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A Recipe For Personalization: Key Ingredients For Success
February 18, 2020 |

If you’re in marketing, chances are personalization is either on your to-do list, or is about to land on it.

The thing is, where do you start?

With so many tools, resource demands (here’s looking at you, content), and potential strategies to pursue, it’s easy to find your team paralyzed by the prospect of personalization.

The good news is, you can safely wade into the waters of personalization… as long as you start small and arm yourself with a solid foundation of strategy and data. 

Eyes on the Prize

So, how do you determine what to personalize? 

The best way is to start with some good old-fashioned organizational goal mapping. The idea is to gain stakeholder consensus on the metrics that will deliver the biggest impact to your top line business goals.

 You may be thinking, ‘yea yea, I know what our business goals are’, but the start of a personalization program is the ideal time to re-evaluate your goals and how you’re going to measure progress towards them. Take this opportunity to make sure that everyone understands how their department, or team, success metrics impact the overarching business goals.

What do we mean by this? Take a look at the following diagram taken from one of our non-profit clients.

Example of business goals for a non-profit

You can see the top line goal is an increase in revenue (in this case from donations). Each channel (In yellow) has its own KPI that influences donor acquisition.  Once you have the individual goals outlined, you can start to see the metrics that will impact the top-line goal (in this case donation revenue) the most. As an example, perhaps you have a great donor retention rate, but not enough wider awareness about your program. It might make sense, in this case, to focus on increasing the number of visitors to digital properties.

It’s All About The Data

A personalization strategy is only effective if the right tools are in place to monitor users and extract meaningful data as they interact with your various channels.

Too often we find clients have analytics and data collection suites ‘somewhere’ in the organization, but the data is siloed in different tools, departments, or business units (and sometimes all 3!)

Also, different tools that should be measuring the same thing are reporting different numbers… which data set do you trust? 

Understanding how data flows through your tools, and where it’s located in your organization, are the first steps to defining a common understanding of terms and definitions of measurement such as:

  • How do you define a lead or prospect?
  • Where can you monitor key conversion points in your customer’s brand journey?
  • Do you have a holistic view of your customer’s behavior as they move through your conversion funnel?

As an aside, the lack of data oversight is one of the key drivers behind the growth of Customer Data Platforms (CDPs). CDPs help pull together all the data from your disparate systems and tools to help give marketers a better holistic view into customer behavior.

Actionable Data!

In addition to having a full data overview, you need to be able to look at and analyze that data in a meaningful and actionable way. 

What’s more, the insights you gain from your data needs to be communicated to multiple stakeholders with varying levels of understanding. It’s no use sending out an Excel sheet of raw data that the rest of the organization simply ignores.

**Remember, data can tell an infinite number of stories. Using data to communicate progress towards organizational goals can be tricky. **

We recommend developing data dashboards that can produce tailored reports for your different internal audiences. For instance, an executive stakeholder will likely only need information on quarterly progress on achieving high-level goals, whereas the marketing team will need a report on the full customer conversion funnel with breakouts for the various stages to spot lost conversion opportunities and leakage.

Dashboards help visualize data so you can easily understand trends and progress. This will not only help you report on successes and prove ROI, but have data-driven conversations on future strategy and any changes you want to make to your ad budget, UX, or content.​​

Your Target Audience

How well do you know your audience?

While many marketing teams have created meticulous audience personas to help define strategy based on the known market landscape, a personalization strategy requires segmenting your audience by both demographics and site behavior (depending on the type of personalization experiment you plan to implement).

Delivering a personalized experience depends on understanding and anticipating your audience's needs based on individual behavior and preference, rather than general market trends. Plan time and resources to really dig into this data and try not to rely on assumptions. Prioritize segments with the highest opportunity to convert first.

The Right Tools

Do you have a clear understanding of your current martech stack?

We find that for many of our clients, various tools within their martech stack are owned by different teams and departments; in many cases the tools are inherited and are not being utilized to their full potential.

Before starting a personalization program, it’s a good idea to audit your tech stack and make sure the tools, channels, and systems you will need are fully integrated and in line with your strategy and organizational goals. Also, compare feature sets for each tool, identifying where different tools overlap and/or where your current stack is lacking.

Content is Key

An often overlooked aspect of personalization is content creation.

Once you have a personalization strategy defined, there may be existing content that can be used for the personalization campaign, but there will likely be additional content needs to produce a new campaign. Even something as simple as a new call-to-action button requires the right message to effectively convert.

A personalization strategy should also support and help validate your established content strategy. You may want to use personalized content to test content efficacy, which will require developing a messaging testing plan with your content team, and defining test target audiences.

Don’t Get Overwhelmed!

A personalization program is something you build over time. 

Once you have your goals prioritized, we recommend starting with a single channel or segment to test and experiment. This way, you can get a feel for the resources and level of effort needed.

Once you have completed your first personalization experiment you can begin to develop a process for future tests along with reporting your success and tying your efforts to a tangible ROI.

In Summary:

  • Goal mapping is crucial for consensus building and prioritization
  • Get the right tools in place to monitor users and extract meaningful data 
  • Communicate the right data for the right audience 
  • Think beyond audience personas
  • Audit your martech stack
  • Plan resources and time for content creation

Annie uses her pragmatism, curiosity, and creativity to develop data-driven and innovative marketing strategies for our clients. With 10 years of experience working across a diverse set of marketing functions, Annie helps marketing teams create and optimize engagement strategies that provide the key processes and data they need to drive meaningful results, actionable insights, and real business impact.

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