Expert tips for overcoming barriers to content personalization

Estimated reading time
8 minutes
27th July 2022
Author: Kate Terry
Posted in: Content Distribution & Promotion, Content Operations, Content Production, Customer Insights, Impact & ROI, Personalization, Psychology & Science, Strategy & Planning, Technology

Last week, we sat down with 4 marketing experts to discuss the psychology of personalization and some of the most common barriers to making it happen. Watch their full conversation here, and read on for their top tips to connect on a human-to-human level while driving scalable business outcomes.

People are flooded with almost 10,000 messages a day — whether that’s an advertisement on the bus, checking social media on our phone, or getting an email with the latest deal. It’s getting harder to gain attention, and too often we end up stuck in content chaos.

Thankfully, personalization cuts through the noise no matter what stage of the customer lifecycle. Marketers are looking to personalization to capture attention, deliver value, and build trust. The idea is simple – at its most basic form, personalization simply means delivering the right message, to the right people, at the right time.

Yet when it comes to putting it into practice, personalization can feel daunting. There is no one hard and fast rule book that will apply to every single business. The key is to start with achievable goals, clear objectives, and quick wins.

So let’s hear from our experts on their top tips for effective (and achievable!) content personalization – and why it is so important to help marketers cut through the noise and hit growth targets.

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KOMAL’S TIP: Understand and adapt to how a modern B2B buyer makes decisions

The B2B buyer decision-making process these days is more complex than ever, from multiple stakeholders to fluctuating business objectives, or worse, deadlines or budget restrictions that you don’t have control over. Marketing and selling strategies need to become more sophisticated, and personalization is a business strategy every team can apply.

In a B2B environment, you have to build a case for a decision committee on why you’ve chosen to invest in a particular product or service. Yet Harvard research suggests 95% of decision-making is based on unconscious cognitive bias. As B2B professionals, it is easy to forget that you are selling to humans, where the concept of buying behavior is not necessarily rational. No one is making unbiased decisions.

Now imagine all the different compounding biases that motivate a B2B buying decision when multiple stakeholders are involved. One of the core reasons someone says ‘no’ is from status quo bias. This is when your customer lacks an urgent or compelling reason to act, preferring the comfort of the status quo. B2B buyers are risk averse. They would rather avoid making a bad decision than risk making a really good decision.

a team looking at a laptop

But that’s not all …

To make matters worse, the modern buying journey is also more complex. It is no longer linear as buyers are channel agnostic and avoid going through sales teams. A buyer will choose where to find information and when to make their choice. Some sales are losing their touchpoints to help with decision-making factors like product information and brand reputation.

So what can you do? As humans, we are motivated when we weigh up the cost of inaction versus the value of change. And in a world of content overload, standing out can make all the difference. The experience of various different people needs to be contextual and resonate. The path to this is personalization.

But personalization doesn’t sit solely with only one team. A marketer can produce a persona-based landing page or curated content experience, which has a massive impact. Meanwhile, sales can deliver that content and outreach with hyper-relevant communications. Even operations, analytics, and customer teams can help enable personalization and its benefits across the entire business.

AMBER’S TIP: Consider the impact of emotions and get personal, not just personalized

Marketers aim to deliver digital experiences that matter. So meaningful personalization cannot just be surface level. More importantly, it is a moment of personal connection. When a reader stops and takes the time to feel appreciated, recognized, understood, or just take into consideration your message, that creates an emotional response.

To create these moments, you need to look at the various different touch points in a buyer’s journey. Search for where you can appreciate, recognize, understand, and consider your reader. It doesn’t matter whether you are aiming for reader trust, a certain action being taken, or even trying to gain some of their valuable time. No one wants to give value without receiving it in return.

This concept is based on psychology. The law of reciprocity is an innate human response to being given something: we want to give something back. Reachdesk has found that gifting sparks gratitude and impacts the relationships they are able to build with prospects and customers. This translates to increases in attendance for virtual events, more SDR meetings booked, digital channel engagement, and even “ghosting” customers returning and responding to emails.

Reachdesk's ROI of moments graphic

PHIL’S TIP: Use data to align business goals and understand buyers

Audiences are always doing subconscious calculations of ‘the reward versus the effort‘ involved in choosing to engage with a piece of content. Perceived relevance is an important part of that calculation. Plus, you don’t just want audiences to engage with the content. You want them to take some sort of action as a result. That could be engaging with a follow-up piece of content or making an inquiry. Their likelihood of actually taking any action based on the content is going to hugely depend on how relevant it is to their needs and interests.

