How to Leverage Behavioral Data to Achieve Personalization at Scale

The most successful ABM programs require a personal touch across multiple channels, but personalization at scale isn’t easy. Creating custom experiences for target accounts is a common challenge most account-based marketing and sales teams struggle with.

In fact, according to Richardson’s 2018 Selling Challenges Study, creating high-touch, personalized and targeted outreach is the top prospecting challenge B2B sales teams battle. A 2018 study by Evergage and Researchscape International found that:

  • 9 out of 10 marketers say their customers and prospects expect a personalized experience.
  • 74% of marketers believe personalization has a strong impact.

But, only 12% of marketers are satisfied in the level of personalization of their marketing efforts.

So, what’s the solution? How do marketing and sales teams achieve personalization at scale?

Naturally, as with scaling any effort, it comes down to processes and systems. But those processes and systems have to be built upon the right data.

Building a Solid Foundation for Personalization

Any highly personalized marketing strategy inherently requires deep insights into the behavior and actions of your target personas. This is where behavior and engagement data can prove to be the missing link in the success of your ABM program.

At #FlipMyFunnel this year, Catina Martinez, senior marketing manager at Pluralsight shared how her team is using behavioral data to deliver personalized, multichannel ABM programs that have brought a human touch to their marketing.

Pluralsight got serious about ABM two years ago after hitting reset on their marketing and sales strategy. While they were previously using data to drive and fine-tune their demand generation strategies, they didn’t feel they were focusing on the right accounts –– something many B2B marketers can relate to.

Level Setting with the Right Data

To kickstart their personalized ABM program, they turned to their data to build a fresh ideal customer profile (ICP) that would become the bedrock of their strategy going forward.

“We went back to our DNA, which is data and analytics, and we put together a rubric for the types of companies that we wanted to be our customers,” Catina said. “We used that rubric to basically score every single account within our database. That’s how we chose our accounts for both our tier one and tier two.”

While Pluralsight had long been leveraging behavioral data to better understand their contacts and what content was intriguing to a company, persona, or industry, they hadn’t applied the same methodology to selecting target accounts. Once they established what a best-fit account means to them, their focus shifted to hitting each target account with the right content at the right time.

Using Engagement Data to Influence the Entire Journey

Catina and her team at Pluralsight are using engagement data to better understand who is engaging with their content, what topics they’re seeking out, and how much time they’re spending with it. They use this insight to inform both the marketing and sales touchpoints.

“We’re looking at a couple of different things,” Catina said. “One is understanding where our top-tier accounts are spending their time. The other is the messaging that resonates with them. We’ve put together what we call our messaging pillars based on their propensity to look at different content.”

Now, all the content Pluralsight creates is based on the messaging pillars that are proven to convert accounts into customers.

“We’re looking at engagement data within our accounts daily to see if the right people within our target accounts are spending time with our content, opening and looking at emails, attending webinars, et cetera, and how much time they’re spending on each of those activities,” Catina explained.

For example, if one of their Tier 1 accounts consumes a piece of their content on a topic like data security, the Pluralsight team then builds a sequence of sales and marketing touches specifically around data security, sending the account additional content and resources on that topic. The goal is to deepen the engagement incrementally until they’re ready for a conversation.

“For our Tier 1 accounts, all of our plays are personalized to that degree,” she said. “And they’re very much driven by what content they’re engaging with.”

Turning Deep Engagement into a Conversation

As we’ve talked about before, the notion of the marketing to sales handoff is not effective.

The account-based process should be efficient and orchestrated, avoiding the typical inefficient sales handoff in a lead-based system. The goal is to create a better buying experience by communicating in a more relevant and personalized way. Gone are the days of waiting on form fills or sending templated emails and generic content.

Today, marketing and sales must work as one team from the beginning. With this approach, you work together to follow a data-driven formula for target account selection, dynamic prioritization, and smart campaigning.

