Online Personalization 101: WHAT it is, WHY You Need to Use it & HOW to Get Started

online personalization photographingtravisYou see it all day, every day. You open your inbox and there it is: your name in the subject line. You get home from work after a busy day, kick up your feet and flip on Netflix—and there it is again: your name. You sign into Facebook and you see an ad pointing you to a website you recently visited.

Coincidence? Never.

WHAT is Online Personalization?

The aforementioned examples are all instances of online personalization (sometimes called content personalization). BusinessDictionary defines online personalization as “tailoring the presentation of a website’s content to match a specific user’s instructions or preferences.” This form of custom-tailored marketing is achieved by collecting data about prospects and customers, then using that data to tweak online experiences to perfection.

WHY You Should Care About Online Personalization

Online personalization has become a key part of digital marketing strategies. As humans, we crave customized experiences. A study from the University of Texas at Austin attributes this to our desire for control. Google searches 30 trillion pages, 100 billion times a month. 60 hours of video is uploaded every minute on YouTube. More than 30 billion pieces of content are shared each month on Facebook.

Get the point? There’s A LOT of content out there! Online personalization helps you break through the noise and improve your marketing ROI.

HubSpot reported:

  • Personalized emails improve clickthrough rates by 14% and conversion rates by 10%.
  • In-house marketers who personalize web experiences (who are also able to quantify that improvement) see a 19% uplift in sales, on average.
  • 40% of consumers buy more from retailers who personalize the shopping experience across channels.
  • Leads nurtured with targeted content produce a 20% increase in sales opportunities.

And the list goes on. Hey, online personalization works!

HOW to Get Started with Online Personalization

Not every business can be a giganto expert at online personalization like (constantly pulling data and signals to personalize their users’ shopping experiences). However, there are a few basic things you can do to hop aboard the online personalization train, today.

1. Segment Your Email Marketing

Online personalization in email marketing is one of the most cost-efficient methods. Don’t always send the same email to everyone on your list. Break your lists down into various segments and tweak your messages accordingly.


You’re in the staffing business and you work with companies looking to fill positions in marketing and IT.

  • Segment out the companies that have a need to fill marketing positions into one list. Then, send a monthly email featuring your top marketing candidates.
  • Likewise, create a separate segment for companies looking to fill IT positions. Send a separate monthly email featuring your top IT candidates to this list.

Sending a monthly e-newsletter? Most email marketing software (like MailChimp and Constant Contact) offer the option to insert a ‘receiver name’ field. Use it!

2. Segment Your Social Media

Facebook uses data in ad targeting that’s fairly easy to implement. Let’s say you offer computer repair services to small- and medium-sized businesses and you’re only able to offer those services within 50 miles of Brookfield, Wisconsin. You’re not going to want to run a Facebook ad that will be seen by everyone and anyone in the entire United States. Determine what your target audience looks like and set up your ad accordingly.

Here’s what your targeting might look like…

online personalization

Online personalization is not only a great way to break through the marketing noise and improve your marketing ROI—it’s also a really fun way to get creative with how you market to your audience! Give it a shot and you’ll be amazed at the results.

Need some help getting started with online personalization? Contact Cultivate Communications.


Image “Hello My Name Is” courtesy of Flickr user Travis Wise licensed under CC by 2.0.

5 Content Marketing Tips: How to Add *ZING* to Dull Subjects

"Stop Boring Me." How to add *ZING* to Dull Subjects Using Content MarketingSome topics seem SO inherently boring. Content marketing is all well and good if you’re working in an exciting field with endless subjects to explore, but what if you sell life insurance or manufacture Teflon? Jazzing up a seemingly dull subject isn’t as hard as it sounds.

Stop boring your target audience by following these five content marketing tips:

1. Share your Passion
You love what you do, right? Show your customers the beauty of your industry by sharing your passion. It’s not all about selling. Tell them why you believe in your product or service and how it makes your life better. Provide case studies featuring people like just your customers (businesses, individuals or families, whatever is appropriate) to demonstrate how you solved their problems or improved their lives, their bottom line, or their business.

2. Offer Solutions
Compelling content answers questions—but the key is to answer the right questions. Do people want a detailed explanation about actuarial tables? No. Really, they don’t.

What do potential customers really want to know? Keyword research and social listening will help you determine that, but there’s also something to be said for your own instincts. People are interested in how your product relates to them and their lives. Find their pain points, address their fears, or find a way to make their lives easier.

3. Walk on the Wild Side
It’s human nature to be fascinated by the strange and unusual. Add some pizazz to your content by finding the angles that add interest to your product or service. People may not want to hear about actuarial tables, but they DO want to know if they’re at risk for ebola. (Nope. You’re far more likely to die from your jammies catching fire.) Find creative ways to tie topics together.

