The Marketer's Guide to Getting Started With Content Personalization

Chad Pollitt
Chad Pollitt



personalized-marketingContent personalization has been a hot topic for marketers over the last few years. As Big Data gets bigger, so does the level to which marketers can personalize content. At the same time, consumers have grown to expect getting the answers they seek instantly from their smartphone, tablet, and computer -- not just generic answers, but specific, tailored ones. Plugging in a person’s name in an email salutation isn’t enough anymore.

Netflix and Amazon are notable brands that have mastered real content personalization. Their custom-built recommendation engines are uncannily accurate. This type of application has undoubtedly led to the creation of thousands, if not millions, of long-term, happy customers. Fortunately, marketers don’t need to build their own personalization technology. It’s built into many of the applications they use today. 

But for marketers just getting started with content personalization, it can seem overwhelming. There’s so much data that can be used and so many factors to consider. Fear not -- below, I'll break down all of the parts and pieces marketers should consider when creating and launching impactful, tailored marketing that consumers love.

There are four major considerations for planning and mapping a personalized inbound marketing experience.

1) Channel-Based Personalization


personal1The Amazon and Netflix examples above represent this channel. Both of these brands provide tailored experiences in real time on their websites. They do this in a dynamic way by examining past behaviors and attributes and concluding which content would be most relevant to deliver. Marketers can use this same strategy to deliver the most prudent calls-to-action and on-page content.

There are static ways to deliver a personalized experience on a page, too. If someone converts on a landing page, the following confirmation page could include another offer that is highly aligned or relevant to the one just converted on.

Social Media

Social media is a vastly underutilized mechanism for delivering personalized content. This channel can be tricky because if the content is not personalized enough due to automation, the user will know it and the brand will look spammy. However, with enough profile data, a customized social interaction at the right time can be a powerful marketing tool, and tools like HubSpot's Social Inbox can be extremely helpful in personalizing responses and delivering real social ROI.


Email is likely the best known and most utilized channel for delivering tailored content. But many marketers tend to overdo the personalization in emails. Don’t fall into this trap. List segmentation and subtle personalization are email best practices. Here are some great examples of email personalization in action.


There is still a lot of innovation happening within this channel. Services and delivery departments are finding text messaging to be an efficient and effective means to deliver personalized content. Many businesses are using dynamic content to create a more personalized mobile website experience. Mobile apps are also a great way to distribute custom content. Apps like Flipboard, for example, have mastered this.

2) Persona-Based Personalization

Attributes and Behaviors

personal2The level of sophistication in persona development can vary widely across companies. Regardless of the level of sophistication, traditionally developed offline personas need to be redefined using known online attributes and behaviors. These attributes are typically acquired via online form submissions -- examples might include revenue, number of employees, industry, etc.

Progressive profiling large numbers of attributes can help marketers develop very robust persona profiles, too. The more information gathered, the more granular the personalization can be.

As far as behaviors go, it’s important to keep track of the digital body language of website visitors. This information helps in determining which content is most desired and assists in identifying which content and channels likely nurtured leads to customers.

All of this information will help in persona development, too. It’s also a way to measure the effectiveness of personalized content.

personal33) Buyer Journey

The buyer journey can be defined in many different ways. Below is just one representation. Customizing content across all channels based on a person’s position in the marketing and sales funnel is a critical consideration. When executed properly, it can accelerate the buyer’s journey and delight the consumer.

  • Website Visitor
  • Subscriber 
  • Lead 
  • Marketing Qualified Lead 
  • Sales Qualified Lead 
  • Opportunity 
  • Customer 
  • Former Customer 

Current and former customers should be provided a different digital experience than a first time visitor or lead. Marrying the stage in the buyer journey with the defined persona to deliver personalized content is a powerful way to deploy marketing that people love.

4) Device

personal4A marketer can get every other aspect of personalization right, but completely miss the mark if the content is not optimized for the correct device. For example, flash video can’t be viewed on an iPad or iPhone. Also, mobile-only websites offer a poor user experience when engaged from a computer

The best solution for delivering a personalized inbound marketing experience regardless of device is responsive design. The device a person chooses to use is an extension of them, and thus, personal. Responsive design ensures content is properly tailored for the consumer.

Today’s consumers don’t want a personalized experience, they demand it. Planning for the above can go a long way in helping quench this demand. It’s no longer about delivering content to the masses; it’s about delivering content with context that delights. The brands that get this right today will be the future Fortune 1000 companies of tomorrow. 

This is a guest post by Chad Pollitt. Chad is a decorated veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and former army commander; a member of a Forbes Top 100 List, and the director of marketing at DigitalRelevance. His articles have been published in dozens of newspapers, magazines, and websites throughout the world. 

Image credit: marinedelcastell

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