Therefore, personalization is about adjusting your messages, content, and experiences, to increase relevance by reflecting the behaviors of your target audience. To do that, you need to combine data that is response-based (also known as intent or behavioral data) with a business strategy for maximizing inevitably finite resources.

When it comes to strategy, it is always best to look internally and identify what the biggest goals are. Explore how each team can work towards those shared goals, and consider the size of target accounts, buyers, or deals. The value and cost of acquiring a particular account may be different at different times. It can depend on where your organization is at in its lifecycle. This is where prioritization for your personalization efforts steps in.

It’s not as easy as committing to either an ABM or non-ABM strategy. Most businesses agree that buyers in the awareness or engagement journey stage typically benefit from a one-to-many campaign approach. But as they move down the funnel into MQL/SQL stages (and provide more intent data), marketing and sales teams can apply a one-to-few or one-to-one campaign approach at scale using deep personalization integrations and automation.

use data to overcome barriers to content personalization

Categorizing data

Now, downloading a PDF or clicking on a webpage does not necessarily mean someone is ready to engage in a sale. But tracking the ebooks they read or case studies they chose to explore exhibits certain behaviors which tell sales teams what is truly of value to a prospect or client. So how can you distinguish between all your data?

  • Firmographic (e.g. company turnover, industry impact, brand reputation)
  • Demographic (e.g. individual job title, role, seniority, responsibilities)
  • Contextual (e.g. individual location, background, hobbies)
  • Behavioral (e.g. visiting a website, attending an event, reading the pricing page, filling in a form)

These are all data triggers that will power the success of an acquisition or upsell campaign. Exactly how you collect these depends on your content format. Turtl includes options for user-driven content personalization or self-identification forms that gather and distinguish reader insights. Another popular strategy for collecting zero-party data is to ask questions and run polls in emails. Just remember to feed that information back into your CRM.

NICK’S TIP: With great personalization, comes great engagement.

Personalization is all about providing a message, product, or service which really connects. You need to through to the individual, rather than covering a generic mass audience. Turtl Labs analyzes 8 billion anonymous data points to prove the benefits of various levels of content personalization. However, if done wrong, the recipient will feel frustrated, disillusioned, and lose interest. That’s why providing teams with the tools to succeed at personalization is crucial.

Businesses often lose sight of the fact that they are asking for a behavioral change on the part of the salespeople, pushing them outside of their comfort zone. Any sort of change is difficult, but if someone isn’t comfortable doing something, even if it would be beneficial in the long run, then they just won’t do it. Putting the time into enabling teams so they have the confidence to make the most of new methods and tools is crucial to adopting innovative technology and strategy.

Of course, a great tool for democratizing and simplifying content personalization at scale is Turtl. Rather than sending a 30-40 page piece on demand gen, Turtl’s Personalization Engine can deliver 10 pages that are super relevant. It can even pick out key images or use case stats for the unique reader. Research shows readers will reward personalized content with more engagement and less bounce rates. Those figures increase further when the content is deeply personal (i.e. going beyond first name or company name).

TurtlLabs results of overcoming barriers to content personalization

Putting it all together to smash through the common barriers to content personalization 🥊

We know from human psychology that decision-making relies on emotions, while perceived relevance and reward influence the modern buyer journey. So the more personal your content, the more successful it will be. But also the more challenging it is to achieve and scale. Overcoming that obstacle requires acquiring the right data to understand personal needs and defining clear business goals. Eventually, content personalization isn’t so daunting after all …


Author’s Note – We discussed a lot of books in our conversation and many viewers wanted the details. So here is your next reading list sorted:


Amber Bogie is Director of Global Demand Generation at Turtl’s Partner Reachdesk. Reachdesk is a corporate gifting platform that enables teams to deliver moments that matter, moments that establish trust, moments that build relationships, and moments that guarantee ROI.

Komal Helyer is a Fractional CMO working with various B2B brands. Komal has been a marketer for 20+ years, including a VP of Marketing for personalization platform Pure360. She is also the chair of DMA’s Email Council, which sets best practices and innovations for the UK’s email marketing industry. Her passions lie in the behavioral science of understanding why people buy.

Phil Brown is Managing Director at Turtl’s Partner OneGTM. OneGTM is a go-to-market and full-lifecycle consultancy. They specialize in the technology sector, from market-leading global tech brands to smaller challenger brands as well.

Nick Mason is the CEO and Founder of Turtl. Our content platform helps businesses simplify production, discover insights, and capture attention with innovative and interactive digital documents. Turtl Labs recently released a report on how personalization impacts B2B content using Turtl’s own data.

Turtl