Drew Sollberger is senior manager of demand generation at Austin, Texas-based Spiceworks. He and his team have a big challenge: they deal primarily with tech-savvy marketers, so they have to get digital customer experience right.

The 10-year-old company provides help desk, networking monitoring and inventory software tools. Spiceworks also features a professional network of millions of IT professionals who connect with one another and with thousands of technology brands. The company aims to simplify how IT professionals discover, buy and manage technology products and services. 

We talked to Sollberger to learn more about a personalization project that five people across the demand gen and web teams rolled in August 2014. The team is using Marketo Insightera Website Personalization.

This story is part of a series on content personalization that began yesterday.

The Questions

Drew SollenbergerCMSWire: Why did Spiceworks want to personalize its website?

Sollberger: We market and sell to tech brands and tech vendors. Our challenge in continuing to grow at the rate we have, which has been exceptional, is more often than not to get more of a footprint inside of our big accounts as opposed to how do we sell to new accounts. How do we target to new marketers within those big accounts more effectively and how do we give them hyper contextual experiences when they do come to the website?

That drove us to look for that kind of solution. If we bring a new marketer from say, HP, to our website, we’ve got to be able to give them a better experience than what everybody else gets. We’ve got to be able to say, ‘Hey, we already work with you,’ and we can immediately make ourselves relevant in terms of that visitor.

CMSWire: Were there any other benefits to personalization?

Sollberger: The other half was we have a pretty significant roadshow tour that we host every year, and we visit probably 20 to 25 cities around the world. We saw in the past that we do a really good job of getting people to revisit those events, but it’s tougher to find new marketers to drive to those events. We wanted to be able to target people on a geographic basis. If we’re visiting Phoenix, for example, how do we reach outside of our own database and not just target people we already know of? We wanted to go target every marketer that looks like they’re in that area.

CMSWire: What did the work involve before you implemented your personalization engine?

Sollberger: It was more about tactics we were going to implement to get at those targeted big accounts and those targeted geos. What we quickly figured out was we have a lot of tactics at play to drive both of those efforts. One thing that was missing was the ability to reach outside of our own database. We used email and other media, but we weren’t able to reach beyond the walls.

I think that’s when we started to figure out that we needed a way to employ a tactic that allows us to get outside those walls. It made a lot of sense with the geo-targeting. 

We would give a different experience to people who came to the website as events were coming up. The first question to ask was, what would we do differently with a visitor from those big accounts to tell them we already have a relationship with your company and that we’re someone you can trust?

Spiceworks website screenshot

CMSWire: What was the integration process like?

Sollberger: It took us about four to six weeks from selection to implementation. By the the time we fully formed the idea that we knew exactly what we wanted to do, it was just a matter of getting our creative assets in place. We’ve got a strong enough team and a lot resources at play that we could mobilize that very quickly as soon as we selected technology. We are a 'less talk and more action' kind of company. We’d much more prefer to get it out there even if it’s not ideal. At least we’ve put something in play and then maybe we learn from what we’ve done and figure out if there is a next iteration that’s a little better.

CMSWire: What preparation was involved with the project roll out?

Sollberger: It was mostly creative asset mobilization. There was a little bit of a learning curve figuring out the technology and how to leverage it and use it. More than anything it involved creative assets and what campaigns we needed to put in play.

CMSWire: What’s the gain for you?

Sollberger: For the most part it’s been increasing the volume of inquiries we get from those targeted accounts and from the geo-targeting. We’ve had a lot of lift in in registration for the roadshow tour.

CMSWire: What’s the next phase for you?

Sollberger: We’ve started to talk about building out our demand gen engine and focus on buyer personas. Make the nurturing experience and web experience as focused as possible on the type of buyer they are. 

On all content pieces and all registration forms, we’ll ask what type of marketer they are because that largely dictates the type of content we’ll ultimately provide them and the products that will provide value for them. That’s where we started to talk about another layer to our personalization engine. It’s adapting our demand gen engine to meet that persona focus.

Title image of a Spiceworks logo tattooed on the arm of an actual Spiceworks employee, from the Spiceworks website