Personalization sits at the very heart of marketing performance improvement in B2B as well as in B2C companies. The latter camp has made enormous strides in recent years in being able to present customers and prospects with relevant content, offers, recommendations, and other types of messages via online channels, including the company website, in an automated and systematic fashion.
They have done this through a variety of means — for example, by using cookies that tie user sessions to Web content management systems. Underlying the technologies are analytic capabilities designed to impute an individual’s propensity to make a purchase decision based on such factors as online browsing behavior and also, when possible, by incorporating personal profile data that might include past purchase history and various geo-demographic and psychographic attributes.
It’s Not Easy Being B2B
It hasn’t been so easy for B2B companies. These marketers are at a disadvantage in that they operate in a fundamentally different world — one in which the buying intentions, not to mention the identities of the influencers and decision-makers ultimately responsible for making the buying decisions, are generally unknown. It’s a world where the ability to dynamically serve up relevant content at the so-called “moment of truth” has traditionally presented a monumental challenge.
That challenge, however, is now being addressed with a next-generation approach to website content personalization. This approach, which has begun to prove out its value only within the past year, makes it possible to identify company affiliation the very moment a visitor hits a website, even before the visitor’s Web browser has loaded a single megabyte of display content.
When combined with a business rules and Web content management system, the IP address mapping-based technology can deliver real marketing magic. Imagine being able to, in the blink of an eye, present new website visitors with content — not only text, but also graphic elements and even video and other rich media — that speaks to them in a highly relevant fashion based on their company’s firmographic profile and anticipated needs.
Website copy could reference the name of their company and, using real-time database queries, activate “best next actions” according to a set of predefined parameters. Is the company a medium-sized business? That may influence how the product or service is positioned on the homepage and even which products or services to feature in the first place. It may also dictate which client examples and informational resources to present. Does the company have a retail franchise structure? Are sales down from last year? Is it a seasonal business? Is it currently doing business with a competitor? Does it sell direct or through reseller channels? Where is the company likely to be in the consideration-and-buying process?
Precision marketing nirvana is knowing as much as possible about the company printed on the business card of the current website visitor and then acting upon this knowledge in an automated and real-time fashion to engage that individual in a context-sensitive fashion. Too good to be true? It’s not the first time a new technology has promised to bring to fruition that long-heralded vision of one-to-one marketing personalization, although, until now, few have touted anything that resembles this capability in the context of B2B.
The system of IP mapping goes far beyond merely making it possible to serve up regional or localized content based on the geographic location of a website visitor, as is now common practice. Instead, the technology seeks to enable what Gleanster calls “Real-time Website Content Versioning.” And although still in its infancy, it has shown enormous promise in helping more than a few B2B companies improve website effectiveness in ways that drive significant increases in lead generation and new customer acquisition.
Case in Point: Adobe
Software giant Adobe Systems began testing the waters of Real-time Website Content Versioning in early 2011, using industry vertical, account size, and even individual company name as the basis for personalized content targeting. According to the project managers at Adobe, deploying IP mapping to auto-fill banner ads and webpages with content that relates specifically to the identity of the individual browser or visitor has thus far produced some impressive results.
Like all marketers, Adobe has traditionally been limited to using generic and broadly applicable offers and headlines in the online channel. Combining Real-time Website Content Versioning technology enabled by Demandbase with its own image rendering system, Adobe Scene 7, while also pulling information from a content optimization plug-in called Test and Target, Adobe is now able to serve up highly targeted messages and offers.
For example, a headline that may have read, “How sophisticated is your online marketing?” can now, depending on the industry profile of the website visitor, read, “How sophisticated is your online marketing for retailers?” or “How sophisticated is your online marketing for travel and hospitality?”
Targeted headlines consistently yield a significant conversion lift over the generic versions. In fact, in most of the A/B tests, offers targeted specifically by industry generate a call-to-action lift of 5-15 percent. Clearly, there’s still work to be done. To date, for example, Adobe has been successful in matching traffic on less than a quarter of website visitors. That percentage is likely to increase over time as the IP mapping library continues to grow.
Adobe has experimented with account identification not only by industry by also by company name on external display media on sites like Clickz and eMarketer. In some instances, a call-to-action would promote a guide with the message that it had been specifically prepared for, say, HP.
Adobe has also experimented with using Real-time Website Content Versioning to integrate autofill into registration forms, by prepopulating the forms with existing database information. The company has been able to shorten the form by making the fields that are populated disappear, reducing the number of fields from 12 to eight.
Banking on Website Content Relevance
It’s a foregone conclusion that personalized website content should — and generally does — lead to higher conversion rates and increased return on marketing investment. It’s not surprising, then, that a majority of companies within the B2B realm are investing in technologies, capabilities, and resources to bring the concept of Web content personalization to life, according to survey data captured for the forthcoming benchmark report Web Content Management.
In fact, 71 percent of Top Performers, compared to 60 percent of Everyone Else, indicated that they are making improvement in Web content relevance a priority focus area this year.
These companies recognize that a one-size-fits-all approach to prospect engagement via the website generally results in higher abandonment rates, fewer return visitors, and fewer overall conversions than an approach that offers content tailored to specific segments of website visitors.
Simply put, relevant website content means more website traffic, longer website sessions, and more frequent website visits. More to the point, Gleanster research points to a direct correlation between the amount of time that a prospect (which, in a B2B situation, is actually likely to involve multiple individuals from the same company) spends on the company website engaging with relevant content, and the likelihood that the accumulation of interactions will ultimately culminate in a transaction and new client relationship.
In an ideal world, a company would receive a notification whenever a high-value, high-priority target account spent an average of x number of minutes on the website perusing relevant content. They would know who these companies are by name.
Moreover, they would be able to adaptively engage these website visitors in a real-time fashion to enrich the quality of their experience and help ensure that they’ve accomplished their objectives. With the advent of Real-time Website Content Versioning, that world is now inching closer to reality.