“We’ve kind of destroyed, conceptually, this idea of handing off a contact or an opportunity to the sales reps,” Catina explained. “We are working with [the sales team] from generating that lead all the way down to closing it, especially for our Tier 1 accounts. We have a weekly cadence with our sales reps where we’re going through engagement data and understanding who’s ready for a conversation. Then were touching base on how that conversation went and what we could do to better engage that contract.”

And this is where understanding the various personas within your target account’s buying committee, and the behaviors driving them, can mean the difference between a conversation and a missed opportunity.

Tapping Engagement Data to Influence Behavior

According to Harvard Business Review, there are 6.8 people involved in the B2B buying committee. And this is up from 5.4 from just two years ago. While that doesn’t seem like much, when you’re dealing with hundreds of accounts and multiplying that by 6.8 people per account, that’s a lot of touchpoints.

Keep in mind, 84% of buying committees have a “champion” who holds 59% of the buying sway. And 66% of champions say they use content, research and expertise to help them make decisions. You have take this into consideration as you work to scale your content. It’s about delivering the right content at the right time, and that requires keen alignment between marketing and sales.

One way to do this is to create a content matrix detailing what is available to the sales team based on the most relevant content for each particular person at every stage in the buying journey. This gives the sales team an idea of what’s available so they can deliver the right content to the right person at the right time.

To do that, you have to work cohesively with the sales team to gather and distill meaning from data about your buyers’ behavior and engagement. The more data you have about them, the richer the experience you can provide.

Research the people behind these buying committees. Not just their alma mater or their professional background, but their hobbies, passions, online behavior –– what they’re engaging with and when. Use this intel to build hypertargeted, personalized campaigns. This might include landing pages directed at a specific company, Uberflip streams, personalized gifts, or account-based advertising targeting a specific company or individual within the buying committee with a 1:1 ad.

Now, achieving alignment and this level of personalization does take significantly more time. And that traditionally has been where marketing and sales teams have struggled, especially when they’re on the hook for maintaining pipeline.

“Scaling is actually our challenge right now,” Catina said. “We’ve done a great job at being hyper-customized to contacts within our database, but now our issue is that we need to go broader. We need to be able to engage more people within the account, especially those involved in the buying decision. This is where what we’re calling our ‘standardized plays’ come in, where we can launch to eight to ten people at one time and have the account executives customize based on who the company is and sometimes based on the contacts, but to more or less focus on the needs of the company as a whole.”

To achieve scale, the goal is to identify what will deliver the highest impact with lowest effort. And once you’ve identified what works, develop a program around it.

4 Steps to Achieve Personalization at Scale

You may be at the point where you know you want to scale and have an idea of what you want to do, but you don’t know where to start. Specifically, how and when should you scale campaigns?

1. Map Your Processes

You have to start by mapping out what your processes look like. We don’t recommend attempting to map the entire marketing and sales experience. Pick one place to start, such as what action to take when you see a spike in engagement –– when there’s an increase in interaction from a target account on your most important web pages and content.

The goal is to identify the various touchpoints and triggers you see from your target accounts, and then map out the campaigns you’ll be running, such as account-based advertising campaigns, direct mail sends, exec-to-exec emails, and so on. A trigger can be an action by a target account such as a surge in web activity, or it can be an action taking by sales and marketing such as moving a sales stage.

2. Evaluate Frequency

Evaluate how often these particular triggers occur within a given timeline and the resources (time and cost) needed to fulfill them. That will help you identify what’s within your current bandwidth. In other words, what areas you’ll realistically be able to scale right now versus which you may have to work towards.

3. Create Trigger Rules

Next, create trigger rules. For example, if the contact hasn’t responded within 30 days and they’re director level or above at a Tier 1 account, our SDR can send a $20 gift with a handwritten note. This ensures everyone across the organization has a clear understanding of how you’re going to trigger the campaigns you’ve outlined.

4. Track Success

As part of this process, define metrics and set goals to track performance. Also, standardize your reporting process so everyone understands which metrics to watch and how frequently to watch them. This data, combined with engagement insights, will help you optimize your marketing and sales plans as you scale.

For more on how to scale your ABM campaigns, check out our ABM Summer Camp webinar series.