We seem a bit obsessed with “personalization at scale”, but as B2B marketers, should this be a priority?


I was researching the phrase “personalization at scale” for an article on Rockstar CMO and it struck me that when we marketers talk about personalization it is something, we do to someone, or a probably more appropriate description if it’s an interruption; we do at someone.  

We make a lot out of how distracted consumers are, all that goldfish nonsense and to get some attention we need to jump out from behind a virtual bush into the path of a consumer at the right point of their journey. Of course, while trying to look casual like we’ve been there all the time.

But, doesn’t the consumer of the content have a role to play in this? More to the point, isn’t it more powerful when they choose the moment?

They will seek your content

I’m thinking about buying a car, a pickup truck actually – don’t judge me, it’s a terrible idea as I live in the UK. I make the time to consume anything I can find that will help me with that (admittedly potentially poor) decision. Manufacturers website, YouTube videos, every car magazine website on the planet, I’ve been there. I’ve poured over every detail before I’ve even been to the dealer.

It’s the same when you market B2B products with all the emotion of the pressure of peers, bosses, their team, future career and maintaining a salary – that desire to consume content is heightened.

At the right point in the “journey”, the consumer doesn’t need you to jump out from the bush, they will seek content. They too will pour over every detail, before they meet your salespeople and maybe before they even fill in a “contact us” form.

They will put you in their story

In the same way that they will make time for you, if you’ve nailed the category, your product or services are relevant to that buyer and you’ve started building some trust through your content, they will personalize to you.

Consider this, there is a retailer that probably has an attribute of my persona that recognizes that I like Apple products, I have an iPhone and a Mac. They will use this attribute to personalize. But, how did I gain this attribute? I put Apple into my story, I personalized my life around Apple.

If you build sufficient trust and your content and story resonates, the consumer will put you in their story, they will start to join the tribe of your customers, influencers and audience.

They want convenience

When we talk about convenience and the consumer, we are often talking about a B2C transaction. But, think about the time it takes for a B2B buyer to do all this research, to understand the category, to be able to represent themselves as a temporary expert in the field for procurement, to their boss, team and become an intelligent client.

How we present content could be really helpful in reducing the time it takes to consume all this content. I’ve already mentioned Apple, so I might as well stick with the classics, as we all know Amazon makes a ton of money from their recommendation engine that makes it easy for people to find more stuff to buy and we can do that with content.

I’m a huge fan of content hubs, building slightly off-brand, curated web publications that give the buyer a useful place to interact with influencers, thought leadership, relevant material (etc) to help them  (I wrote more on that on CMSWire).

You need a content strategy

Therefore, a good content strategy, being relevant and useful, combined with content first tactics like PPC, SEO, analysts’ relations and influencer marketing will be far more useful to this content seeking buyer than going deep into personalization.

Not saying personalization, this martech fuelled nirvana that we’ve aspired to for almost two decades, is a bad ideal. I just think there are more impactful things we can do, if we acknowledge that we have a willing participant in the game – the content consumer.

Postscript: After we published this article Gartner released some research that states that 80% of marketers will abandon personalization efforts over the next 5 years (read more here).