If you want to nurture leads so that they proceed toward sales-readiness, it's not enough to have good email marketing and a nice-looking website. Today's prospects need an immersive experience, from inbox to social media to their experience on your website.
Your messaging has to be more than just good; it needs to be relevant. Your website should speak your prospects' language, and your content marketing should engage them with pertinent ideas to their specific needs. In today's world, specificity is the key to fast-tracking leads through your sales funnel, and for marketers, personalization in website design is the most immersive way to speak to each of your leads specifically.
What is Website Personalization?
Personalization is when a website presents a visitor with content specifically tailored to their needs, interests, and goals. We all recognize personalization as users, but as marketers, it's a challenging methodology to implemement. In fact, the best examples of personalization today are still major corporations. Amazon, for instance, was the first company to truly master personalized website construction.
Amazon is the largest online retailer in the world, so they have customers from every part of the globe. To serve all of their customers effectively, they've created unique home pages for many different regions. For instance, the British version of Amazon’s homepage has a link to donate to the British Red Cross, while the Australian version has a link to information about international shipping and a section highlighting best-selling Australian authors.
Beyond international differences, Amazon also becomes more personalized the more you use it.
The more you visit Amazon, the more information it gathers about you, and it uses that data to present relevant helpful content to you. For instance, after you do a search for an LED light bulb, Amazon will start adding related products to your homepage the next time you visit. The more products you search for and look at, the more refined their selection becomes. Their hope is that when you return to their site you will see a related product for something you just bought and add it to your shopping cart.
What Do You Need to Implement Website Personalization?
Personalization similar to Amazon's capabilities is increasingly possible for websites serving small and medium-sized business. Platforms like HubSpot come with built-in personalization for websites hosted on their COS website platform. The two main personalization elements in HubSpot's toolkit are Smart Calls-To-Action (Smart CTAs) and Smart Content.
Smart CTAs are calls-to-action that change based on returning website visitors (usually contacts you've captured through a form submission). They can change based on a number of contact attributes, but important options include:
- Where a lead is in the buyer's journey
- What their geography or language is
- How they fit within your persona scheme
- What industry they're a part of
Smart Content is similar to Smart CTAs, but enables whole web pages or sections of web pages to change. Think of smart content modules as text boxes that change based on who's viewing them. Imagine, for instance, your home page showing up with "Welcome, [USER NAME]." While Smart CTAs just switch out buttons, Smart Content modules in HubSpot provide a truly immersive content marketing experience.
How to Start Planning for Personalization in an Inbound Marketing Plan
Personalization is a key part of any website project with a focus on inbound marketing because you'll want to expedite the time it takes for a visitor to turn into a sales-ready lead. While there are many ways to personalize, we believe that while you're planning a website, you should also plan the scheme for how your personalization process should work.
From our vantage point, the most important way to plan context is to match your website plan to the ideal buyer's journey. That means you have to identify who your target personas are and how they progress from one stage of readiness to the next. Here are a list of resources explaining how to capture and specify your target personas:
- 4 Important Methods for Constructing Target Personas
- Creating Authentic Personas to Drive a Compelling Content Strategy
- How to Use the Buyer's Journey to Guide Content Marketing Plans
- VIDEO: Using Target Personas to Appeal to Prospects Individually
Who are your ideal customers? How is making a website that is tailored to them going to improve their experience?
After determining your personas, personalization planning begins by determining what kind of content will be most appropriate on your website given each stage of a persona's buyer's journey. Typically, with inbound marketing, the buyer's journey is characterized by three stages, so generally, we recommend planning personalized content in three stages as well.
Personalization in the Awareness Stage
The buyer's journey starts with awareness. A person knows they have a problem, but they are not sure what it is yet.
Let’s say you're a B2B manufacturing equipment company. Your ideal customer is another manufacturing company that can use your capital equipment to improve their production. When a new visitor reaches your website, you want to present them with information regarding ways to improve production.
In planning personalization, Smart CTAs could be used to point to top of the funnel information such as blog posts, eBooks, and white papers on how to make their production more efficient. When they request some of this information, such as a white paper, ask visitors for more information about their company. Like Amazon refining their ads when you look at more products, your personalized website can then target returning visitors with more relevant eBooks and white papers in your Smart CTAs, while excluding the ones they have already downloaded.
Similarly, you can also use smart content to swap out entire blocks of content on your homepage. This can be as simple as saying "Welcome Back" instead of “Hello”, or as complicated as changing the entire page content.
Building Context in the Consideration Stage
The middle stage of the buyer's journey is consideration. Now the buyer knows he or she has a problem they need to solve, and they're trying to figure out the best way to address it.
The visitors to your website are now aware that they need to make changes to their production equipment to improve production. They now want to figure out the best way to do that either through retrofitting their old equipment or buying new machinery.
Now that you've gathered information about their needs based on forms they have filled out you can address their problems directly. Your Smart CTAs should no longer be presenting them with generic white papers about process improvement. Instead, the CTAs on your homepage should lead them to more specific information about different types of equipment.
Providing Personalized Solutions in the Decision Stage
The last stage of the buyer's journey is the decision stage—your visitors have figured out how they are going to fix their problem, and need to determine who to get their solution from.
At this point your CTAs should direct leads to your product-specific documentation such as spec sheets, test results, and industry-specific case studies.
Once you've closed the sale, a personalized website can still be a strong tool in continuing customer relationships. Remember, it's easier to keep customers than generate new ones. New and existing customers are more likely to visit your site than strangers. Therefore, consider how you can continue to delight your customers with relevant content.
For instance, now that you've sold your customer a new piece of equipment, present them with maintenance documentation for that equipment. As you make improvements to that equipment, you can also share that information with the customers you know already have the older version in use in their production.
Personalization in a Nutshell
Personalization is a powerful tool. New technologies and software are allowing us to give our customers the best information specifically tailored for them. Smart content can talk to your customers with wording that speaks their language while Smart CTAs can lead them to the information they need. With a personalized website not only can you create a highly targeted and efficient lead generation machine, you can also create a more intimate experience for your website's visitors and leads, as well as your existing customers.
An engineer by training, Jon focuses on the technical delivery of an effective inbound marketing program. He builds client website plans that solve for conversion potential and utilize smart user experiences. He is also responsible for analyzing and monitoring the success of inbound projects. Jon fits the definition of being a "whole brain marketer" because he is both a strong writer-designer and a deeply analytical thinker.