Content Targeting Its the Is and Os Not the 1s and 0s

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There’s no mistake that personalization and delivering contextual content to consumers across digital content platforms is a hot topic with marketers. As content and delivery of it in an omnichannel universe becomes an imperative that no brand can ignore, the need to target it to a specific audience (or even an individual) is becoming a business must-do.

The challenge, of course, is that consumers have learned about this as well. And their ability to filter out the noise and focus on the signal makes it increasingly hard for marketers to reach them.

Testing the Theory

Marketers have to strike a balance between producing content and producing it with surgical precision. This was brought to light recently in a white paper produced by Yahoo called “The Balancing Act: Getting Personalization Right.” In it, the authors note that “content personalization represents the fulcrum balancing the consumer’s ‘need to know’ with their ‘want to know.’”

We wanted to test this as well, so we launched our own research study to find the best practices associated with the ways brands are targeting content on their “owned media” properties.

More about that in a moment. But what we found aligns with all the studies we’ve seen.

The challenge for marketers that have targeting high on their agenda isn’t technology. The key is integration with their data and organizational support with their colleagues. In short, success has nothing to do with the 1’s and 0’s. Rather, it is all about  – it’s all about the I’s and O’s.

Not Hard, But Hardly Used

In a recently published Forrester study called “The Personalization Imperative,”  researchers studied a number of marketers. They found 94 percent of them rated personalization as either important, very important or extremely important.

But when asked what their major challenges were in deploying personalization solutions, more than two-thirds said “securing internal resources” and “building a comprehensive view” of customers across channels. Despite this gap, more than three quarters of those surveyed plan to increase investment in personalization.

This is something that we’re excited to report that we found in our research as well. The technology available to solve the targeting challenge exists, but businesses are barely scratching the surface in terms of using their technology to its fullest extent. As marketers start to look at this, a key learning is to first examine the capabilities they have (or will have with their shiny new WCMS) as they begin to integrate with both customer data and secure resources.

Smarter Customer Data

Most marketers are not using content targeting at all, we found. Those who are seem to be using a small (or even singular) set of data to target content. In most cases, “geo-targeting” (which was the number one source named in our study) is simply looking at the browser’s source and re-directing to the appropriate regional site.

This isn’t personalization — and it’s barely targeted content.

Geo-targeting and similar strategies are simply table stakes in today’s hyper-personalized customer journey. But most marketers, as seen in both our study and in other research, know this.

It’s actually getting to that deeper data that’s hard, as a recent Teradata study found. In its “Enterprise Priorities In Digital Marketing,” report Teradata researchers found that half of the organizations surveyed cite integration with technology and data as the top criteria for new marketing technology adoption.

Content Targeting 

Content targeting is arguably the coolest thing no none is doing.

In our research, we found that while content targeting is high on the list of marketers, there are very few that are really doing it well.

It’s clear now that if there was any debate about how to reach today’s consumer, that it’s over. Today’s brands must have a targeted, differentiated and (when possible) personalized approach to all of them. It doesn’t matter if it’s social, mobile, web or even (just ask Coca Cola and its labeling strategy) print.

Customer data, combined with behavioral and contextual third party data, can be a powerful way to differentiate your brand experience from any other. Our research found that marketers reported as much as an 8 percent revenue increase when implementing a successful content targeting program.

Personalizing and targeting digital content may, indeed, end up to be something that only a few do well. But one thing is clear to me. All of the successful businesses will do it well.

Title image by Hindrik Sijens  (Flickr) via a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license.