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When marketers think about creating personalized content, the first thing that comes to mind is often all the technology that enables them to hyper-customize what their audience sees, like dynamic content and interest-based advertising. However, if you’re leveraging the inbound methodology, all of your content should have some degree of personalization — your messaging should be targeted at your buyer personas. If you’re creating personalized content for account-based marketing (ABM), you’re just taking that personalization a couple steps further.
“For the purpose of ABM, [personalized content] is using what you know about your audience to craft the most impactful messaging and the most relevant messaging for their specific needs,” says Inbound Journalist Sophia Hadeka.
While ABM content is more tailored than traditional inbound content, it’s still not a one-to-one communication. The goal is to find ways to tailor your messaging to your buyers while still producing something versatile enough that it can be reused.
“You want readers to feel as if the content is very personal to them, but in a way, it’s still flexible enough to address similar leads or a similar market,” Sophia says.
Here are five steps to follow to create personalized content:
1. Identify If There’s a Need for Personalized Content
ABM is extremely trendy right now in the marketing world. But just because everyone is talking about it doesn’t mean it’s a great fit for every business. Before you create personalized content, you need to determine why you need it.
“As far as any marketing strategy goes, knowing your ‘why’ is really important,” Sophia says. “If you have identified that this particular lead, industry or business is an extremely high fit, then that would be a good why. Similarly, if your product is really niche, you’ll be targeting a granular audience by default.”
Identifying the need for personalized content will also help you justify investing the resources this strategy needs. Personalized content requires more time and strategy during the planning, production and distribution processes than traditional content does. Before diving into that, you need to make sure it’s worth it, and that you can prioritize it accordingly.
When determining whether you need to create personalized content or not, you should also take into account the perspective of your sales team.
“ABM is kind of the ultimate form of marketing and sales alignment,” Sophia says. “Staying cognizant of why your sales team would think your target accounts are a good fit is key, because you can’t as a marketing team target a specific account without the help of your sales team.”
If a prospect is receiving super personalized marketing content, that same level of personalization needs to continue into the sales process for them to have a good experience. And, if sales doesn’t think your target accounts are good fits and chooses not to prioritize them once the lead is handed off, all your personalized content will be for naught.
2. Research Your Targets
“Once you’ve decided based on conversations with your sales team who your audience might be, then you get into the questions of ‘What do we know about them?’ or ‘What can we find out about them?’” Sophia says.
If you’re targeting people within your database, you might already have all the information you need from forms they’ve filled out on your site. In that case, it’s a matter of verifying that data so that you can create a targeted campaign around it.
Alternatively, you might also be creating personalized content for people outside of your contact database who your sales team has identified as good fits based on past deals or industry connections. In that case, you’ll need to do thorough research.
Dive into the account’s specific pain points, what they care about, who within the company will be the best entry point and what channels they’ll be more receptive on.
Unlike inbound leads, ABM target accounts aren’t going to come to you, so you need to reach them where they’re at with a message that’ll resonate, and personalized content based on that information will help you do that.
3. Create Personalized Content
You don’t need to reinvent the wheel for every target account in order to create effective personalized content. If the content you’re delivering is relevant, it can still feel personalized even if it wasn’t custom-made for that one account.
“You could have multiple target accounts that all face the same type of problem, so it’s a matter of ‘What kind of content can we make that speaks to all of them?’ and ‘How can we customize that content in a way that’s efficient and in a way that make sense so it feels personalized?’” says Sophia.
For example, if you have a whitepaper that’s contextually relevant for all of your target accounts in a given industry, you don’t need to change anything within the guide itself. But, you could personalize the landing pages so that each prospect has a unique entry point into that content that speaks to their company’s needs.
When crafting a personalized content strategy, ask yourself “What extends to everyone, and what would be even better if we personalized it?”
Some formats will be more impactful when personalized than others. Throwing someone’s first name on your home page, or working their job title into an example within a whitepaper might not wow the reader. On the other hand, if you take an interactive piece of content like a checklist and customize it with their name and brand colors, it can appear that you’re going above and beyond and creating an asset just for them, even though you really just made aesthetic changes to a template.
“You don’t want it to seem like you just went on their LinkedIn or went on their About Us page and pulled something out. How can you make it even more special than that?” Sophia says.
What funnel stage a prospect is at should also be considered when developing your content strategy. If it’s a prospect’s first experience with your company and you know their full name, job title and every problem they’re experiencing, that can feel creepy as opposed to helpful.
“If you put yourself in that person’s shoes, would you be comfortable with that level of personalization in that moment?” Sophia says. “Personalizing your email is a lot more common than personalizing your homepage. You can’t necessarily approach those two things equally.”
4. Distribute the Content
Once you’ve created personalized content, how are you going to get it in front of your audience? Personalized content can be delivered through ads, direct messages, email, your website and more.
“Knowing where to connect with your audience is extra important,” Sophia says. “You could have the coolest, most personalized piece of content ever, but you could really blow it in distribution if you’re not strategic.”
The channels that are most likely to get engagement will depend on your audience. For B2B, LinkedIn tends to be one of the top choices. It allows you to do advanced targeted and your target accounts probably do use the platform. For target accounts that are already within your database, email can also be effective. You just need to make sure that they’re receiving messages that sound more personalized than the automated marketing messages they also see.
Conversational marketing is another distribution channel that can be effective for personalized content, especially if you’re trying to tailor information on your website. You can call a person by name and serve content in a targeted way without it feeling jarring (which it might if you just use a person’s name in your regular webpage copy).
5. Analyze Performance
Personalized content requires a heavy investment in terms of research, strategy, production time and distribution. You need to make sure you’re seeing a return on that investment.
Reporting on the results of your personalized content will help you determine what tactics you should continue with and what types of accounts you should be targeting. On top of that, it can help you identify ways to optimize your overall marketing strategy.
“You might find that one account was not as good of a fit as you thought or that your idea of a skinned playbook was a hit. You can reverse engineer that for future campaigns,” Sophia says. “When you’re doing something really granular like this and there’s a lot on the line as far as what you’ve invested, I think it’s even more important to leverage what you find out once it goes live.”
Quinn is a writer and copyeditor whose work ranges from journalism to travel writing to inbound marketing content.