Pandora and Spotify learn a user’s music preferences over time. Google has learned how to serve news articles to readers based on what they’ve read before. Nest, the smart thermometer, can figure out when its owner prefers to turn the thermostat both down and up.
Our world has come to expect a flavor of technological customization that makes our lives easier, and marketing is no exception.
You’ve likely seen customized emails – a certain form of “smart” content that can populate the greeting of an email based on the recipient’s name. You may have even seen customized ads, like when you’ve viewed a product on a website and that same product is later served to you in a Facebook ad.
Smart content can span the entire marketing spectrum, though, and it’s been in practice long enough to give us a wealth of data revealing the impact it has on sales and conversions. The results are pretty staggering: Personalized emails improve clickthrough rates by 14 percent, for example. And call-to-actions personalized for the user have a 42 percent higher viewed-to-submission rate.
What Makes Personalization Important in Marketing?
Part of what makes smart content so impactful is how saturated the internet is with marketing in the first place. Check someone’s Gmail account and you’ll likely find tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, unopened emails in the promotions tab. The sheer volume of content served across social media platforms and the broader web each day make it impossible to interact with all of them, even if all of it were compelling.
What’s more is that customers often get frustrated with websites as a whole when content has nothing to do with their interests. Think of the Amazon shopping experience: When you visit the website or mobile app, Amazon shows you a variety of products related to ones you’ve been searching for or have already purchased, and it often follows up purchases or searches with emails that are equally tailored to the consumer. This is a far different experience than visiting a site that showcases the same products and services to every customer, or a site that doesn’t remember what a customer was searching for yesterday.
The specific focus on personalized content becomes even more poignant when we consider that search is the largest driver of value for any organization. 9 out of 10 top-performing content marketers say they prioritize information needs before their promotional messages, according to a CMI/MarketingProfs survey.
If providing customers with valuable information that they’re actively seeking out is crucial to converting customers, it makes sense that personalizing that content would be even more effective. This is especially pertinent in the financial services industry, as customers are often in vastly different places in their financial journeys and subsequently seeking vastly different information.
Making Content Dynamic
The phrase for this kind of personalized content is smart content because it adapts to the characteristics of the person consuming it. Different versions of emails, web pages, and more are served to different people based on viewer criteria. In essence, smart content personalizes your content for you. By tailoring this content to customers’ needs and wants, a more relevant (and much more salable) experience is provided to users.
An example of this process is one you likely have some experience with this already: segmented email campaigns. If you’ve ever created different emails to go to different users based on age, gender, location, or past purchase history, you already understand the gist of setting up the smart content automation process. This kind of personalization can apply to a wide range of content, including:
- Call-to-action buttons
- Smart forms
Smart content can also exclude a lot of content that users don’t want to see:
- Content (such as an eBook or promotional message) that’s already been read or downloaded
- Preliminary pitches that existing customers have already seen
For all these reasons and more, creating smart content is a great way to retain existing customers over the long-term – and since it costs five times more to get a new customer than it does to retain an old one, anything we can do to retain our customers will serve us well.
The Process of Creating Smart Content
At this point, it’s pretty clear that leveraging smart content is crucial – but creating a personalized experience so pervasively can certainly seem overwhelming. Here’s a little insight into the process:
Creating smart content begins with a customer relationship management (or CRM) system. This will track all interactions you’ve had with customers or leads and gleans important data about them, such as items they’ve purchased, content they’ve read, and their demographics. This is basically your centralized marketing database that will be used across all of your marketing domains.
Using software like HubSpot, you can create “smart rules” in all of your email campaigns and web pages that adjust the content offered based on certain data points you specify in the rules you create. These smart rules can apply to anonymous visitors, too, based on the very limited or nonexistent information you may be able to glean about them. A few examples of smart rules are:
- Web page referral source – where is the traffic coming from?
- Device type – is the customer using a phone, tablet, or computer?
- Country – what country is the user accessing content from?
- Preferred language – what language does the user speak?
- Lifecycle stage – where in the decision-making process is the customer? There are six stages:
- Marketing qualified lead
- Sales qualified lead
If a customer meets more than one smart rule, there’s a rule hierarchy in place to ensure a correct if/then logic to the order of operations.
These smart rules can apply to websites and landing pages, even allowing you to show a user’s name on your homepage, as well as emails you might not typically think to use for conversion or promotional purposes. An example of this is transactional emails, which have twice the open rate and three times the click-through rate of other emails. That’s a hefty opportunity for connecting with customers, especially when you consider that transaction emails include abandoned cart emails, newsletter signups, and “order delivered” emails.
These transactional emails are a great time to pull on past purchase history, the current order being processed, and any other information about customers to cross-sell them other products and services. An abandoned cart email, on the other hand, is opportune offering customers discounts or free shipping to incentivize completing the order.
A good rule of thumb when crafting smart content for emails like these? Offer 80 percent information that the customer needs and 20 percent promotional value.
There are a few caveats for creating smart content, too. All of the data points used should be permission-based, meaning that the rules and specifiers should be information that they’ve offered to you willingly. You also want to be wary of over-personalizing your content. All pieces of smart content should serve a specific purpose – and preferably one that makes your customer’s journey with your brand or company easier. When in doubt, start with just one area of text to personalize, and incrementally add more as feels appropriate.
Smart content is, in essence, content that changes based on who is viewing it – making it dynamic. It’s so effective because it meets clients (or potential clients) exactly where they are, boosting user satisfaction, conversion, and customer retention.
In financial services marketing, using CRM and smart content software such as HubSpot can be particularly beneficial because of the wide range of goals and needs each customer will have.
Want to learn more about using smart content to better market to your audience? Contact Gate 39 Media.
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