Personalization: Create a Powerful Personalized Marketing Strategy

Build a personalized marketing strategy that connects with the right people at the right time.

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Learn how these 45 “Genius” brands outperform competitors in personalized marketing.

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Discover how “Genius” brands deliver personalized marketing at scale

Gartner uses its Digital IQ Index to measure a brand’s digital marketing performance across more than a thousand data points to quantify aptitude and maturity relative to industry peers. The best of the best are termed Genius brands. Download this report to:

  • Discover the three digital performance pillars of every Genius brand

  • Understand what these brands collectively do better than their competitors

  • Learn from real-world examples of Genius brands that are delivering effective personalized marketing at scale

Personalized marketing: How to balance, where to focus

Planning and executing an effective personalized marketing strategy is both art and science. Focus on these key areas to maximize your chance of success.

Deliver more relevant digital experiences through marketing personalization

Scaling the delivery of personalized marketing content is one of marketing’s most important roles. But customer preferences force digital marketers to walk a fine line. On one hand, too much personalization may be viewed as invasive, and on the other, too little or poorly executed personalization drives the perception of irrelevance.

Although 86% of individuals responding to Gartner’s 2021 Personalization Survey said they are open to some personalized marketing communication from brands, the survey also found the following:

  • More than half (55%) say they’ll stop doing business when a brand communicates in a way they find invasive, and 40% said they would stop doing business when they perceive a brand communication as irrelevant.

  • Nearly 60% block the brand when they find it invasive, and 44% block the brand when it communicates in a way they find irrelevant or annoying.

With such a fine line and such big consequences separating good personalized marketing from bad, it’s no wonder the topic remains a critical discussion when building a digital marketing strategy.

The intent of marketing personalization is to provide the right message to the right person at the right time to drive conversion and customer satisfaction. The challenge is how to connect a customer’s experience of “rightness” with a digital marketer’s ability to measure, and hopefully optimize, “rightness.” External factors — from fragmenting privacy regulations to channel proliferation — have exacerbated the pain of fulfilling personalization’s promise.

Specific challenges to marketing personalization include:

  • Scaling personalization efforts cost-effectively without overburdening complementary workstreams, such as content development

  • The risk of personalization being defunded when programs fall short of expected ROI

  • Establishing a clear connection between personalization efforts and KPIs to demonstrate ongoing improvement

  • Increased pressure to deliver incremental financial results, leading to high expectations that underestimate what it takes to plan, organize and execute.

  • Proving personalization’s value to the customer and organization

To help mitigate these challenges, successful digital marketing leaders focus on these actions:

  • Align marketing personalization strategy to business objectives. Be sure to realistically estimate the size of opportunity for the outcomes on which the personalization business case is built — and then frame that opportunity against personalization strategy “big bets.” Doing so helps mitigate the risk of mismatched expectations. Communicate the strategy in a way that enables stakeholders to understand the iterative nature of continual improvement through experimentation.

  • Prioritize tactics across business outcome impact, feasibility and customer perceptions. Prioritization by impact involves indexing ideas according to their potential impact on target personalization KPIs. Prioritization by feasibility supports speed to market, while recognizing operational and technological hurdles. Prioritization by customer perceptions focuses on ensuring personalization efforts are aligned to customer needs.

  • Assess the personalization technology landscape through clear business outcomes. Effective marketing personalization might not require investment in net-new technologies. Personalization features extend across a broad set of martech categories, many of which already exist in organizations’ ecosystems. Assess existing martech ecosystems as well as external vendors, with clearly defined use cases as the driver, not technology.

Balance business and customer goals for effective marketing personalization

Sixty-three percent of marketers say they face a moderate or significant challenge in delivering personalized marketing experiences to customers. The common pitfalls marketers encounter in executing a multichannel personalization strategy include:

  • Prioritizing commercial goals over customer needs. When designing personalization initiatives, many marketers overlook actual customer experience, which limits the impact of personalization efforts.

  • Letting data availability guide personalization efforts. Personalization is often designed using existing customer data as a guide. But existing customer data is often biased toward information about who a customer is — aspects of their identity — versus what they actually need.

Successful multichannel marketing personalization requires a customercentric approach. This includes thinking carefully about the key customer needs, goals and preferences and then designing efforts accordingly. It also includes extensive test-and-learn experimentation  formulating hypotheses about customer behaviors, preferences and needs along the customer journey and identifying the data needed to deliver the most effective, tailored help to customers at each touchpoint.

