Google offered another tool for marketers when it doubled down in the crowded A/B testing market with Optimize, part of its new enterprise Analytics 360 suite. And while this product isn’t realistic for everyone’s budget, it’s underscoring the importance of personalization in the industry, and many features are available in the free versions of Optimize and Analytics.
“Native integration with Analytics 360 means you can use your Analytics 360 audiences in real time to create memorable customer experiences,” boasts the website. That should jump off the page to inbound marketers. The idea of creating personalized messaging from ad impression through thank-you page makes my mind melt.
Personalization. That is the why. This article uncovers how marketers with inbound backgrounds can introduce and manage personalization initiatives at their company. But let’s start with the what.
What is Personalization?
Personalization is nested in conversion rate optimization (CRO), which Moz defines as “the process of examining user feedback and analytics to identify roadblocks to conversion,” but I just think of it as the art and science tailoring an experience to help people accomplish goals. It is the crossroads of marketing and UX, and relies heavily on both intuition and research, which should sound a lot like search marketing for the SEOs and SEMs in the room.
That’s the what. Now let’s focus on the how. As in how to get started and set yourself up for success with personalization.
As inbound marketers, our learning curve is short because we can apply the same lessons gathered from other channels and challenges. Our experience increasing ad click-through rate (CTR) or improving landing page calls to action (CTA) is actually what makes us the perfect candidates to be the person in charge of personalization at our company. We are the marriage of data analysis and pure marketing wisdom.
And wisdom is key. Personalization requires a tremendous amount of understanding.
- Understanding your audiences and what opportunities exist to personalize their experience
- Understanding your tools and how to leverage the channels and content that you can influence
- Understanding your success in order to build on best practices and see more immediate returns on your investment
- Understanding your boss and what matters to other stakeholders
Let’s go through these in greater detail.
1. Understanding Your Audiences
Who is your customer and how are their actions identifiable on your site? Your reaction to that question reveals how prepared you are for personalization.
If you hesitated or suffered from a racing heart, we have some work to do. Even those of us able to muster a few adjectives and nouns still probably have some work to do.
Marketing personalization is all about audience segmentation — we must be able to identify important subsets of our audience to begin the journey. That means more than pretty personas from PowerPoint presentations, like the generic one below (from UX Mag).
We should be able to describe more than their motivations and frustrations. For example, what channels do they commonly use? What types of products or services are most popular with them? Do they shop and buy in the same place at the same time?
Have a few unanswered questions? You’re not alone. There are lots of tools to help us answer these things.
For Google Analytics users, many of the tools are already in place — only the tedious brain work remains. Standard and custom Segments allow marketers to spot and group related website visitors based on their commonalities (and differentiators).
The 22 standard Segments can be a good place to start. Simply segmenting users by those who convert and those who do not can tell us more about the steps people take on their way to purchase.
This is especially powerful when combined with Event tracking. The account in this screenshot records Events when people download a whitepaper, view a video, interact with a product table and sign up for a newsletter.
Applying “Converter” and “Non-Converter” Segments provides insight to how these potentially top-of-funnel interactions lead to revenue. Do whitepaper readers convert? What about people who view promotional videos?
Custom Segments are available in Google Analytics and ready to use for segmentation as either Audiences (advertising) or Segments (reporting).
Just adding the basic (free, plain-old) Universal analytics tracking code to your site can open up possibilities, but often your users provide information that will help you create groups. Teach For America published a Google Analytics case study (with LunaMetrics, my company) that captured volunteered information that helped to segment users into related Audiences that could be emphasized with ad spend.
These Audiences allowed the organization to design AdWords remarketing campaigns that reminded distinguished applicants to finish the application process, potentially tailoring ad copy to the unique goals of each group — a pre-law graduate would have different motivators than an elementary education graduate.
Figure out the Audience segments that you can reliably report on now using tools at your disposal and information you already have. This could be information in your CRM, email tool, or in Google Analytics.
Next, figure out ways you can more narrowly define groups (within reason). Do you need to track form submissions and capture more data? Send a user survey? Or technically connect some dots between programs? This is your todo list.
Finally, think about how you would talk to each of these groups if you had them in front of you at a conference table. Your tone would be different, your message different.
2. Understanding Your Tools
Use the channels at your disposal. Me, I am search marketer. It means I own SEM ads and their landing pages so that is the best way for me to introduce personalization to my company.
I work for LunaMetrics, a company that hosts Google Analytics and Google AdWords training around the country. People often attend the training closest to them for obvious reasons. But just because a person is located in New York City (NYC) does not mean NYC is their preferred training city. They may want to visit their company headquarters in Atlanta or (more likely) attend in Miami to rack up some post-training R&R with a few days on the beach.
That means we have two audiences for each city and both have different preferences.
