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Why personalization strategy drives huge leaps in conversion

Stewart Hillhouse
Posted by Stewart Hillhouse|Published on October 12, 2022
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Welcome back to the Conversion Marketing Academy. In the first chapter you learned how important it is to invest in improving conversion alongside increasing top-of-funnel demand. Now it’s time to jump into your first lesson: how to create a personalization strategy to increase conversions across your marketing programs.

Let’s get into it.

Chapter 1 of the Conversion Marketing Academy offers context on what will be discussed in this post. You can read it here.

The fastest way to drive conversion is through personalization at scale

The biggest reason prospective buyers don’t convert is because of a lack of relevance to the individual.

Individuals aren’t created the same, and therefore shouldn’t be addressed the same way. For example, Ozzy Osbourne and King Charles share a lot of the same characteristics:

King Charles III compared to Ozzy Osbourne

Despite their shocking similarities, your sales reps would never sell to the two of them the same way.

This is a silly example, but it’s the exact same when it comes to marketing and selling B2B. A buyer might have the same demographic data (lives in USA, VP of Marketing for fintech company), but the context of their needs are totally different (startup vs. enterprise). 

Personalization is about delivering the highest amount of relevance to your buyer as possible. This isn’t just a nice to have – personalization drives serious revenue when executed properly. 

The common thread between these three companies is they’re creating personalized messaging for each visitor. And soon enough you'll be doing this too.

Caveat: You can increase conversion in other ways. Like fixing broken website pages, making elements clearer by adjusting the colors and layout, or by A/B testing different messages to find the one that converts the highest. But typically these activities don’t have the biggest universal driver of lift. Also, once your website is easy to use, then what?

A messaging hierarchy to ensure relevancy to all your ideal customer personas

How do you make sure the messaging your company is putting out into the world is relevant to your ideal customers?

Through a messaging hierarchy that helps anyone in your company describe what it is you do.

Last part of the messaging hierarchy is content

It starts with category: what buyers think you sell.

Next comes point of view: the 'strategic narrative' that explains the change that's happening in the world and how you're solving for it (in a way that's different from everyone else).

Notice how up to this point, all the your messaging is only for internal use.

Third is your positioning: who you do/don't serve, what you're doing, and how you're different.

Once you've got your positioning, then you can start putting together your messaging: what to say that explains and expresses your value.

Everything in the hierarchy so far has led to being able to deliver the most relevant experience to your ideal buyers through content: how and where you say it.

The contents of this hierarchy matter a lot because it gives every customer-facing member of the company a script to follow in their day-to-day role that matches the script of the other departments.

But sometimes it's best to go off-script.

Go and listen to Gong recordings of how your sales reps talk to their prospects.

Think of a time you were talking to a prospective customer about what your company does. Did you repeat the website homepage copy verbatim? Of course not. Did you refer to the official messaging guidelines? Not likely.

Your messaging is based on what you knew about the person you were talking to.

If they were a technical person, you might have begin to talk about how you solve the problem.

If they were a senior leader, you could have touched on how the problem impacts the company's revenue.

If they weren't your ideal customer persona, you likely tried your best to explain why this is a problem worth solving.

It's human to personalize how you talk to someone based on what you know about them.

This is easy to manage when there are 2 or 3 personas. But in reality, you've probably got a lot more personas than that.

Let's say you sell to 8 different industry verticals, 3 buyer roles, and 2 company sizes. That means you've actually got 48 unique personas that all require personalized messaging.

Messaging framework for multiple audiences

I'd venture to say that only the founders and a handful of others in your company have enough context to effectively communicate to these 48 personas. For the rest of us, we need a messaging system to help us get it right.

A scalable personalization system can’t live in someone’s head

Early on, most of the company’s messaging will live in the head of the founder. Depending on who they’re talking to, they can adjust the pitch (and even the product) on the fly during those conversations. “Oh sure, we can do that for ya!”. 

At this point the messaging has extremely high relevance, but low scale. 

