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B2B and Content Personalization: Where We Are, Where We’re Heading

For B2C businesses, content personalization is a no-brainer. Customers love the fact that something has been recommended just for them.  But what about businesses that market to other businesses? Do they get the same value out of personalized content?  A recent study from Seismic and Demand Metric took a closer look at just how effective personalized content is to B2B customers. What they found may surprise you.

How Well Does Personalized Content Perform?

For B2B businesses, personalized content is a vital part of the overall strategy, meeting stated objectives in nearly half of all cases. A little over a third of respondents reported that their personalized content performed neither well nor poorly, showing that custom tailored content still has a way to go in order to be convincing to the customer.

The good news is that over 60% of the businesses surveyed have adopted a content personalization strategy and for those that have, the effectiveness is resoundingly high:


So with that being the case, why isn’t everyone on board?  The survey also looked at the main contributing factors and found that a lack of resources, technology and data were cited more often than not.


Is There a Content Personalization “Sweet Spot”?

So far, not much of this is news. Regular Kissmetrics readers will know that personalized content marketing is important in any strategy and that concerns like wading through collected data and turning that into action are par for the course.

But this report did hit on an important point that hasn’t often been covered accurately in the content marketing business – how much personalization is too much?


Notice here that it’s not the amount of personalization that directly correlates to effectiveness. Those companies who personalize 80+% don’t meet their stated objectives as well as those who only personalize between 21-40%.

But before you wipe the sweat away over not having to personalize everything, the question then becomes:

Which content should I personalize for best results?

Obviously, the answer to this question will vary depending on your target audience and business goals. Only by testing and monitoring the results can you find out which personalized content resonates best with your particular audience.

In order to find the answers as to how effective the personalized content was, and how that content was categorized, DemandMetric organized content into different categories:

  • Segment specific – personalized by industry vertical or segment criteria
  • Persona specific – personalized for specific buyer types
  • Stage specific – personalized for a stage of the buying process
  • Account specific – personalized for a specific prospect organization
  • Lead specific – personalized for an individual lead

The report showcases varying levels of usage of different types of content, with segment and persona specific content personalization in use more than the others.  Of course, some companies spread their personalization efforts across many different specific areas simultaneously.  And of those organizations that reported their personalization efforts were highly effective, specific segments they focused on generated results like these:


Which Content Personalization Strategies Were More Sustainable?

Over a quarter of B2B companies surveyed with regard to the actual process they used in personalizing content did so entirely manually. Over half of the companies profiled preferred a mix of manual and automatic content personalization.

Here again we cycle back to technology being a major factor why B2B companies haven’t introduced personalization on the scale they’d like to. It’s not for a lack of technology, but rather a lack of understanding on how to use the tools that are available.

And even if you know how to leverage personalization tools, there’s still the issue of bringing together all possible personalization options (targeting specific devices, or using CRM data) to create some kind of cohesive, personalized piece.

As you can see, it’s far easier for these companies to use existing content than other methods. But just because it’s easier doesn’t mean it’s better. It’s also worth noting that when it came to meeting their goals and objectives, the companies surveyed reported that geo-targeting and lead-demographic targeting were the most effective, yet they were used less than half the time.

All of these findings circle back around to resources available to put them into practice. Manual content personalization just isn’t sustainable long-term. More and more companies are looking at automated content personalization solutions as a way to help ease the burden of a lack of resources, but even automated solutions are in their infancy, and it’s entirely possible we could look back on this post in a few years and marvel at how far we’ve come.

How Do You Measure Personalized Content Effectiveness?

This was another big question that the report tried to answer. Even if you’ve got perfectly personalized content and an eager audience, how do you know it’s working?

Like with the type of content itself, participants segmented their content effectiveness into several categories, including:

  • Consumption – measuring content views, downloads or similar actions
  • Engagement – measuring session duration, conversion rate or content sharing
  • Financial – measuring ROI, lead and sales opportunities


And of course, there were those who threw their hands up in despair and either didn’t measure or used another method.  These metrics also don’t intercross — a high level of consumption doesn’t always translate into a high ROI.

What’s Next for B2B Content Personalization?

The effectiveness of personalization is clear.  But as with all new technology and strategy initiatives, its effect on ROI is not.  More and more B2B organizations are embracing personalization as a whole, and the more they can automate the process intelligently, the better.

There’s still work to be done on leveraging all the data available, but more and more companies are discovering the benefits and embracing personalization wholeheartedly.  Sure, we’re in that awkward “crawl-before-you-walk” stage, but like all online marketing technologies, it only gets better with time.

You can read the full report from Demand Metric and Seismic here.

Has your B2B organization used personalized content effectively? Do you have methods in place to measure how well it performs? Or are you overwhelmed by the sheer amount of data out there needed to customize content to your audience’s tastes?  Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

About the Author: Sherice Jacob helps business owners improve website design and increase conversion rates through compelling copywriting, user-friendly design and smart analytics analysis. Learn more at and download your free web copy tune-up and conversion checklist today! Follow @sherice on Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+ for more articles like this!