Have you ever heard someone who works in sales at a B2B organization say something like: “We do the real selling person to person. The website should just provide product, services and contact information”?
For many B2B organizations, large and small, the approach to providing website experiences often ends up being one-size-fits-all — despite the marketing team’s best efforts. No matter what customer-intent signals a website visitor reveals, she or he is repeatedly served the same one-size-fits all content and calls to action.
But think about it. Of the new customers any B2B organization has won in the past twelve months, how often do prospective customers visit the organization’s website before having that person-to-person contact? The answer, according to research, is very often.
Of course, there is no replacement for a human-to-human dialog in sales. But if you as a B2B marketer “listen digitally” and trigger personalized contents and calls to action (CTAs), you can increase conversions and help drive sales.
How to get started and grow using B2B personalization
Based on projects where I have had the opportunity to work with B2B organizations using Sitecore Experience Platform — in manufacturing, financial services, life sciences, pharma and other verticals — I have compiled a number of recommendations about how data-driven personalization helps B2B marketers provide relevant digital experiences that help drive sales.
Use these recommendations to help increase B2B engagement, lead generation conversions and anti-churn as well as to capitalize on up-selling and crossing-selling opportunities.
Start by identifying what personalization success looks like
When it comes to B2B conversions, you might think there is just one metric that counts: total number of leads generated. Yes, quantity counts but so does quality. And with this, so do other, softer metrics.
When defining your success criteria, ask stakeholders the following:
- What are the top five most important criteria that define a lead, an up- or cross-sales prospect or a churn-risk customer (depending on your ultimate objective)?
- If you were having a conversation with a prospect, how would you recognize that they meet your sales-potential criteria? In their words, what are they interested in? What are their top needs? What are their top barriers – in their words?
- If you could speak with a prospect who fits certain criteria, what would you say? What would you ask? What would you suggest they do? What steps should they take?
Then synthesize the feedback from stakeholders. Think about the question: what do we need to get a potential customer to do — the small actions and big actions? Define success based on your ability to get your target customers to:
Think of these three success criteria as a funnel. Act is the most important action a prospect can take on your website. Respond are the most import responses other than your top action. And show interest is when a prospect engages with select content repeatedly.
Determine how to measure success
When determining how to measure success, differentiate between active engagement and passive engagement.
Active website engagement is when a prospect responds to an important call to action and provides explicit data when doing so.
Passive website engagement is akin to browsing and not taking an action or an important response.
With this, consider defining a metric for recording when active engagement takes place. For example, on a given website visit, if a visitor submits an important web form or completes a transaction then trigger an event such as a specific goal. The goal can have a certain number of engagement value points that correspond to the business importance of the action.
On some B2B sites, for example manufacturers that sell via distributors and retail outlets, the top objective may be for visitors to find a dealer or reseller. Whatever the top objective is, you want to measure it using an event such as a goal trigger and attribute engagement value points when the site visitor acts upon your top calls to action.
But be sure to only do this for your most important actions and responses — active engagement. You then have an easy way to measure success. It is based on your ability to get your target prospects to do something that serves your objectives.
Consider assigning levels of engagement based on what you identified previously with:
- Act – highest level of active engagement where an ultimate conversion takes place
- Respond – active engagement where implicit or explicit data is captured
- Show interest – active engagement where important segmentation is revealed via browsing
Of course, total number of conversions, and the factors that define each potential buyer, are your most important measurements. But in addition, site visitors that heave earned engagement value, but have not yet converted, are your prospects. You can easily segment them based on engagement value.
Let data define the buyer journey
When using data-driven personalization, your buyer journey map needs to include the use of dynamic calls to action and content based on website visitor intent. Your journey map will have two dimensions: one is the default journey and the second is the personalized journey. To figure out how to design the personalization journey, let data help lead the way.
Typically, the default journeys that you have defined are designed to provide target customers with moments of impact. This could be hero banners, side banners, carousels, video, parallax, pages with case stories, and pages with value-added content.
