Why optimizing your content operations is essential to maximizing the return on your personalization investment

Personalization Picture Side PGNDelivering personalized experiences to customers is clearly a top priority of marketers. In fact, 94% of senior-level executives believe delivering personalization is critical or important to reaching customers according to a recent study conducted by PwC’s Digital Services group.

And CMOs are certainly putting their money where their mouth is when it comes to personalization. Thanks for growing investment in customer data, predictive analytics, and marketing cloud solutions – the majority of organizations report that today they are personalizing content in social media and owned web, email, and e-commerce channels. Most are working towards enabling personalization in over ten media, marketing, and sales touch points – from mobile devices to partner web sites to sales enablement.

Personalization drives results. The recently released Publish or Perish analysis of 380 CMOs by Forbes found that marketers that deliver personalized web experiences are getting double digit returns in marketing performance and response.

But the economics of customer personalization have two sides. Both of these studies found personalization programs are creating a big and growing upstream content burden on marketing. “Getting the right message to the right person at the right time has never been easier, driven by digital and data”. According to Alison Lewis the CMO of Johnson & Johnson. “Content needs are exploding as we move to a world of precision marketing and 24/7 engagement.” Sophisticated marketers from across industries – including Cisco and Johnson and Johnson saw the commensurate cost and volume of content grow dramatically as they deployed personalized web sites, landing pages and social media programs. This put pressure on the content team to update the web sites hourly instead of weekly.

The fundamental challenge facing the CMO as they attempt to deliver personalized experiences to their customers is that unless they put in place a content operating model that scales, the volume, cost, and complexity of content they need to support revenue growth will increase.This is because social media, digital marketing, and mobile engagement programs require more personalized content elements, customer touch points, targeting personas, and content marketing campaigns.

The chart below illustrates how introducing basic audience personas, personalized content elements, and localized content needed to support major markets can increase the volume of content by more than thirty fold.Content cost and complexity

So it’s no surprise that the PwC study found the lack of budget was rated the top personalization challenge, and that 87% of executives said they will increase content related spending next year.

And the problem is only going to get worse. Ultimately the demand for well organized, high quality marketing content needed to support personalization threatens to outgrow the labor intensive content production and management systems that prevail in most marketing organizations. This lack of effective content and resources can actually hurt profitability by:

  • Driving up the cost to sell;
  • Limiting the impact of investments in targeting, digital transformation, and CRM technology;
  • Slowing down the process of getting relevant messages to market;
  • Draining senior management time and attention;

At the end of the day, marketers will not be able to “write” or “spend” their way out of this problem. They will have to change. According to Brad McLane, Managing Director of RSR Partners “CMO’s that do not make the transition from marketing to publishing (content, curation and community) put their growth strategies – and careers- at risk
So how can CMO’s find more sustainable and cost effective ways to produce and manage highly personalized and relevant content at the scale needed to support growth?

The PwC research suggests there are several things leading marketers can do to make it easier and more cost effective to fuel their personalization programs. Some of the top things to consider are:

  • Taking ownership of content processes – Put an executive in charge of reengineering the content supply chain and operating model. For example, according to Brian Harrington, Zipcar’s CMO put a single individual in charge of content development because “The hardest part of the business is how you create content at scale while making it relevant.”
  • Streamline content targeting – Smart marketers are using a consistent tagging taxonomies and open customer profile databases to improve content utilization, relevance and make it easier to execute advanced personalization strategies.
  • Start thinking about modular content – To address the growing need for personalized content advanced marketers are creating modular content that can be assembled to meet the personalization needs of digital marketing assets upstream – solving the problem at its source. They are planning and structuring content to be modular so it can be easily assembled into the content presentation templates, “drag and drop” content blocks, or intelligent content frameworks within their Marketing Cloud software or Web CMS solutions.
  • Better Manage Content Distribution Across Channels – 71% of executive believe that more touchpoints have lead to increased customer expectations. Most marketers aspire to deliver personalization across as many as 12 customer touch points – including partner web sites, mobile devices in addition to the blogs, web sites, landing pages, email campaigns and e-commerce they actively manage. Personalizing within specific channels is hard.  Managing personalization across channels is difficult. Marketers are getting ahead of this problem by starting to focus management resources and technology on enabling an operating models for leveraging content and managing personalization across channels.

To learn more, look at our paper entitled Leading with customer-focused content: Driving growth through personalized experiences – we outline a specific list of best practices to deliver personalized content in a cost-effective and sustainable way.  We are also leading workshops with CMOs and Digital Marketing Executives around the country to elevate the dialogue on the importance of building a content operating model that can realistically support digital personalization programs at scale.