A closeup of hands typing on a laptop computer with an overlay of icons representing customer targeting and personalization marketing

A common theme among buyers is the desire to be treated like the unique human beings they are. They want to be perceived and catered to as individuals, not anonymous transactions on an income sheet.

The necessity to understand who your buyers are is nothing new. Marketers have long been creating personas to identify:

  • Value propositions that matter most to their ideal customers
  • Unique selling propositions (USPs) that set their business apart
  • Messaging that will resonate with buyers
  • Marketing channels that will most effectively deliver the messaging

While creating hypothetical representations of ideal customers used to be enough to enable businesses to connect with real people and make sales, it’s not quite so straightforward anymore. Today, people increasingly expect businesses to connect with them on a more personal level before they’ll even consider them as a possible solution provider.

The demand for marketing personalization is summed up best by these statistics:

  • 87% of businesses say at least some customers expect personalized content, and 43% say most customers expect personalized content. (Marq)
  • 76% of consumers say they’re more likely to purchase from brands that personalize. (McKinsey)
  • 66% of customers expect brands to understand their wants and needs. (Salesforce)

Traditional personalized marketing campaigns using variable printing and direct mail can check the personalization box at the surface level. However, this approach can’t match digital tools’ level of sophistication.

That’s why we wanted to write this article to highlight how personalizing your marketing using automation can ensure you create memorable experiences and meet user expectations at every touchpoint. We’ll share tips on how to create a personalized marketing strategy and utilize automation to maximize efficiency and free up time for your salespeople to focus their attention where it matters most — closing deals!

How Can I Provide a Personalized Experience with Automation?

You’re probably wondering how it’s possible to provide your target audience with a personalized experience by utilizing automation. Aren’t marketing automation platforms (MAPs) designed to take a business’s people out of the equation and let the machine do most of the work? How does that deliver personalized interactions?

Buyers frequently want personalized marketing experiences, and B2B buyers in particular will contact a salesperson… eventually. The thing is, customer behaviors indicate that personalized marketing doesn’t have to come from a human in real time. Worldwide Business Research found that B2B buyers are 57% – 70% through their buying research before contacting sales.

If buyers are comfortable navigating themselves through the awareness, consideration, comparison and intent steps of the buyer’s journey, you just need to make sure your company is better than your competitors at providing relevant content buyers expect at just the right time. Marketing automation can do that!

Keep in mind that automation isn’t a silver bullet that can work wonders by itself. It’s a tool that can effectively help people during their customer journey if backed by a strong marketing strategy. You need to know things like:

  • What are our market segments and what characterizes them?
  • What kind of content do buyers expect at each stage of the buyer’s journey?
  • What indicators signal a buyer is ready to receive a certain type of content?
  • What are the best channels to deliver content?
  • How do we monitor the performance of our marketing campaign so we can optimize and improve results?

If your marketing team can answer all these questions, they can harness the power of the MAP to deliver personalized experiences that will attract new leads, convert more customers and increase brand loyalty.

Understand Your Audience for More Personalized Marketing Strategies

A successful personalized marketing strategy starts with understanding your audience inside and out and breaking them down into segments so that you can maximize your impact. This is accomplished through the combination of the knowledge and intuition of your sales and marketing teams and robust data analytics tools that can provide valuable insights.

Segments can be created based on:

  • Geography
  • Demographics
  • Purchase history
  • Market verticals
  • Company size
  • And more

The more defined your segments are, the better equipped you’ll be to deliver personalized marketing. Go beyond the generic and think about ways to break your audience down that may only make sense for your specific company or industry. For example, one of our B2B clients segments their target audience based on whether they are:

  • A party interested in starting a new business in the industry
  • An existing business in a related industry
  • An existing business in the industry that currently purchases from a competitor
  • A current customer

We’ve worked with this client for many years and have developed a robust portfolio of content — “startup” content for those new to the industry and “improvement” content for those established in the industry. We use automation to deliver the right content to the right segment at the right time.

Segmenting your audience based on both demographics and psychographics allows you to tailor your marketing efforts more effectively, ensuring each message resonates with its intended recipients.

