Content Marketing Personalization: Build Relationships At Scale

content marketing personalizationI know you’re wondering “what the heck is content marketing personalization?” I promise I will get to that. But first, I want to tell you a brief story I am pretty certain you can relate to.

I went to the doctor a few weeks back. He asked what line of work I was in. I told him I was in marketing. He said, “that’s like sales, right?” I told him “no.” That’s not what I do.

After a pause, he said emphatically, “oh you help make those ads on TV that I hate.” I told him “no” again. I laughed a little. But then I struggled to explain to him exactly what it is that we do in marketing.

I believe that we help businesses build relationships with new customers. We join the conversations around our topic that are already happening. Marketing is about conversations and building relationships.

But I struggled to explain that to my doctor. Ask most people what marketing is, and they will tell you it is an ad. Or a billboard. Or the color of your logo.

Marketing Today Is Broken

In preparation for my talk at a recent conference, I did a Google search on content marketing trends. I found an article on a publisher site. When I clicked on it, I was interrupted by a “welcome ad” and some strange quote. When I clicked past the ad, I was greeted by the most evil advertising creation in the history of mankind, an auto-play video, that forced me to scramble to turn the volume on the computer down. Then, while reading, I was asked to take a survey.

In less than a minute, I was bombarded with marketing that I didn’t want. No, with marketing that I hated. I hated the publisher a little bit. And I hated the advertiser a lot. More, because I know the publisher is trying to stay in business. They got kids to feed too.

But the advertiser? They have better options that this.

Marketing cannot continue to be about ads. Ads we tune out. Ads we hate.

It’s not all bad. The commercials at this year’s Superbowl started to try and tell real stories that connect brands to people in a human and emotional way. 2013 brought us the Dove Real Beauty ad that really set the stage.

Dove followed that up by asking what it means to be a real man, in this year’s Superbowl ad Real Strength. Similarly,  P&G took a similar approach with their Thanks Mom ad at the 2014 Olympics. Then followed up with the Always Brand Like A Girl campaign,

Marketing Starts With Answering Why

Simon Sinek’s amazing Ted Talk, Start With The Why, articulates this point clearly. Your consumers don’t by what you do, they buy why you do it.

And so marketing shouldn’t talk about what you do. It should talk about why you do it. And what that does for your customers. Some people call this brand purpose. And it’s not just hippie, dippie crap. It’s good for business.

In his book, Grow, former P&G CMO Jim Stengel shows us that business who focus on connecting with their consumers based on their brand’s core purpose, or reason for being, are 3X more successful than companies who promote products and services directly.

Look inside most businesses and you will find a lot of content. Unfortunately, as much as 70% of it goes completely unused. And the stuff that is used, gets ignored because in today’s hyper-connected, digital world, no one is interested in hearing a product pitch.

Marketing Must Focus On Customer Value

I know this is hard. You’re just doing what you’re asked to do. Behind every piece of bad content is an executive who asked for it. Behind every personal brand, behind every website launch, and behind every logo on a stadium or a golfer’s hat, is an executive who’s ego thought that was a really good idea.

But do these activities create customer value?

We do what we’re asked to do and yet the vast majority of CEOs are unhappy with the job being done by the CMO. And they are not unhappy with everyone. They feel the opposite about the CFO and COO. Because those folks are telling their boss how to get the job done right.

“We need to stop interrupting what people are interested in, and be what people are interested in.” ~ Craig Davis, former Chief Creative Officer at JWT. See this and 28 more content marketing quotes.

“Customers” Means Real People

The only kind of marketing that helps businesses connect with real people is personal content. Not just targeted, or personalized – personal content.

And I’m not talking about creating named personas that tell you a lot about your target audience except anything actionable like what content they want, where they consume it and what really matters to them.

The only way to really know these things is through effective content marketing that seeks to deliver what your customers actually want. It has to be customer-driven, it has to be continuous and it has to focus on reaching the right person, at the right time, with the right message.

The Metrics We Use Today Barely Scratch The Surface

Pageviews, bounce rate, time spent, social shares, uniques, sessions, likes, tweets, comments, even conversions, leads and sales – these metrics don’t tell us if we are reaching the right people before they are ready to buy.

With the right data, you can get to know your audience, know what content appeals to them and make better marketing decisions. It is only through these types of audience insights, that marketing can achieve the business impact and the return on investment that your business demands.

For example, imagine you could identify which of your prospects were engaging with your competitor’s or a publisher’s content? And that you could then target them with personalized content you already know they are interested in. And then track them as they become a name in your database, a lead and a customer.

You would be a content marketing rockstar.

That is how audience insights and personalization can drive content marketing success at scale.

We are in the midst of a major change. We are seeing the marketing landscape shift from a brand-led experience to a customer-driven experience.

Content marketing personalization is the only way to do what marketing is really supposed to do: build relationships at scale. (I show how organizations and companies can do this in my content content marketing workshops.)

Now tell me what you think?

Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner  is a Top CMO, Content Marketing and Digital Marketing Influencer, an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula" and he is the CEO and Founder of Marketing Insider Group, a leading Content Marketing Agency . He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael helps build successful content marketing programs for leading brands and startups alike. Subscribe here for regular updates.

5 thoughts on “Content Marketing Personalization: Build Relationships At Scale

  1. ” I was greeted by the most evil advertising creation in the history of mankind, an auto-play video”

    LOL! And yes, auto-play ads are the worst! I’d love to see the metrics on those — and whether publishers can prove they are worth the interruption.

    1. I think they are effective at interrupting. The bigger question is at what cost? I hate them. I hate the advertiser who makes me scramble for the volume button. And I hate the publisher for using them.

  2. You are spot on with this post and I think have painted a perfect picture of where content marketing NEEDS to go.

    “It has to be customer-driven, it has to be continuous and it has to focus on reaching the right person, at the right time, with the right message.”


    One question for you or your readers…

    Given that the concept of personalizing content often equates to a need for even more content for more types of readers, how do you recommend brands (particularly B2B brands) go about creating enough content to execute on delivering a personalized, reader driven journey, given that they currently struggle with even a single journey targeting only a handful of cookie cutter personas?

    Or am I missing it? Is true personalization it about something different?

    1. Hi Steve, Thanks for your feedback and a great question.

      You are correct that personalization requires even more customer-focused content than most brands have today. But the problem is not that brands don’t have enough content. Or budget. Brands spend a ton of money creating a ton of content no one wants.

      The problem is that their content marketing efforts aren’t centered on answering their customers’ questions. Instead brands create content that the sales team thinks will help sell products. Or they create content that their boss thinks will help sell more product.

      When in fact this is what buyers tune out. So if brands simply STOPPED creating most of that promotional content and shifted just half that under-performing activity to content that actually helps their buyers, they would have more than they need to meet customer needs at each stage of the buyer journey.

      And we have helped dozens of brands do that. It all starts with a simple content audit. Or even a small sample of content audited to see what costs go into under-performing content. And then creating a plan to deliver stuff buyers actually want. No extra budget required. Just a shift in thinking.

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