5 Best Practices for Delivering Personalized Content

Follow these prime guidelines to develop an effective content strategy that aligns with business objectives and leverages customer data to deliver tailored customer experiences.

When it comes to content marketing, the rules of engagement have shifted. Spray 'n' pray techniques are no longer enough-content must be personalized.

But how are companies coping with this change? Forbes Insights and PwC's recent report, "Leading with Customer-Focused Content: Driving Growth Through Personalized Experiences," explores how today's leading B2B and B2C brands achieve increased brand awareness and enhanced customer engagement using targeted content. The study, which surveyed 369 senior-level executives at large companies across the globe, aims to determine what steps companies must take to ensure their content marketing strategies are up to par with consumer expectations.

Researchers discovered that organizations typically fall into one of three distinct groups:

  • Trailblazers (25 percent)-Dedicated to high performance, these leaders consider personalized content critical to their market strategies and put forth constant effort to distribute tailored content across channels.
  • Explorers (67 percent)-While these marketers recognize the value of personalization, they continuously struggle to deliver tailored customer experiences and consistently use such content to their advantage.
  • Nomads (8 percent)-Contrary to the accepted norm, these respondents don't believe personalized content is critical to strategic marketing success, thus eliminating their need to plan and measure progress.

Overall, this study also established that successful content marketing teams currently (or should) observe these next five best practices to achieve their personalization and engagement goals. However, respondents indicate that adoption has been slow or stagnant for many.

1. Start with Business Priorities

When it comes to top growth priorities, most companies choose to focus on brand development (54 percent) and customer engagement (46 percent). Less than one-third are motivated by sales conversions (31 percent) and lead generation (30 percent). But, when it comes to content marketing goals, brand development (40 percent) and customer engagement (25 percent) fall to the bottom of the priority list. Instead, sales conversions (49 percent) and lead generation (42 percent) dominate, highlighting the lack of alignment throughout the enterprise.

2. Appoint a Content Champion

CMOs typically manage content for the majority of trailblazers (31 percent), explorers (39 percent), and nomads (30 percent). However, when asked which elements they leverage as part of their enterprise content management approach, marketers' strategies differed greatly. While trailblazers use audience insight into customer journeys and content engagement (73 percent), explorers plan for content distribution across channels (54 percent) and nomads have no content strategy whatsoever (27 percent). But when it comes to sourcing content, all groups agree that they rely upon product and marketing teams (46 percent) to foster their supply chains.

3. Know Your Customers Through Data

Overall, 94 percent of marketers claim that delivering personalization is critical or important to reaching customers. However, trailblazers (60 percent), explorers (61 percent), and nomads (40 percent) primarily personalize content based on their target audience-the broadest means possible. Companies recognize that they must actively improve such behaviors to remain relevant. Therefore, respondents are now building strong data collection and analytics capabilities (58 percent), faster content creation and distribution methods (48 percent), and better real-time targeting of content (43 percent) to advance their end goals.

4. Build Capabilities

Respondents expect to invest in planning (21 percent), creating (20 percent), targeting (17 percent), and delivering (17 percent) content lifecycle capabilities throughout the next year. Many marketers, however, still struggle to overcome the challenges associated with producing relevant content. Trailblazers (30 percent) face regulatory and compliance issues, while explorers (40 percent) and nomads (47 percent) must handle budget concerns. Thus, within the next fiscal year, 87 percent of respondents plan to increase their content marketing spend in order to educate their teams and counteract these problems.

5. Measure to Optimize

Forty-four percent of marketers perceive reporting and measuring content effectiveness to be a critical component behind their digital marketing efforts. Fifty percent believe such behaviors are important, while the outlying 1 percent claims reporting and measuring are irrelevant. When justifying content investments, however, marketers rely upon sales effectiveness (41 percent), media effectiveness (37 percent), and revenues (36 percent) to support the value of their efforts. Brands must pinpoint the metrics that reflect their goals in order to consistently amend and improve their overall content and customer experience strategies.

Key takeaway: As companies adapt to the changing tide of content marketing strategy, there's one rule that all organizations must adhere to-don't create content simply for the sake of it. In many instances, brands believe they can simply churn out content and customer engagement will immediately follow. But, without much consideration for customer impact or business outcomes, this content can actually do more harm than good. Marketers need to create connected, relevant content that aligns with business objectives and leverages data to unlock value for both the company and its customers. Personalized content builds trust and authority, which ultimately translates into customer satisfaction and loyalty. Personalization also opens the pathways for creating the emotional connections consumers crave. By integrating these five best practices, marketers can finally build the foundation for effective content strategy.