Audience: NYC Away
- User location: New York
- Preferred city: Miami, San Francisco, etc.
Audience: NYC Home
- User location: New York
- Preferred city: New York
This understanding of the audience allows me to personalize my ads and, with the help of a tool like Optimize, my landing pages:
Audience: NYC Away
- Behavior: User is in NYC, visits a training page and has visited a city-specific training page other than NYC (like Miami or San Francisco) implying an interest beyond NYC.
- Landing Page: Normal list of “Upcoming Seminars” in the right rail.
Audience: NYC Home
- Behavior: User is in NYC, visits a training page and has not visited a city-specific training page other than NYC (like Miami or San Francisco) implying the NYC training is likely the best location.
- Landing Page: Simplified list of “Upcoming Seminars” in the right rail with an emphasis on NYC, eliminating steps and possible confusion.
This is a very simple example. But it also reveals the power of personalization. I constructed this example in Optimize in about 10 minutes (and could have used Optimizely or another tool). I moved some page elements with the WYSIWYG tool and outlined targeting by turning the Google Analytics Segments from earlier into Audiences.
- First line: User is on the Google Analytics training page.
- Second line: User is geographically located in the NYC metro.
- Third line: User is part of a Google Analytics audience that has visited a training page, but has not visited the NYC training page.
I mentioned that I manage SEM so I might limit this to only display when traffic comes from cost per click (CPC). That would allow me to layer remarketing audiences with NYC-specific messaging, getting me closer to my goal of personalization from ad copy to thank-you page. You could do the same thing with social
3. Understanding Your Success (Metrics and Tactics)
This one has two parts: metrics and tactics. Success metrics are the way that you say, “Great, tailoring customer experiences is helping them complete goals.” Here are a few money-making (macro) examples of metrics to measure:
- Transactions increase sales.
- Submissions of contact forms (or phone calls) provide leads.
- Pageviews generate ad revenue (for publishers).
These are self explanatory because all have positive impacts on the bottom line. But the bottom line should not be your only goal. Consider also monitoring micro conversions, or signs of interest that contribute to macro conversions.
- Whitepaper downloads
- Video views
- Email signups
Monitoring several metrics will add a bigger, more confident picture of your personalization efforts so invest considerable time and energy here.
At LunaMetrics, we use Optimize to test how personalized experiences perform against the standard experience using metrics like these:
- Primary Goal: Training registrations measured in dollars.
- Secondary Goal: Newsletter registrations that lead to training registrations later.
- Tertiary Goal: Increasing user engagement metrics like taking a placement test.
The second part of this section is tactical and, lucky for you, marketers are vocal about their victories. Their success can be used as additional sources of inspiration.
Skim these personalization case studies until one of them elicits an oh-that’s-interesting reaction.
- 7 Ways to Boost Conversions with Personalization (Crazy Egg) is designed for editors.
- Secret Escapes Personalized Experiences (Optimizely) offers PPC landing page testing ideas that can be borrowed by other digital advertisers.
- 5 Examples of Personalized Marketing (Pardot) is a post for the data junkies.
- Personalized Websites Are the Way of the Future (Smart Bug) correctly points out that “when someone is looking for something online, you must either help them along the way or get out of the way.”
Focus on case study ideas rather than numbers, being inspired by the concept rather the “5000% increase!” that may be situational or biased. Think, “How would that tactic work for me and my unique website?”
Finish that list of required reading then find more, like industry-specific resources for your organization. Find everything you can. Investing time in education now will make the later steps, like convincing your boss, so much easier.
4. Understanding Your Boss (Hint: $$$)
No one likes Shiny-Objects Guy and personalization can sound like a buzzwordy shining object if received in the wrong way.
Speak the universal language by reporting with money metrics. You can practice by continuously asking yourself, “How have increasing conversion rates affected the bottom line?”
I could send my boss this screenshot from Optimize, which boasts a 38.89% increase in transactions from my personalization efforts. That kind of lift, or improvement, from an experiment is great news.
Or I could report in dollars, something easier for non-marketers to understand:
“My experiment increased revenue by about $9,000 in 34 days.” (Formula = 12 additional transactions x $750 as an average cart size)
I bet you’ll get your boss’ attention.
For more ideas on internal selling, a coworker wrote a nice article about selling your boss on CRO. She includes a flowchart that will guide you to greatness… or at least opportunity.
That’s the what, why and how of personalization with some of Google’s popular tools. Regardless of the tools you use, or want to use, the same theoretical framework should work. Understand your audiences and how to segment them. Understand your tools and how to use them to your advantage. Understand your success metrics and how to influence them.
Lastly, understand that you are the person for the job. You have the skills and perspective to adopt personalization.
Now go out and make the internet a better place for all of us.