Create Personalized Content for Your Segments

After segmenting your audience, you can turn your attention to content. Start by auditing your existing content, which can include:

  • Blog posts
  • Case studies
  • Guides/manuals
  • Product/service videos
  • Brochures/sell sheets
  • Images
  • Infographics
  • Testimonials
  • And more

Assess the content and determine whether it is ready to be shared or if updates are needed first. Consider your personalization strategy and pair the content pieces with the applicable segments. Also, decide where each piece should be utilized in the buyer’s journey. Create new content if you don’t have enough for each segment and step in the buyer’s journey. Either assign content creation tasks to your internal marketing team or hire a content creator to assist. If you are outsourcing, it’s recommended to utilize a marketing agency, as they will have the best idea of how to create something that will meet the needs of your target audience.

48 Proven Workflows to Plug a Leaky Sales Funnel

Automate Email Campaigns

Once your content is ready, it’s time to get down to business and build the machine that will manage your personalized marketing efforts. The channel at the heart of the machine is email, as email marketing remains one of the most effective channels for personalized communication.

With marketing automation, you can schedule segmented email deployments and set up automated email workflows triggered by specific actions or milestones. These workflows ensure that your messages are timely and relevant with the right type of content.

Customer data and actions are used to deploy personalized emails that could include one or more of these elements:

  • Personalized subject lines with the recipient’s name and/or company
  • Personalized recommendations for products and/or services that fit the recipient’s purchase history or interests based on behavioral data
  • Custom messaging that is based on the recipient’s status in the sales funnel and the action(s) they took
An example of a personalized email subject line
An example of a personalized email subject line

Automation offers dynamic content capabilities that allow you to customize messaging at scale. Additionally, A/B testing can help refine your content strategies and optimize engagement by identifying the most effective variations.

Another benefit of automation is that it nurtures and engages prospects who are not yet ready to buy. This removes tasks from the sales team’s to-do lists and frees up their time to focus more attention on only the hottest, most sales-ready leads.

The statistics don’t lie; automated marketing is trusted and it is effective:

  • 76% of companies use marketing automation. (HubSpot)
  • 10% of customer journeys are fully automated. (Ascend2)
  • Automated emails generate 31% of all email orders. (Omnisend)

Implement Behavior-Based Triggers

In the previous section, we mentioned workflows triggered by specific actions or milestones. Let’s talk about them in greater detail.

Behavior-based triggers can be implemented at every level of the sales funnel to progress prospective customers from cold leads to warm leads, warm leads to hot leads and hot leads to customers. Triggers can also promote increased customer loyalty by getting first-time buyers to become faithful repeat customers.

Email automation workflows can be built and connected as part of a larger marketing campaign. These workflows contain triggers that move individuals from one workflow to another or add them to an additional workflow while they continue to progress through another. It makes the journey unique to each individual as emails can be personalized and they can progress at their own pace.

Triggers can consist of major actions like a form submission, lead magnet download, “add to cart” click or online purchase. You can also utilize lead scoring to serve as a trigger.

With lead scoring, you assign scores to different actions a user can take like opening an email, clicking on a link to a blog post, visiting your website’s Contact Us page, etc. Minor actions should receive smaller scores while major actions that signal greater purchase intent should receive higher scores. Once a user reaches certain lead score thresholds, it triggers the MAP to start them on an applicable workflow.

Examples of Automated Workflows

There are a variety of automated workflows that can be utilized throughout the sales funnel. Let’s take a look at some examples.

Top of Funnel Workflows

A graphic highlighting the top of the sales funnel
  • Monthly newsletter
    • Trigger that begins workflow: Scheduled deployment to an existing list segment or newsletter subscription
    • Purpose: Share content that addresses the interests and pain points of the target audience
  • Demand generation
    • Trigger that begins workflow: Scheduled deployment to an existing list segment or relevant form submission
    • Purpose: Create awareness by providing helpful, non-salesy content specific to a prospect’s interests, job title or goals
  • Thank you
    • Trigger that begins workflow: Relevant form submission or specified user behavior taken
    • Purpose: Show gratitude, strengthen your relationship and encourage additional digital engagement with your company

For more information, read our article on attracting new leads using marketing automation.

