To begin the B2B buying process, many prospects go to the web sites of potential vendors to get a feel for what each company can offer. Since the company web site is often the first touch point for potential customers, vendors must find ways to provide relevant content up front.
To accomplish this, B2B marketers are increasingly turning to web site personalization to provide content that is specifically geared towards individual buyers, largely segmented by industry, department, function or role. Some are even taking it to the next level and presenting company-specific content to visitors.
According to a report from the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, titled: 2014 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, at least 95% of B2B content marketers tailor their web site content in at least one way. The report revealed that 65% of B2B organizations specifically tailor their content toward industry trends, while 59% tailor content to the profile of individual decision makers.
“B2B and B2C companies are really coming on board wanting to invest in these sorts of capabilities, because they realize that one-size-fits-all messages through email or on web sites are really going to turn people off over time,” said Ellen Valentine, Product Evangelist at Silverpop, which was recently acquired by IBM. “I think it’s going to be a really big area of investment over the next couple of years.”
Unlike its B2C counterpart, B2B marketing is largely account-based, meaning that most consumers are buying on a company-wide scale. In the enterprise B2B space, the decision-making process “almost never involves just one person,” according to Martin Longo, CTO of Demandbase. “In order to be successful in B2B marketing, you need to look at solutions that are aimed specifically at solving B2B web requirements,” Longo said in an interview with Demand Gen Report.
Account-based marketers are trained to handle larger companies throughout all points of the sales funnel, making them suitable for personalization purposes. When it comes to web site personalization, data collected in the form of account attributes are far more predictable than the personal attributes usually acquired from individual buyers.
“B2B marketers are generally more mature about how to directly manage an account,” said Damon Ragusa, President of Idio, a content marketing platform. “They’re the ones who have a detailed sales management system in place. They have sales teams and call centers, and they’re all lawyered around how to talk specifically to an individual, so they already have that channel built out.”
Why So Many B2B Marketers Are Looking To Personalize
The success of web site personalization weighs heavily on predictive analytics based particularly on consumer behavior. Personalization providers can use web site data to understand what content is most successful via metrics such as individual page views, downloads and time visiting the page. Other important factors in identifying the consumer needs may include search keywords that led the user to the site, the source of the link, location, frequency of visits and type of device used.
After accumulating this data, algorithms tailor the web site experience to include real-time content and product recommendations to fit the profile of the visitor. The experience provided to potential buyers can make or break a company’s online presence, especially those who aren’t well established in their industry.
“Sometimes visitors come across a product or a solution by a brand they don’t know, so even if they like the solution, they wouldn’t sign up for any download or next step on the same page because they know nothing about the brand,” said Boaz Grinvald, CEO and Founder of BrightInfo, a content recommendation engine. “Most often, users would read about the brand and its customer, and then decide they want to engage with that vendor. With personalization techniques, [marketers] can actually understand the users’ interest in the company, and even on generic landing pages, offer them the right type of next steps to make sure they convert once they’re ready for it. You don’t force them to go back and look at the product pages and irrelevant offers.”
In an example of these buyer expectations, the 2014 B2B Web Usability Report revealed that an overwhelming number of buyers (90%) browse vendor web sites expecting to find information about “products and services” available directly on the homepage. An even higher rate (93%) are either annoyed or actually leave the site if interrupted by a video or audio that plays automatically.
Marketers revere web site personalization for more than the capabilities it provides, whether it’s driving customer engagement or conversion rates; personalization efforts can be easily integrated into existing solutions.
“You can collect these preferences and score those values in your digital marketing platform, and easily put them to use,” Valentine said. “You can marry up a content management system with your web site and really start to tailor the experience of what content you’re putting on the web site, as well as where you’re putting it based on the values you have for an individual in your digital marketing database.”
According to Tory Upchurch, VP of Sales and Customer Operations at Get Smart Content, web site personalization serves as a “conversion solution” that is ultimately necessary to maximize the effectiveness of all other marketing functions.
“Marketers spend so much time segmenting their audience and ensuring that they have targeted content from an email perspective,” Upchurch said. “They worry about SEO and placing ads, and it’s all about driving traffic to the web site to convert to a lead. The challenge is that they don’t solve the crux of the problem, which is conversion. They throw more money at driving more traffic to the web site and at some point you just can’t cram all that traffic when you have the same fundamental conversion problem.”
Personalization Via Reverse IP Lookup And Revolving Content
Adobe has implemented the Demandbase platform into both Adobe Target and Adobe Analytics to assist in their personalization efforts. Adobe has been able to leverage Demandbase to perform reverse IP lookup, enabling the company to identify potential buyers via company data and demographic information, and deliver content based on this information.
“Using the Demandbase platform, for us [the value] has been about the anonymous visitor intelligence, where we can start to understand 15% to 20% more of our visitors better than we would have been able to do without the IP lookup,” said Jeff Fuhriman, Senior Manager of Conversion Optimization at Adobe. “By using that, we’re able to gather some of the most pertinent information such as revenue range.”
Software provider Blackbaud has improved its web site personalization capabilities page with help from Get Smart Content. The content personalization solution was able to edit the four banners on the web site’s home page so they could be tailored to different buyer segments.
“We essentially try to show content on a few different spots on our site to the visitor based on some of the things we know about them, whether it’s what they search for on Google or Bing, what type of product or content pages they visited on our web site and where they spent the most time,” said Frank Barry, Director of Digital Marketing at Blackbaud. “We also do a little bit of targeting around whether or not they’re a customer based on our marketing automation and sales platform.”
Despite Benefits, Data Comprehension Is Required
With web site personalization solutions becoming more accurate through the buying process, the future is looking bright for B2B marketers.
However, regardless of the sophistication of the solutions involved, there needs to be a deeper understanding of data for web site personalization to truly be effective.
“Personalization efforts are only as good as your data source, and your profile that you’re building through your customers,” said Carl Hancock, Website Optimization Manager at Adobe. “If you don’t have very good data and you can’t anticipate what your user needs or who they are, then there’s really not a whole lot to personalize.”
B2B Marketers Look To Personalize Web Content By Company, Industry And Role