How to personalize content in 2020

Estimated reading time
5 minutes
12th June 2020
Author: Kit McKay
Posted in: Content production, Strategy & planning

Ah, personalization. Has a drum ever been beaten so often? Everyone knows content personalization is what the people want, but are we doing enough with it?

72% of consumers in 2019 only engaged with marketing messages that were customized to their specific interests. If you’re not personalizing by this point, you’re alienating the majority of your audience. In fact, 74% of customers feel frustrated when content is not personalized.

Louise from Bob's Burgers has an eye twitch

As B2B marketers continue to adopt ABM as their standard approach, and data analytics software get incredibly advanced at measuring engagement, the standard for personalized content marketing is growing fast in 2020. The more accustomed people are to hyper-personalization, the more creative we have to get to raise the bar. Let’s explore a few ways we can do that:

How to split your audience for content personalization

Before you even begin to create any content, you need to decide how you’re going to split up your audience. Here are your options:

Segments

The broadest way to split your audience is through segmentation. This is where you use demographics like industry, job title, and geography to steer your content strategy.

Personas

You can get a little more defined on your segments by building customer personas and creating content accordingly. This involves adding extra characteristics to your demographic information based on previous engagement data and anecdotal evidence.

Buyer journey

This approach allows you to personalize content based on which stage a person is at in the buyer journey. An action creates a trigger that lets you know which piece of content that person needs to encourage them to progress to the next stage in their journey.

Individual

Virtually impossible to achieve at scale before the invention of recent technologies, individual content personalization is the most granular way to tailor. This allows you to create and build custom content specific to one person’s unique interests and pain points.

A woman points at the camera and says

There are arguments and contexts for all of these approaches, but to meet the demands of today’s content consumers, you should be looking to apply all of them, with a particular focus on the individual. The more interactions you have with a lead or prospect, the more you’ll learn about them, which will allow you to increasingly personalize from their segment, to their persona, and all the way to their individual interests.

How to create personalized content 

As we’ve established, people are hungry for more personalization and if you don’t live up to their standards, they will look elsewhere. You need to create content incredibly tailored to them or at least so similar to their interests that they feel like it is. Here’s how you do that:

1. Embrace modular content for scalability

The reason personalization at an individual-by-individual level hasn’t been adopted widely until now is that it’s very time-consuming and resource-intensive. It’s typically been reserved for key members of target accounts in account-based marketing, if at all.

However, with the technology available to us today, it’s easier than ever to create custom documents for every reader by means of modular content.

Modular content is the practice of creating one extensive master document that contains everything every single one of your readers would possibly be interested in. The master doc is not designed to be shared externally, but it allows internal parties to pick and choose what to include from it as they build their own version for each person.

They’re not writing or designing new content, but the result is the same: the reader is given a unique version of the content that only contains the sections that are of most relevance or interest to them.

With the right technology and workflows in place, this process can take mere minutes.

2. Place personalization markers throughout

To tick the personalization box only a few years ago, all you had to do was attach someone’s first name to the title or opening line of your content. That doesn’t cut it anymore. You should be referencing the person a lot more than just once.

A study published in the peer-reviewed journal Brain Research compared neurological reactions to hearing your own name vs the name of others. It found that when you hear or read your own name, the brain lights up in areas ranging from social behavior to long-term processing to visual processing. The simple inclusion of their name made their brains activate a much wider cognitive function.

An x-ray of a brain showing the effect of content personalization

If you only reference once at the beginning, your reader’s brain activity will peak then and subsequently decrease as they read further. If you want them to take action at the end of that content, you’re essentially waiting for them to do so at their least engaged level from a cognitive perspective.

You should pepper your content throughout with references including their name, their company, their job title, and any other relevant marker to extend this from beginning to end. Remind them that this is specifically their content, not just some generic stuff with their name plastered on the front.

3. Include visuals in your content personalization

Don’t stop personalizing at the copy. Your choice in visuals should also be tailored to whoever you’re sending it to.

Swap out generic imagery for industry or role-related visuals. If it’s for a salesperson, feature lots of human interaction. If it’s for a developer, emphasize technology. Just be careful to include some variety so it’s not too repetitive.

If you know your reader beyond a demographic level, why not include imagery related to their personal interests? At Turtl, we even have our chatbot Finn ask people what their ideal vacation is and send them a document about Turtl with imagery related to that vacation.

An animation of palm trees on a beach

If it’s sales enablement content you’re creating, it’s a good idea to include some personalized video content too. Have your salesperson record a quick personal message or introduction, embed it in your content, and you’ve created something incredibly custom in very little time.

How to measure personalized content marketing

Content personalization is not a static strategy. It’s all based on how well you know someone, which will naturally increase every time they interact with you.

This is why you need to measure personalized content internally, not externally. What I mean by that is: if you only measure external content metrics (downloads, open rates, etc.) it only tells you that a person has a vague interest in that subject. Internal metrics, like read times, chapter-level engagement, and social shares tell you exactly which areas of your content they were most interested in, and which they ignored.

Armed with this data, you can make sure the next piece of content is even more tailored than what came before. You do this progressively with every piece of content and you should see continuously improving engagement from that person up to the point where they become a customer. This is the beauty of content personalization in 2020.

Turtl