Middle of Funnel Workflows

A graphic highlighting the middle of the sales funnel
  • Quarterly newsletter
    • Trigger that begins workflow: Scheduled deployment to an existing list segment or newsletter subscription
    • Purpose: Remain top-of-mind with leads/customers by driving traffic back to your web properties
  • Low lead score
    • Trigger that begins workflow: Lead remains at or below a specified lead score for a predetermined amount of time
    • Purpose: Encourage digital behavior by engaging leads and increasing their lead score to move them further along the funnel
  • Long-term drip
    • Trigger that begins workflow: Product-specific or service-specific engagement
    • Purpose: Keep your brand top-of-mind with leads with longer purchase timelines by contacting them at less frequent intervals than typical drips
  • Sales outreach
    • Trigger that begins workflow: Lead is engaged but not sales-ready
    • Purpose: Assign sales reps to engaged leads that aren’t quite sales-ready via notifications to the lead owner (sales rep) to kick off a series of phone calls
  • Sales meeting drip
    • Trigger that begins workflow: Lead score threshold or key criteria met
    • Purpose: Assign sales reps to sales-qualified leads and deploy a series of dynamic emails with targeted landing pages that encourage leads to schedule a sales meeting. With each scheduled appointment via the landing page, lead owners are alerted and automated meeting confirmations and reminder emails are sent out to improve attendance
  • Event marketing
    • Trigger that begins workflow: Scheduled deployment to an existing list segment or event signup
    • Purpose: Drive booth traffic and encourage on-site sales meetings as well as a post-event email drip to keep leads engaged after the event
  • Webinar marketing
    • Trigger that begins workflow: Scheduled deployment to an existing list segment or webinar signup
    • Purpose: Drive registrations. It can also include automated registration confirmation and reminder emails to improve attendance
  • Thank you
    • Trigger that begins workflow: Relevant form submission or specified user behavior taken
    • Purpose: Show gratitude, strengthen your relationship and encourage additional digital engagement with your company

For more information, read our article on interacting with leads using marketing automation.

Bottom of Funnel Workflows

A graphic highlighting the bottom of the sales funnel
  • Conversion drip
    • Trigger that begins workflow: Lead score threshold or key criteria met
    • Purpose: Establish intent in a macro conversion (purchase, schedule meeting, lunch & learn, demo, lead magnet download, etc.)
  • Hot lead burst
    • Trigger that begins workflow: Lead score threshold or key criteria met
    • Purpose: Encourage leads to buy with frequently delivered messages geared toward sales
  • Post-sales meeting drip
    • Trigger that begins workflow: Conclusion of an event in the CRM
    • Purpose: Provide relevant content and communication to build toward your business’s next conversion point (i.e. RFP, demo, second meeting, sale, etc.)
  • Special offer
    • Trigger that begins workflow: Lead score threshold or key criteria met
    • Purpose: Entice likely-to-buy leads with a special offer code
  • Seasonal marketing
    • Trigger that begins workflow: Scheduled deployment to an existing list segment tied to holidays and major events
    • Purpose: Encourage leads to move forward with their purchase with a special offer code
  • Lost deal re-engagement
    • Trigger that begins workflow: Change of opportunity status to “lost” in the CRM
    • Purpose: Keep your company top-of-mind for another opportunity
  • No purchase re-engagement
    • Trigger that begins workflow: Lead didn’t make a purchase and hasn’t visited your online store/website recently
    • Purpose: Encourage digital behavior and website visits by promoting alternative products/services or special offers
  • Abandoned cart reminders
    • Trigger that begins workflow: Lead added one or more items to their cart on your online store/website but didn’t complete their purchase
    • Purpose: Remind the lead of their items in the cart and encourage them to complete the purchase
  • Thank you
    • Trigger that begins workflow: Online purchase, relevant form submission or specified user behavior taken
    • Purpose: Show gratitude, strengthen your relationship and encourage additional digital engagement with your company

After the Sale Workflows

A graphic representing the "after the sale" portion of the sales funnel
  • Review/satisfaction request
    • Trigger that begins workflow: Product/service purchase
    • Purpose: Measure customer satisfaction levels and notify internal team members for follow-up
  • Upsell
    • Trigger that begins workflow: Product/service purchase
    • Purpose: Educate customers on additional, higher-priced options by providing relevant content and a clear path to purchase
  • Cross-sell
    • Trigger that begins workflow: Product/service purchase
    • Purpose: Educate customers on the benefits of complementary products/services
  • Reorder/renewal
    • Trigger that begins workflow: Contract/subscription about to expire
    • Purpose: Get clients/subscribers to renew and/or set up a meeting with sales to discuss business needs
  • Onboarding
    • Trigger that begins workflow: Lead status update in the CRM
    • Purpose: Create a smooth transition from sales to customer support/implementation teams by sharing FAQs, introductions to key individuals, legal forms, etc.
  • Advocacy/referral
    • Trigger that begins workflow: Customer has a high lead or “customer satisfaction” score
    • Purpose: Encouraging the customer to write a review, refer a friend, etc.
  • Customer feedback
    • Trigger that begins workflow: Lead score threshold or key criteria met
    • Purpose: Capture valuable insights about how your customers feel about their experience interacting with your company
  • Reengagement
    • Trigger that begins workflow: Customer activity has become stagnant
    • Purpose: Focus on a particular product or service offering that has undergone improvements that address their previous pain points
  • Thank you
    • Trigger that begins workflow: Online purchase, relevant form submission or specified user behavior taken
    • Purpose: Show gratitude, strengthen your relationship and encourage additional digital engagement with your company