On these pages, in the banners that are intended to provide moments of impact, you want to use personalization. Conceptually, you are listening digitally via data capture and event triggers. When you have something meaningful to say, with the benefit of using data-driven personalization, say it prominently. Don’t burry it with secondary or random CTA’s.
Define Data triggers based on key CTA’s
For each moment of impact, on select pages and in select page components, you want to define personalized contents. Define the data triggers and the corresponding content that should be displayed.
For example, if a first-time visitor entered via a campaign then remind about the campaign message and CTA. If the visitor then navigates to a section of content about a specific industry, then show relevant CTAs related to that industry. If a visitor views a form but does not submit it, remind about the form and related it to the campaign and vertical industry.
You can continue the messaging when the visitor returns. It is this type of simple relevancy that helps increase conversion rates.
Use content to track interest and segment audiences
Consumed content reveals data. When defining your content strategy and editorial calendar, be sure to factor in the opportunity to capture data based on the content a given site visitor consumes. This is a must for B2B sites. And this applies to product content as well as editorial content.
Many B2B companies — particularly manufacturers, technology vendors and services providers — market and sell a variety of products. When a potential or existing customer enters a web site, he or she can go in different directions depending on interest, need and intent.
Therefore, it makes a lot of sense to track visitors based on content categories, sub-categories and other types of pages. For example, a wire manufacturer may have applications for jet airplanes, fencing and suspension bridges. If you track the visitor (ideally in real-time) you can segment and use the tracking data to communicate personalized CTAs.
With this type of visitor profiling based on content, you want to be able to answer the questions
- What is the visitor mostly interested in up until this moment is the site visit?
- What was the visitor mostly interested in for the previous site visit?
The technique for visitor profiling is straightforward. Tracking is based on content categories – the major things a visitor can be interested in. If you want them to be interested in something, then create content for it and then use visitor profiling.
Create CTAs with relevant payoffs
Using data-driven personalization, you have the opportunity to communicate relevant calls to action. As mentioned, many B2B website rely on communicating the same exact calls to actions. It can sometimes appear as a spray and spay approach.
A better approach is to say a relevant thing at a relevant time. Consider, for example, a B2B website that has the CTA such as “Find a Reseller”. Using personalization, you can add a payoff-oriented tagline above or below the CTA button for Find a Reseller.
The payoff can be related to an interest or need that has been revealed by site tracking. Examples of payoffs can be based on interest in a vertical industry, case story, geography or campaign. This approach will enable you to ditch generic calls to action such as “Contact Us” that miss an opportunity to differentiate a digital visitor’s experience and your brand.
When it comes to CTAs for B2B websites, don’t be afraid to use B2C-like nudging messages and small reminders in the same area on the page or form where you place the CTA. The placement of important CTAs makes a big difference Above the fold is the golden rule.
Create and share KPI dashboards for personalization
If you want to improve anything, you need to measure it. The ability to share and collaborate with metrics is a vital driver of success with personalization initiatives. In the ideal scenario, use a tool such as Microsoft Power BI (or similar) to combine:
- Website visitor data in it’s raw, collected form
- Personalization impression count and click through data
- CRM data by organization, account and contact
- Online advertising data and select B2B social data
Using common BI dashboards that are shared between sales and marketing is a key driver of success with B2B personalization. Salespeople get insights into how data, segmentation and responses to personalized contents contribute to lead generation and sales generation. Marketing can get feedback from sales via the ability to collaborate in the BI tool within Microsoft 365.
Focus on what works and make it work better
One of the most import lessons is to start using personalization with your top products, services and site visitor segments. By this, I mean areas of your marketing program where you get engagement and conversions. You will be able to get results faster using personalization. And there will be plenty of data to identify how best to target segments with relevant calls to action
If you can communicate relevantly, you will increase engagement and increase conversions. If you can avoid being irrelevant when you communicate, you will not only differentiate your brand but also increase the quality of the digital customer experiences your brand provides.
For B2B marketers looking for inspiration when it come to B2B personalization, here is a great article from the Content Marketing Institute.