4. Add Images
Visuals carry tremendous weight. Research shows that 80% – 90% of the information our brains process is visual and that related images help us process information. Brain science aside, visuals are simply more appealing.

Research shows that 80% - 90% of the information our brains process is visual and that related images help us process information. Brain science aside, visuals are simply more appealing.

5. Understand the WHY
The New York Times teamed up with Latitude Research to study the psychology behind sharing. Digging into social media motivations, they found that customers share to connect with each other. They share to motivate, advocate and interest their peers. The takeaway is to address your customers’ desire to connect with their friends…not just with your brand.

Providing answers is not only a great way to make your content more interesting, it’s also a great way to nurture your customer relationships throughout the buy cycle. Download our FREE Growth Cycle Marketing white paper to better connect with your prospects before, during and after the sale.


In the end, the most important takeaway is to be sure to make your marketing about your audience.



Creative Building Blocks — Delivered Monthly to Your Inbox

Marketing creativity is the ability to tap into our mental pool of resources — knowledge, information, insight, stats, examples — and combine them in unique ways.

The larger the library of building blocks, the more visionary your ideas will grow to be. We sift through and share the best innovative marketing tips, tactics, reports and ideas, then share them with you in our monthly grow eNewsletter.

Exercise inventive thinking!


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How Well Do You REALLY Know Your Audience?

How Well Do You REALLY Know Your Audience? by Cultivate CommunicationsSo you’re pumping out tons of great content, but you’re starting to see that it’s focused around the same topics, and it’s not getting the traction that it used to. Maybe it’s time to refine your content marketing strategy and ask yourself:

How well do you REALLY know your audience?

Sounds like an easy enough question to answer. But when you get down to brass tacks, do you truly know what motivates your target audience to buy? Or are you basing that answer on your own assumptions and viewpoints? Have you ever asked your actual customers about what motivates them, or what business problems they have that keep them up at night to see how you could help?

As content marketers, we understand that the words and images we create help potential customers navigate their way through a buying decision. We should never assume that we already know what our audience wants to hear or see.

To truly understand what motivates your potential customers to buy, you need to “walk a mile in their shoes” — and realize that there are many different types of shoes all those customers walk in.
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For example, a C-Level executive who has a lot of budget and decision-making authority may not jump into a buying process until the end, where he or she may be interested in product comparison data, case studies, and ROI analyses. The content needs of this executive are vastly different from those of the person who may have first initiated contact with your company to garner general information. That person may have little budget or decision-making authority, but may have a strong influence on the executive or on other decision makers in the chain of command.

Enter the buyer persona . . .

Think about all the types of visitors you’re drawing in with your content — it probably runs the gamut from CEOs to interns. All of these people view their roles and responsibilities through different lenses and have different needs that can be met with your content. Understanding and empathizing with what motivates each visitor/reader can help you dial in and personalize your content marketing efforts by constructing well-written, targeted content to help these individuals:

  • Understand what issues they face
  • Decide what steps to take to solve their issues
  • Gain the confidence they need to take action

 “For you to achieve your goals, visitors must first achieve theirs.”
   — Bryan Eisenberg { Tweet This }

Your buyer personas should be specific to your business and sales cycle. But for the sake of discussion, let’s use the examples of some typical B2B buyer personas below:

  • Initiators
  • Influencers
  • Decision Makers
  • Buyers
  • Users

Free Buyer Persona Template DownloadBegin by building out information related to the specific role of each buyer persona listed above. Examples of information you may want to flesh out include:

  • Title
  • Time spent at current role
  • Reports to
  • Number of direct reports
  • Daily tasks & responsibilities
  • Likes/dislikes about role
  • Pressures
  • Concerns
  • Immediate needs
  • Long-term goals
  • Budget & decision-making authority
  • Buying stage

{Customer Personas} At each phase of the sales model detailed in the link above, each type of buyer persona is going to have different types of questions and content needs. Once you’ve determined the appropriate buyer personas and filled in all the salient data above, begin to map them to the various stages of your sales cycle. Your sales cycle should reflect your own business model, but for illustrative purposes, I’ll use this basic sales cycle model.

Each type of buyer persona is going to have different types of questions and content needs. Completing this exercise will help you map your content marketing efforts to areas where you currently have gaps, and help you broaden the scope of your content to be sure it includes something for all your target buyer personas.

Like many new endeavors, this step of determining your buyer personas so your content marketing reaches and resonates with the right people — and at the right stage of the sales cycle — can be a rather daunting task. That’s what we’re here for.

Call on the Content Engineers at Cultivate Communications to help your content marketing efforts. Let US walk a mile in your prospects’ and customers’ shoes so you don’t have to. We’ll even bring the shoehorn.