Do you know what your customer’s favourite is? Image: Joel Kramer.

Content marketing and personalisation are two of the biggest buzzwords in digital marketing. Personalisation doesn’t just work for displaying the most appropriate products or offers to users. When it’s applied to content marketing, it can help resolve common content marketing challenges.

These include the 51% of companies that don’t have a documented content strategy, according to the Content Marketing Institute’s (CMI) figures. This leaves organisations vulnerable to straying from their original objectives while making measurement and reporting more difficult. 51% of businesses also say that producing engaging content is a challenge and 27% say there’s a lack of integration across marketing channels.

Creating content for documented and researched customer segments can help narrow the focus of content strategies, at the same time integrating it to work across the user journey and suggesting relevant topics and formats.

But personalising content isn’t without its own challenges. It can be difficult, not to mention demanding of resources. The complexity and costs of very granular personalisation could easily be enough to put marketing departments off the idea, but it can be applied in a simpler fashion.

On the flip side, it has the potential to combine the best of both tactics resulting in more engagement throughout the buying cycle, better user experience and increased ROI. What do organisations need to look at when considering personalising their content?

How well do you know your customers?

Data and audience insights underpin personalisation and using this information to inform content strategy is vital to producing engaging, useful content. “Personalization implies knowing your customers personally. To do this well requires acquiring a deep understanding of your buyers,” says Tony Zambito, a persona development expert, in conversation with the CMI.

Developing this understanding can be a considerable investment but it is necessary to avoid targeting the wrong people with the wrong content, which is likely to alienate customers. Close to three quarters of US consumers become frustrated when a website shows them irrelevant offers or promotions, so it can be presumed that offering users content that doesn’t match their interests is a similar turn-off.

Aligning existing customer data and insights with persona information means that you know exactly which topics and which types of content are gaining traction or trending with different groups. This can provide a framework for personalisation on grounds of needs, interests and how content is presented.

From this, companies can start creating appropriately segmented content. This can also be a stepping stone to behaviourally-triggered personalisation, if businesses want to gradually transition into more targeted content creation and distribution.

How can you connect?

There are a variety of ways to implement personalised content and businesses need to consider the cost and benefits of each. But whichever tactic is chosen, clarity over how data is collected is vital. First party data gathering, through voluntary log-in, gathers more relevant data and ameliorates concerns over data privacy. 57% of consumers are happy to provide personal data to companies providing that this translates into a direct benefit to them and is used responsibly.

One of the biggest benefits of personalised content is its ability to nurture existing customer relationships, particularly as 64% of marketers place more value on existing customers than new ones.

Econsultancy memorably described social data as the ‘honeybadger of personalisation’ for its ability to build up a holistic customer picture that can include a wide variety of information far beyond standard demographics. But when it comes to content, marketers need to ensure that this doesn’t turn into information overload, resulting in creating content that is simply too off-brand or too scatter-gun in nature.

Social log-in data can work together with browsing and purchase information to present tailored content recommendations just as it does for products, a reminder that content isn’t an intangible asset, it’s a product and can be used as such.

For example, on fashion sites, if a user’s social log-in shows they favour handbag brands and they recently bought a bag, then showing them recent content about bags is more likely to be relevant and interesting, and lead to a conversion, than a lookbook of sweatshirts.

Content curation through email is another route to personalisation. When users have opted-in to a mailing list, they’re showing a clear signal of interest in a company and its products, meaning that this can be a good area for exploring the value of personalisation. This is even more important for businesses that target several disparate audiences, a situation that accountancy firm Crunch found themselves in.

“Sending untargeted emails really wasn’t an option as it would guarantee certain segments of our subscribers would get something that was totally useless to them,” reported their web editor, Jon Norris. Segmented user groups and rules to move people between the two enabled targeted personalisation that resulted in higher open and interaction rates.

At the bare minimum, marketers need to be targeting and segmenting their content marketing and personalisation has the potential to help clarify content strategies. But an extensive, behaviour triggered content personalisation is unlikely to be appropriate for all companies.

S. M. Nelson

S. M. Nelson


Freelance writer specialising in business, marketing, tech and finance.