Then the sales team is built, the scale increases because there are more people talking to your prospective customers. But in doing so, the relevance begins to drop because these new employees don’t know the product or market nearly as deeply as the founder.

Marketers and customer success employees join the team, further increasing the scale. In an attempt to document company-approved messaging, a document of some kind is created that allows new employees to read over. This helps on-ramp new employees, but it soon becomes stale and out of date as new insights are uncovered and markets shift. 

As the team grows, every employee builds their own perspective (and opinion) about what is relevant to each prospect and customer based on their own experiences and available data. Customer messaging becomes influenced more by who has the loudest voice in the room, instead of being decided through data.

Messaging degrades as startups scale

The question then becomes: “How do you find and apply winning messaging everywhere, at scale?” 

The answer is a personalization strategy that “pulls forward” winning positioning from 1:1 conversations so you can apply them to a much larger audience. 

Personalization allows you to increase your scale and relevance at the same time, powered by real market data.

Personalization allows for messaging at scale

To do that, all the positioning insights can’t just stay in the head of a few core employees. You need a system to capture this thinking and learning so it can be applied everywhere at scale.

A personalization system removes chaos from your positioning

Before you can take advantage of technology to improve your relevance and scale, you first need to align your tools, team, and data with your positioning, and how they adapt to each prospect and segment. 

Otherwise, not only will your positioning be irrelevant, but you’ll also have company-wide chaos trying to wrangle your positioning.

Personalization is an adaptive process, not “set-it-and-forget-it”. Markets change over time, and therefore so should your positioning within these markets. You’ll also discover and learn new insights on what does (and doesn’t) resonate. Your new thinking means new positioning.

You need to be able to capture ideas (or “hypothesis”), launch experiments, measure results, and iterate over time.

Pull forward winning positioning, build a system, and empower teams to iterate. 

Building a personalization framework

Exercise 1: Who you do / don't serve

In B2B, the WHO you’re targeting consists of both the individuals persona and the company-level persona.

Good example Persona: VP of Marketing who owns the marketing budget and oversees all the acquisition channels. Company-level: B2B fintech SaaS with over $5M revenue, sales-led, over 45 employees, Series B or later.

Bad example Persona: CMO of a B2B SaaS company.

Why is it bad? Not detailed enough about what the persona is in charge of, the pains they might have, and dimensions that are specific to your customers. Company-level: B2B healthcare SaaS

Why is it bad? Ok you've got the industry vertical, but within that industry are companies of all sizes and maturity. Try adding more dimensions to make it easier to pin-point your target personas.

Exercise 2: Buyer needs

This is not about how your buyers use your product, but the desired outcomes they receive from using it.

Try to keep this list short and memorable. Keep asking "so what?" until you can boil it down to something short and accurate.

Good example Remain compliant

Bad example Simplify employee onboarding

Why is it bad? The word "simplify" is ambiguous. Simpler than what? Find needs that are binary – you're either compliant or you're not, there is no in-between.

Exercise 3: Unique selling proposition (USP)

What about your product is most unique? What do you do that no one else in your category does?

Good example API allows product to seamlessly integrate with buyer's existing tech stack.

Bad example Product is very user-friendly.

Why is it bad? A USP should be a technical, legal, or informational advantage that you have on the competition. A simple user interface update could make your competition more user-friendly than your product.

What’s Next: Audience Segmentation

As we've learned, personalization is not hello [[first_name]] or {company_name} in your email copy. If I yell your name across a room, but then continue with a generic sales pitch, that’s not personalization (it’s just annoying). You’ve used a device that captures my attention (my name!), but your message isn’t any more relevant.

So the next step is working on WHO, audience segmentation, and what the best ways to segment your market. Then, how to apply specific messaging.

Then, we’re going to think about WHERE you should focus your personalization efforts to see the biggest impact. What channels, funnel stages, and programs.

Finally, HOW are you going to build this personalization system. There’s a lot of moving parts to orchestrate. You’ll leave with an understanding of your options and plan how to execute it at the highest level. 

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