The power of ABM personalization

Estimated reading time
6 minutes
8th December 2020
Author: Kate Terry
Posted in: Content operations, Content production, Personalization

Personalization done well can be a huge asset to ABM teams, particularly as we can’t rely on in-person events and meetings right now. Amy Hall, Global ABM Manager at Hitachi Vantara, Declan Mulkeen, CMO at Strategic IC, and Karla Rivershaw, Head of Marketing at Turtl, discuss the case for ABM personalization and how to tackle challenges to success at scale.

Key takeaways:

  • Personalization cuts through noisy digital environments and reduces the number of touchpoints needed in the buyer journey
  • B2B buyer psychology is primed for personalization
  • To scale up personalized content for ABM, we can learn from Netflix’s data obsession, create templates and playbooks, and adopt a modular content approach

(If you’d rather watch this than read about it, scroll down here)

Why is personalization so important right now?

Declan outlines the need for highly relevant marketing that cuts through the noise

There’s an awful lot of noise out there. Previously, that noise was a combination of physical and virtual, digital noise. And obviously, in the circumstances in which we now live, we’re predominantly in a digital marketing sphere, having to compete for attention with thousands, or hundreds of thousands, of different companies.

We’re seeing a significant uptick in the level of response when we personalize the message and when we personalize the content. By cutting through digital noise with a personalized message, we’re seeing greater resonance and impact. Personalization also reduces the number of customer interactions or touch points that are required across the buyer journey.

Who is doing personalization well?

Karla brings in an example from B2C applied to B2B

Netflix does things incredibly well. Data is really the backbone of what they’re doing. They’re collecting so many different data points on the people that are watching their content, and it enables them to be able to offer these hugely tailored experiences to their audiences.

The rewards are enormous for them, because they have a hugely loyal subscriber base. They just they know what the next piece of content is that they’re going to serve to you. And they use this data, not only to deliver something they know you’re going to enjoy, but also to improve upon the next piece of content they produce.

I think that translates into B2B as well, because that’s exactly what we should be doing. We should be using this data to tailor the experiences for our audiences and to make learnings off the back of that.

Why do we love personalized experiences so much?

Karla introduces the psychology of personalization and why it stands out

The emotional brain is ultimately the one that will, for most people, lead decision making. In fact, there’s a really strong case to suggest that B2B, perhaps counter intuitively, is more emotional when it comes to decision making than B2C. Because in B2B, ultimately, the stakes are just so much higher. If you make the wrong purchasing decision in a B2B environment, that could cost you your job or paycheck. Whereas with B2C, oh well, the coffee wasn’t very good. It’s really important as B2B marketers that we tap into that emotional brain, and personalization is a great way to do that.

For example, there is this an interesting theory called the cocktail effect. I’m sure we’ve all experienced it: you’re in a crowded room and you’re chatting to some people. And then, behind you, you hear another group mention your name. Suddenly, you’re listening to this conversation going on behind you. In one study, 56% of people would rather buy from somebody who recognizes their name.

(For more on the fascinating psychology of personalization, head over here).

What challenges do marketers face?

Amy outlines her key challenges as an ABM leader

Right now, everyone’s expected to do a lot more with a lot less. Like many teams this year, we are struggling with resource and budget issues. Personalization quickly becomes expensive and resource intensive. If we had a never-ending budget and a huge team, we could personalize to our heart’s content, but we have to make some make some smart decisions.

But even if we had unlimited resources, there is still the issue of time to market. You can get in a bit of a muddle with your personalization: you can personalize by account, by persona, by buying committee, by vertical, by seniority, and so on. I’ve worked with people in the past who have these huge matrices of different messages and you just think, goodness, you’re never going to get that to market. And by the time you do, your message has changed.

How can you tackle these challenges?

Amy provides some practical advice on setting up ABM to scale

Start small with quick wins, and then scale from there.

We work very closely with lots of financial services organizations, and we learned that they are all experiencing the same challenges and they all have the same objectives.

Last year, we were breaking our backs creating these 15-page eBooks, all around an account’s specific pain points, I sent that out to a number of key decision makers. And we got some really good opportunities from this initiative.

I called them to find out, you know, “What was it? Why did you take that call from the salesperson when they haven’t taken it previously?”

The CIO said, “I really like the front cover and that it was personalized to my company.”

Now, I’m doing a hybrid of one-to-one and ‘ABM light’. For example, I’m creating templatized eBooks. We tweak 20% of the content to make it more personalized. It’s just to get a foot in the door—personalized content to be used as a teaser. And then when you have that conversation with the account, you can get really personalized.

One of the things that we’ve struggled with as an organization is having lots of people creating lots of content. With this approach, I’ve been able create a cookie cutter playbook that contains everything you need for an ABM program, where to find it, and exactly what to do. I can now scale much more easily across the organization.

How can you scale up personalized content?

Karla introduces innovative solutions to fix slow and resource-intensive content 

The way that we are traditionally producing content is broken. There are other ways that we could be producing content which would really speed up our ability to be able to personalize this content.

One of the things that we’ve been looking at a lot lately is this idea of modular content. Think of Lego blocks: there’s a whole different range of ways in which you can build. There are designs you can follow, and you are constrained by the color and size of the bricks, but ultimately, the way you assemble them is up to you.

The same kind of rule can be applied to content. If you build content in a modular fashion, where maybe every chapter of your content is built in a way that is kind of self-contained, then you can mix these different blocks of content and be able to suddenly create something that’s truly personalized.

What does content personalization at scale look like in practice?

Karla shares how companies are scaling their ABM efforts with Turtl software

At Turtl, we have a project that’s running at the moment with one of our customers who’s working alongside their ABM agency.

They wanted to send out pieces of personalized content to two stakeholders at 75 different companies – sending unique content to 150 people in total.

They identified the personalization fields they were most interested in, including website logo, a personalized video, who the company was, and the stakeholder’s name.

They populated a spreadsheet with like this information and Turtl automated 150 different versions of the same document. They loaded these into their marketing automation platform, sent out one email, and every single person got a personalized version of that document.

This is where personalization at scale gets really, really interesting, especially combined with pulling together relevant content modules into a unique document.

To dive deeper into these topics see more examples and action steps, watch Amy, Declan, and Karla’s full discussion here:

Turtl