For more information, read our article on growing brand loyalty using marketing automation.

Continuously Monitor & Optimize

The key to any marketing campaign is continuous monitoring and optimization. Fortunately, automation technology makes it easy to measure personalized marketing efforts, as the platform is always gathering data like email opens, link clicks, form submissions and real-time lead scores.

Regularly analyze the data to identify aspects of your campaign that are performing well so that you can replicate them and areas where improvement is needed and changes need to be implemented. This is where A/B testing comes in handy, as you can break down your audience segments and identify the best subject line to get people to open an email or create content best suited to their needs.

Data analysis and campaign optimization empower you to enhance the customer experience, deliver less generic advertising, turn more potential customers into actual buyers, lower customer acquisition costs and build your base of loyal customers.

Personalize Your Marketing… But Not Too Much

Personalization in marketing is absolutely a difference-maker. Buyers respond to personalized messages and expect businesses to accommodate their unique customer journeys. If your business can satisfy these expectations, it will stand out from competitors and give you an edge in the marketplace.

However, customers can be fickle with their expectations. While they do want personalization, there is a limit to how much they want. Go too far, and their opinion of personalized marketing can quickly switch from inviting and helpful to intrusive and creepy.

With that in mind, here are a few tips for keeping your personalization efforts at just the right level:

  • Don’t highlight every data point you have – Just because you have lots of lead or customer data doesn’t mean you should act on it all. Addressing someone by name or mentioning their business name in an email is common. However, it’s a bit much to highlight things like a comprehensive list of products they’ve viewed recently or the exact number of days since they last ordered. Doing so makes it apparent just how much of their information you have and how closely their activity is being tracked. Even something as seemingly innocent as a birthday acknowledgment can be too much if you don’t have a birthday club program or a close business relationship with the individual. Privacy concerns are real, and customers feel frustrated when companies gather and use too much of their data.
  • Don’t overwhelm individuals with too many emails – Automated workflows are great for helping people advance through the sales funnel at their own pace in a way that is catered to them, and there are many possibilities, as we highlighted earlier. However, you don’t want to inundate anyone with too many emails. Not only can it get annoying, but it can also murky the buyer’s journey by throwing too much information at them in a short time. It’s a common practice to discontinue someone from one workflow and move them into one that is more relevant once they take a certain action or hit a certain lead score. Don’t make them go through the entire workflow if it’s not necessary. And don’t utilize so many niche workflows that someone can be in numerous workflows at once. Two or three is fine, but much more than that is not recommended, especially if there aren’t large intervals between touches.
  • Consider customers’ preferences – You have probably seen online forms for lead magnet downloads or newsletter subscriptions with checkboxes or dropdowns asking if you would also like to opt in to receive other forms of content from the company. Similarly, when you unsubscribe from an email, you may have been asked if you want to unsubscribe from only a specific type of content or all content from the company. These are ways that enable current and potential customers to personalize their experiences and control how much they hear from a company and what kind of messages they receive. Consider implementing preference options on your opt-in forms and unsubscribe requests so that you deliver personalized content that meets the recipient’s expectations.

Leverage Marketing Automation to Start Personalizing Your Marketing Today

Marketing automation offers powerful capabilities for personalized marketing and driving better results. By understanding your audience, creating personalized content, automating email campaigns, implementing behavior-based triggers and lead scoring and continuously monitoring and optimizing your strategies, you can unlock the full potential of your personalization strategy. Start using these tips to deliver more relevant and engaging experiences to your leads and existing customers to build your prospect base and increase your sales.

Have questions about personalized marketing or marketing automation or want to learn even more? Call us at 815.431.1000 or submit this form to contact us. You can also visit the automation section of our blog.

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