How Important Is Personalization in 2020?

One of my a-ha moments from this pandemic has been the realization that behaviorally we are more alike than I thought. I’m not talking about foundational commonalities like decency, empathy and all the things we hope we share with our fellow human beings, but rather the daily choices we make about our lives, what we want to do and enjoy doing.

Everyone wants to believe they are highly individualistic, myself included, but I keep finding out that what I thought were my own creative ideas for managing lockdown were in fact mega-trends. Case in point: I’ve been baking bread, growing vegetables, cooking more elaborate meals, refinishing furniture, reorganizing closets and my pantry, and taking online courses. Sound familiar?

Earlier this month I thought I was being clever by suggesting to my husband that we get away for a long weekend on Martha’s Vineyard at the end of the month when the crowds would be smaller and social distancing would be easier. Today, I saw a New York Times article, "What Month Is It? Pandemic Scrambles the Travel Calendar," with this opening: “With more families working and studying remotely, resorts are dangling attractive rates, enhanced Wi-Fi and the charms of autumn as reasons to forget summer is ending.”

So yet again, I’m not unique.

While this may be a blow to my esteem, it’s a good signal for B2B marketers.

Related Article: Personalization: Where Data and Content Intersect

What B2B Customers Value Today

We’ve spent the last few years talking extensively about the importance of micro-targeting and personalization. AI promises to give us smaller and smaller micro-segments and marketing platforms are enabling personalized customer journeys. All of this is well and good and will enhance and advance our marketing programs, but right now, with our world upside down, it’s not a do or die imperative. Virtually all of us are in a marketing cyclone. Our customers aren’t reachable in the same way, they are facing budget cuts and changing their spending habits and priorities. Our budgets are under pressure and our teams are now dispersed and working remotely.

This is a good time to get back to basics with our marketing plans.

The realization that we are more alike than I thought made me think the same is probably true with my prospective customers. My macro-observations about B2B prospects leads me to believe:

  • We greatly value control over how our time is allocated now.
  • Additional education has become something we are willing to carve out time for.
  • We have a desire and need to engage with industry peers — as much as we love our families, we are craving exposure to new people in both consequential and casual ways.
  • We are less likely to engage with promotional marketing unless it satisfies an emotional need (I’ll look at every wellness product that comes across my screen but don’t ask me to click on a jargon-filled email).

Some of the tactical observations I’ve made that reflect the above are:

  • People are listening to podcasts.
  • People are attending virtual events.
  • Communities are important and for many a lifeline.
  • Industry news is being consumed at a different rate than before.
  • Traditional B2B email marketing appears less effective.
  • Ebooks are being consumed at a greater rate.
  • An increasing willingness to engage in virtual events as a speaker, provide commentary in articles and engage on LinkedIn.

Assuming this is correct — at least for now — this provides guideposts for near-term marketing plans and strategy. For example, focus on education, provide a way to engage prospects in community activities and provide a platform for them to showcase their knowledge and expertise.

One note: your natural inclination might be to jump on the virtual event bandwagon. While this may be a good idea, that world is rapidly evolving, so stay on top of changing dynamics. Increasingly, companies and event producers are moving to on demand models which like podcasts gives participants the ability to consume information at the time that makes sense for them (see above re: control over time).

Related Article: Less Is More: Dealing With 2020's Marketing Budget Challenges

Back to Basics With B2B Marketing

My observations and perspective may be flawed. It you believe that’s the case, try stepping back and creating your own list of observations that can serve as guideposts for your near-term marketing strategy. Do share your thoughts and observations here, I’d love to write a second article with a broader set of views. Leave a comment on this post, reach out to me on LinkedIn or send me a tweet — I'd really appreciate it!

Back to personalization. Yes, it’s important and will be increasingly important in the future. But for now as we try and orient ourselves towards the future, it’s a good idea to go back to basics, establish a new marketing foundation that serves the greatest number of prospects and customers, and build from there.

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