Article

Kresten Bergsøe
Kresten Bergsøe 26 May 2016

How to Create Personalized Content

One to one marketing is not a distant abstraction - personalization is a simple creative technique. Real personalized content is build from the ground up with two things in mind: what subjects do you want to convey and what profile information is available about the reader.

The proliferation of digital channels has evolved into the single largest communication revolution since Gutenberg. However while the web fundamentally changed the way we connect and interact – the way we build websites has not changed in the same order of magnitude.

Almost all websites are still static – every visitor receives the same content and websites suffer from amnesia – they cannot recognize previous visitors and use the individual history of interaction to deliver more relevant content or better service. The lack of recognition, memory and personalization are the key reasons why the web still has to deliver as a relationship building tool and the lack of relevant user experiences it is the primary driver why marketers are struggling with lower conversion rates and lackluster ROI.

Most people have difficulties grasping the fact that it is possible to really personalize content to the individual. It is natural as most have been trained in defining target groups and targeting messages to individual target groups.

However segmenting only takes you so long. In reality it fast becomes too complicated when the number of segments increase and variations of messages has to be created. Many have pursued this track in the belief that a gradually finer grained segmentation was the path to real one to one marketing. It simply is not. Segmentation has never been the road to personalization and it never will be - basically because it is a fundamentally different way of creating content.

Personas is not getting you anywhere

Marketing technology providers have pitched the concept of building personas as the framework for personalization. In fact this phenomenon has haunted web development for years - but it is still an abstract that just makes the creation of personalization more complicated and is still good old segmentation just in different words.

When you create content to personas - you create to someone who does not exist. An persona is a virtual representation of an imaginary individual in the target group. Personas are fundamentally built on mountains of assumptions - and as most know, when assuming, most fail the majority of the time. Same with personas.

The foundation for personalization is profile information

If you want to create personalized content you simply stop assuming anything. You need to have tangible personally identifiable information about the individual visitor. Stuff like gender, interests in the content categories and individual products or content articles. Information like engagement level, prior interactions, converted goals and how the individual visitor compares to the average visitor on all parameters that are captured about visitors.

With this information - it is much easier to create compelling content as you know exactly what property about the visitor you are using to twist the pitch or angle your story. This IS the big difference between doing segmentation and personalization.

Personalization is simple

One to one marketing is not a distant abstraction - personalization is a simple creative technique. Real personalized content is build from the ground up with two things in mind: what subjects do you want to convey and what profile information is available about the reader.

You structure your content in a number of building blocks that each focus on one or more of the subjects you want to address. For each subject you create variations of the message that match a piece of profile information you have about the reader.

5 profile fields = 1.280 variations

You may angle the subject depending on gender (sex, 2), if it is the first time the reader visit your site (new/previous, 2), if the visitor has purchased before in your webshop (yes/no, 2), what kind of product category the visitor site behavior demonstrate most interest in (category, 10). You may even have different call to action (CTA, 4) based on what seems to be the visitors readiness to convert (Readiness, 4).

In this simple example you have written 2+2+2+10+4+4 = 24 blocks of content. But when those pieces are combined with visitor profiles it becomes 2*2*2*10*4*4 = 1.280 potential variations of a single piece of content!

The point is that you only used the following 5 information about your reader:

  • Gender
  • First time visitor
  • Prior purchase
  • Most interesting product category
  • Readiness to convert

When variations runs into the thousands, tens of thousands or millions - people trained in segmentation gets nervous and tends to back peddle to more manageable numbers of variations. This is of course always done at the expense of the customer experience - content simply lose the most important characteristic of all: relevance. The more your content reflect known properties of the reader - the more likely it is the reader will find your message relevant.

Not rocket science, right?

Kresten Bergsøe
Monoloop

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