Why Relevance Outsmarts Personalization in B2B Marketing

5 minute read

Upland Admin

Personalization is all the rage in marketing, and for good reason. In a B2C context like e-commerce, it can dramatically improve shopping experiences by suggesting items based on a user’s purchase history.

Personalization in the B2B world is a completely different animal. Marketers must focus on delivering relevance over an extended period of time to answer the questions that ultimately define the buyer’s journey. We must know why they are looking for a solution to a particular problem to ensure we’re delivering the appropriate content at the right time.

Automated personalization (like creating a custom greeting on your website based on the time of day, or targeting a message based on geo-location) can be effective to a point. But these lightweight personalization tactics are merely conversation starters for a B2B buyer.

These tactics might pique my interest, but they’re not enough to engage me in an ongoing conversation about a problem I’m looking to solve. The only way to engage me is to deliver a relevant content experience at the exact moment I’m ready for that experience. And it must be driven by context.

Target Audiences in Context

We’re often told there’s no difference between B2B and B2C marketing because both ultimately deal with people. While this is a universal marketing truth, the context of those interactions is completely different. B2C is more transactional in nature, and B2B typically involves more people over an extended period of time.

Amazon has built a retail empire through personalized recommendations. The more personalized our experience, the happier we are. Based on my shopping history, Amazon automatically populates suggestions of baseball equipment, marketing books, and vintage honky-tonk music. Those items might be right up my alley, but Amazon can’t take those recommendations and apply them to anyone else. They’re too personal. And considering about 74% of consumers get frustrated when content on a website doesn’t match their interests, you can understand why personalization is such a hot topic. If we can reduce this frustration, the results are impressive.

In B2B marketing, the concept of personalization goes beyond customized email fields or purchase suggestions until much later in the sales cycle. When we talk about a solution in terms of roles, responsibilities, and pain-points, we’re offering content that resonates with a broader audience.

Bottom-Line Benefits

Whether we’re talking with the CEO of a company or the head of its IT department, we share the same story. We just tell it differently. The CEO and the IT manager might be trying to solve the same problem, but they don’t share the same concerns.

Herein lies the opportunity: We create content that addresses shared concerns people in these roles are likely to have, which means we don’t have to worry about personalizing every interaction. We can rally around them as audiences, creating relevance as we understand them as a group.

By pivoting to a more audience-centric approach, we can ultimately reduce the amount of content we must create. We don’t need to figure out how to scale to support thousands of individuals; instead, we can create relevant content for a handful of key groups.

More Revenue, Faster

Personalized web experiences give marketers an average 20% sales increase, and leads nurtured with personalized content yield a matching 20% sales increase. Clearly, we have a lot to gain by becoming relevant on the digital marketing pillar that is the web.


Here are four ways you can start today:

  1. Persona-lize, don’t personalize Robert Rose, chief strategy adviser with the Content Marketing Institute, suggests focusing on a specified target audience instead of an audience of one. Study the people who are engaging with your brand at various stages in the buying process, and craft detailed personas to represent groups with shared traits. You’ll find the most success when you’re able to pinpoint a buyer’s life to the relevance of the content-driven experience. Identify the type of content that appeals to these audiences, as well as when it resonates with them.
  2. Perform a content audit A little preparation goes a long way. Even if you only do one initial audit, the insights you gain will benefit you and the content you create. Your goal should be to determine which pieces of content you already have that can be delivered to provide value for each audience in a specific context. Pair pieces of content to certain audiences and buying stages so you have various assets available when you define the experience.
  3. Start smallPick one audience, and create three experiences for them: one for awareness, one for nurturing, and one for customers. Then iterate. Get an easy start by adding a slight tilt to otherwise generic content, brewing up other audience and context-specific content along the way. For example, if your solution has different benefits and appeals to different industries, revise your content to resonate with your audience’s industry.
  4. Begin with the webWhen faced with some sort of problem, most people turn to the Internet to conduct research before considering potential solutions. Tim Walters, co-founder of the Digital Clarity Group, puts it best: “Today, many organizations justifiably wonder how they can even get started on this arduous journey. For most, the answer is simple: Begin with the web channel.”

Personalization has proven its utility. In fact, one study credits it with helping 94% of marketers increase their effectiveness within key metrics. What if we could move beyond surface-level tactics commonly associated with personalization to instead engage in meaningful conversations enabled by relevant, content-driven experiences? The outcome would be phenomenal.

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