People like a little romance when they’re being marketed to. Or better yet, they don’t want to feel like they’re being marketed to at all. Smart personalization transforms marketing from shouting “I’m really great!” to positioning yourself as a helper who understands your customer’s problems.

Strategic personalization can increase the efficacy of your marketing dramatically. But it’s more than putting someone’s first name in an email. Good personalization takes into account behavior, interests, and lifecycle stage. That can be pretty daunting, especially if you have high lead volume. Fortunately, marketing automation and smart content make that pretty simple once you strategize exactly how you want to connect with potential customers. 

Use smart content to nurture potential leads by showing that you understand where they’re at and how they relate to you. 

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What is personalization?

On a basic level, personalization is the use of data to customize a viewer’s experience to best accommodate their needs. This information is typically collected through form submissions or from the information in your database (CRM). Some examples of general contact information are name, industry, phone number, address, website URL, company and email address.

You might not wow someone by demonstrating that you have this information, but it can still be used to your advantage — such as requiring fewer fields next time they fill out a form on your website. 

Where things really get interesting is when you can personalize in subtle, helpful ways. We recommend using marketing automation software like HubSpot, so that once a contact enters your database, you’ll be able to gather information like this:

  • What emails they are opening
  • What pages they are visiting (on your site)
  • What links they are clicking
  • What social platforms are they viewing or following
  • What content are they engaging with (viewing or downloading)
  • When are they engaging (time)

Then, personalization can look like sending an email at the right time, providing more content around a topic they’ve demonstrated interest in, or following up with a sales call after they’ve engaged with several emails.

Using personalization tokens for smart content

Personalization with smart content can be used in a host of different settings within the buyer’s journey, but it should only be used if it adds value to a viewers overall experience. It’s important to avoid over personalizing content, as it can come off as creepy.

Hi {{first name}},

I noticed you were on my website at {{time}}. You’re obviously interested, so let’s chat tomorrow!

The best personalization feels authentic, not invasive.

Keep in mind these three ideas when using personalization in your content:

  • Authoritativeness: know that what you are personalizing is accurate.
  • Relevance: know that it’s going to add value to the viewer’s experience.
  • Timeliness: know that the timing is aligned with the relevance of the content.

Adding personalization to email is a great way to nurture potential leads by providing relevant content based on behavioral patterns. These behavioral patterns include:

  • Are they clicking on links in the email?
  • If yes, what links are they clicking on?
  • Do they find the information relevant? (clicking through to a landing page and filling out a form or downloading an eBook)

There’s nothing wrong with the basics. You can start by simply using a contact’s name in an email subject line, which can help increase open rates. Then, get down to business. Personalize the body of the email by providing relevant content, such as links to blogs/articles to help increase response rate and build a stronger connection.

Hi {{first name}},

Thanks for purchasing {{product}}! We thought you would enjoy this article on 7 different ways you didn’t know you could use {{products}}.

When creating personalization tokens always remember to set a null (or default value) in case the contact data is not applicable. Make sure the default value is in context with the content provided. For example, if a university is sending emails to prospective students, a good default value for {{name}} would be “Future student.”

Another example is for a custom {{coupon code}}, “Trouble seeing the code? Contact us to get it.”

Nurture leads with smart content triggered by behavior

To illustrate how you can next smart content to the next level, let’s introduce two prospective customers. We’ll call them Sally and James.

If your CRM indicates that Sally has opened your nurturing email and downloaded your premium content offer, you can create a smart content module in your next email that follows up on the content offer’s value statement and asks her to take the next action in the buyer’s journey (schedule a demo, call for a consultation, make a purchase).

James, on the other hand, opened the email but did not download the content offer. His email’s smart content module might nudge him to take the action (downloading the content) and offer new messaging around the value of the offer.

Smart content can also be triggered through lead scoring. When Sally downloaded the content offer, she indicated a greater interest in your product or service, and so her lead score improves. Let’s assume she’s one action away from being considered a Marketing Qualified Lead. It’s time to get her to take the next step, the Decision phase of her buyer’s journey.

Smart content modules, triggered by Sally’s lead score in your CRM, can let her know it’s time to schedule a call with one of your sales representatives.

Meanwhile, James did not open your second email. (You’ll want to look at your email marketing strategy if this is a common occurrence, but for now let’s assume James just missed your email.) His lead score indicates that he isn’t ready yet to contact a sales representative. His lead score might trigger Smart CTAs that direct him to watch the video. Entire sections of your website can be smart, offering James multiple opportunities to learn more about your content’s value proposition and take the next action.

Once James watches the video his lead score improves and the Smart CTAs on the site change to reflect his next expected action.

When it’s better to NOT use smart content

If personalization and smart content are so powerful, why not use them everywhere? Hang on there, marketing cowboy. There are a few instances where it’s best to keep the content as-is. HubSpot recommends against using Smart content in Thank You pages, for example. The CRM has a lag time between updating your smart content personalization tokens, and so a thank you page will often appear without your personalization.

While you may add a Smart CTA into a blog post, it is not recommended to use Smart content modules in blogs. A blog should already be personalized to one specific audience persona. Smart content in blogs can also interfere with RSS readers and negatively impact your SEO.

Smarter content equals smarter marketing

Smart content helps foster stronger connections between your prospective customers and your brand that help deliver a better user experience. Equally important, smart content nurtures customers more effectively, moving them through their buyer’s journey toward a purchase faster.

Ready to see how smart your content can be? Drop us a line to see how HubSpot’s marketing automation platform combined with a team of digital marketing experts (that’s us) can deliver you better-qualified leads.