your lifecycle stages.

Let’s take a look at the typical marketing funnel and the forms of content that fit into them:

Discovery/Awareness

Content types — Blog posts, articles, infographics, downloadable worksheets, videos, value-driven eBooks

Goals — Attract qualified traffic, convert them to subscribers and leads

Consideration

Content types — Case studies, testimonials, reports, analysis, demos, tutorials, webinars, white papers, reviews

Goals — Help qualified leads research your product or service as a potential solution to their problem, sending offers to guide them down the sales cycle

Decision

Content types — Pricing information, comparison charts, tools, ROI calculators, events, offers, testimonials, case studies

Goals — Assist in the buying process, converting leads into sales

Sales enablement

Content types — Guides, blog posts, infographics, product sheets, scripts, competitors comparisons, email templates, presentations, social content

Goals — Assist sales reps in providing prospects with guides and tools that make a strong business case

Advocacy/Reconversion

Content types — Surveys, customer interviews, newsletters, special offers, in-depth guides, product updates, referral programs

Goals — Encourage loyalty and retention, helping customers to a) remain subscribing customers or b) becoming repeat purchasers. Referral systems help attract new customers while rewarding current ones.

Structuring your content in this way is key. It will help you to effectively plan and create the right content for the right customer segments.

Next, you need to figure out which topics your content will cover. There are two ways to do this:

Surveys are the first step in learning how to use personalization. Email your customers, prospects, and subscribers to find out what their current challenges are. Frame the questions around your value proposition, making them as relevant as possible.

Four to five multiple-choice questions are best as it will reduce form abandonment. But for qualitative insight, you do have room for one open-ended question.

The second method is customer interviews. Schedule conversations with your audience to dig deep into their pains. For every answer, dig deeper to find the true motivation behind their answers.

Organize this information by segment. Survey data can be kept in a simple spreadsheet. When organizing your customer interviews, it’s best to structure them in reports.

Talking directly to your customers is one of the best methods of generating content and messaging ideas. You’re getting the challenges and desires of your market straight from the source, allowing you to personalize content and messaging for each segment.

Personalizing the sales process

The practice of segmenting and carefully defining your audience doesn’t stop at sales. Your reps must be educated to personalize the entire sales process to help them reach their goals.

This means first having a well-defined sales process in the first place.

 

Let’s define what a sales process is. The sales process is a sequence of well-defined steps that guides and educates a lead to become a prospect. An example of a sales process could be:

  • Lead qualified
  • Demo of software scheduled
  • Follow-up sequence
  • Trial of software
  • Conversion to paying customer

Of course, this process can go beyond these steps. Retention techniques as well as case study development can come well after the close. But this is the typical process you’d expect from a software company.

To personalize the experience your leads have throughout this experience, go back to the start with segmentation.

Different organizations will have different pain points. A company of 25 will have different needs in comparison to a company of 400. This is why having insight up front is key for marketing and sales teams.

In the example above, a rep will know which areas of the software to focus on during a demo with any particular lead. They’ll know which features to highlight and which to avoid. Of course, they should always dig deeper into the individual’s challenges at the beginning of the call. But the insight yielded from segmentation will help them ask the right questions.

This level of personalization must continue throughout the entire process. Which is why monitoring tools, such as Mention and BuzzSumo, are useful.

Let’s say your prospect has been picked up in the news for a new acquisition, or the release of a new feature. If it’s time to follow up, having this information is invaluable for your sales reps. They can begin the email by simply congratulating them. A value-driven gesture — such as sharing the press release on social media — can also go a long way.

Nothing newsworthy going on? No problem. When it’s follow-up time, send them a piece of content specific to the challenges they mentioned in your initial conversation. This can be your content or that of a third party.

This content doesn’t have to be business related. Keep an eye on news around the interests of your prospects. For example, one contact might be a huge supporter of the New York Jets. When there’s something novel or newsworthy to share, do so.

Wrapping up how to use personalization

When personalizing your sales and marketing efforts, there are two things to keep in mind:

  1. Collecting and organizing informative data and insights from your audience
  2. Digging deep into audience challenges and interests

Once you’ve segmented and organized your buyer personas, you can begin to communicate with them on a truly personalized level.

Timo Rein
Timo Rein is the co-founder and president of Pipedrive, a provider of sales CRM software that gives sales teams control over their selling processes. He has 15-plus years experience as a salesman, sales manager and software entrepreneur. Before co-founding Pipedrive, Rein helped build a leading sales and management training house in the Baltics. Prior to that, he was among the top one percent door-to-door salesmen with Southwestern Company.