The rise of self-personalised buyer journeys
How can you create personalised experiences for tech buyers who don’t want to share personal details?
05 Minute Read
Personalised experiences matter. They’re what audiences expect in a world of Amazon and Netflix. They deliver the relevance that we consistently demand from content and advertising. They capture our attention in the subject lines of emails and message ads. They guide buyers through the journey they take towards engaging with a business and becoming a customer.
But what if the buyers you want to take that journey aren’t ready to share information about themselves? What if you don’t know who they are or what role they have? How do you deliver the personalised experiences that can build a closer relationship without personal details to guide you?
That’s the personalisation paradox. And it’s a puzzle that B2B tech marketers need to solve if they’re to generate leads and acquire customers in the age of the Anonymous Buyer.
Personal details for personalised experiences?
Not any more
In the traditional model of B2B tech marketing, the foundations for personalisation are laid right at the start of the journey. A buyer encounters the marketer’s content and shares their details in order to access that content. In doing so, they tell the marketer who they are, what role they have, what type of company they work for, and what they’re interested in. They also provide the data required to target them individually in the future. As a buyer, sharing your details and becoming a lead is the passport to a personalised nurturing experience. Through that personalised experience, smart marketers will seek to create value for you, and demonstrate what their business has to offer.
The assumption is that any relevant, interested buyer will be happy to make this trade-off of data up front for personalised experiences later. But that’s not what today’s buyers tell us: only 25% say they’re willing to share contact details to access content they’re interested in, and that’s because they don’t like giving data to a company they’re not already doing business with.
of buyers today say they avoid filling in contact forms
of buyers say they’re not comfortable sharing details with a business they haven’t already worked with
As a B2B tech marketer, you’re therefore stuck in a classic Catch-22: you need to deliver value-adding personalised experiences to show your buyers why you’re worth doing business with; but your buyers won’t give you the details you need to create those experiences until they’ve already decided they want to do business with you.
The rise of self-personalised buyer journeys
To break out of this cycle, we need to stop seeing personalisation as an upfront exchange where our audience members hand over details en masse and then trust us to use them in a way that’s helpful rather than irritating. We need to start treating personalisation as an ongoing conversation, where people share only information that’s relevant to what they’re experiencing at the time. This is a more viable strategy than ever before, because of the growing number of ways in which marketers can personalise in real time, giving buyers control of what they’re choosing to share – and why.
Consumers expect to self-personalise in this way when they search for credit cards on a site like Barclaycard’s or play with the customising options for a new vehicle from Ford. On the Barclaycard site, you’ll be told upfront that you don’t need to share any personal details, and that nothing you do will affect your credit rating – but by answering less sensitive questions, you can still get a meaningful recommendation about the best card for you. The level of information you’re asked to share never exceeds the amount of value you’re getting in exchange.
Why should these consumers’ experiences be any different when they stop shopping for cars or credit cards – and start exploring better ways to do things at work? As a B2B tech marketer, you have the same opportunity to ask people what they’re interested in, what type of problem they’re trying to solve and what type of experience they want. You can then use this information to answer an anonymous buyer’s next question, without them even needing to ask it. You don’t need to ask for their name and email address to do any of this.
The rise of conversational marketing provides an ideal vehicle for these kinds of experiences, with B2B audiences increasingly accustomed to conversing with chatbots or choosing from different calls to action in simple decision trees. Real-time interaction helps them to curate their own experience and find the information that’s most relevant to them, without sharing any personal details.
Turning anonymous buyers into anonymous customers
Conversational marketing and self-personalisation provide a framework for anonymous buyers to explore the experience of doing business with your company – without handing over control by giving up their contact details. This gives marketing teams the opportunity to populate that framework with relevant information and to do so in a way that gives the brand a human face. It replicates the experience of being a customer for people who aren’t yet customers.
For the conversational marketing platform Drift, that involves making employees the stars of troubleshooting and how-to videos that are approachable, straightforward, and help anonymous buyers find the answers to questions while imagining what it would be like to work with the business.
IBM uses specialist sales reps in video content that explains how complex software products work – and means that anonymous buyers have a friendly, recognisable face to reach out to when they’re ready.
A self-personalised journey can also lead anonymous buyers to experiences that provide a compelling reason for sharing more details about themselves. It could be a freemium version of software (which people expect to provide a name and email address to sign up for), the opportunity to join discussion boards and user communities (something enterprise software provider Atlassian makes available to anonymous buyers trying its free versions). Drift and the digital communications platform Twilio both offer discounts for high-profile events. In each case, there’s an obvious reason for a buyer taking their relationship with the business to the next level – value now, not just the promise of value in the future.
As marketers, we’ve been encouraged to think of personalisation as a powerful tool for helping our businesses sell. When we’re tasked with engaging anonymous buyers, we need to flip this objective. The most powerful form of personalisation is one that helps anonymous buyers to buy – and to do so on their own terms. By keeping them in control, it side-steps the trust issue that prevents so many valuable prospects from becoming leads and opportunities. By inviting them to interact with the business, it establishes a relationship – and makes people far more disposed to sharing their details. And by demonstrating the value that you have to offer it ensures that the leads you generate are from advocates ready to help your sales team meet their objectives.
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