The following steps provide a framework for executing the marketing personalization strategy:

Step 1: Define key personalization objectives and metrics

Align your marketing personalization strategy with the primary customer and business goals your organization wants to drive by taking these key actions: 

  • Identify the primary business use case and goals. Review common business use cases and goals and choose the best fit for your organization.

  • Determine key customer goals. Identify the key customer goals and outcomes your personalization efforts must enable.

  • Finalize overall personalization objectives. Find points of overlap between business goals and customer goals to identify the primary personalization goals to pursue.

  • Identify commercial and customer success metrics. Brainstorm not only commercial metrics, but also those that track customer engagement and satisfaction.

Step 2: Prioritize personalization opportunities

Identify critical moments to deliver tailored support and guidance to high-priority audience segments by taking these key actions:

  • Identify the right target audience. Work with market insights and analytics teams to determine high-priority segments for your personalization projects.

  • Identify critical journey points for high-priority segments. Collaborate with market insights, paid media, data and analytics, and customer experience teams to analyze typical journeys for high-priority audiences and prioritize points where customers would benefit from tailored support and guidance.

Step 3: Prepare to execute prioritized personalization opportunities

Build a roadmap of opportunities and prepare to execute the personalized marketing strategy by taking these key actions:

  • Design high-impact personalization tactics at critical journey points. Work with the analytics team to design and run test-and‑learn experiments to identify the most effective types of help, granularity and frequency of personalized messaging.

  • Create a sequential map of prioritized personalization projects. Evaluate business and customer impact and project feasibility to find the right sequencing.

  • Set up resources for execution. Evaluate key capabilities, define roles and core competencies, and determine the right team structure for personalization.

Once your strategy is in motion, follow up by reviewing multichannel performance and collecting and analyzing feedback from target audiences and marketing team members to identify areas for improvement.

Develop a personalized marketing strategy aligned to B2B audience preferences

B2B buyers are becoming more open to tailored brand messaging and experiences. The large majority of B2B buyers (82%) want personalized communications from all brands or brands they give permission to. And 57% of B2B buyers view personalized communications as a positive.

However, the risks of overpersonalizing are significant. Our research indicates that 14% of buyers have negative sentiments toward personalized communications, and although our data shows the majority of B2B buyers are open to receiving personalized communications, only 36% say they are open to receiving it from all brands. B2B brands without a balanced personalized marketing strategy risk getting blocked, ignored or replaced by B2B buyers.

As you tailor your B2B strategy, here are some important factors to consider:

  • B2B marketing personalization preferences vary across industry sectors. For example, B2B financial services CMOs may have an easier time reaching their B2B buyers, as the majority of their buyers welcome personalization. Meanwhile, B2B healthcare buyers are much more sensitive to their data being collected and used in messaging. Ensure these nuances are accounted for in your industry marketing strategy.

  • Older and younger buyers’ marketing personalization preferences diverge. CMOs can’t count on a halo effect from personalization by default — only 6% of Gen X and Boomer B2B buyers want personalized communication from all B2B brands. Most of this older group — 61% — only want personal messaging from B2B brands if they give them permission.


    Millennials are more likely to want personalized communications from all B2B brands (41%) and B2B brands they give permission to (43%). Just 4% say they don’t want personalized messaging at all.

  • When B2B buyers want personalization, they want it all. While buyers are discerning about providing data, they set high expectations when they do accept personalized experiences. Sixty-eight percent of B2B buyers expect to receive personalized content and experiences when they interact with a brand they gave their personal data to.

    Take advantage of these expectations by tailoring digital platforms to recognize past purchases and browsing data. The majority of B2B buyers surveyed are also receptive to receiving emails from brands that say things like, “You left this in your cart” or “You might like X based on your purchase of Y.” 

  • Over-personalizing B2B brand communications is likely to draw a negative response. B2B CMOs beware: 55% percent of B2B buyers say if the communications they get from brands are invasive or creepy, they’ll block all communication with that brand.

    This has material implications for how marketing teams pursue personalization opportunities. By limiting personalization strategies to critical moments along the buyer journey — at junctions where buyers go deep on learning or are getting ready to buy — personalized marketing may yield more favorable results.

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FAQ on personalized marketing

Consumers want more tailored and personalized experiences, as long as those experiences feel helpful and not intrusive. Personalized marketing is important not only because it proves how well a brand recognizes the consumer (e.g., who they are and how they’ve interacted with the brand in the past), but also because personalization helps the customer move along the buying journey.

Personalization isn’t a goal in itself, but a way to attain performance goals. In terms of consumer benefits, “help me” personalization clearly wins. Consumers are short on time and face an ever-growing choice of products, channels and information sources, often leaving them feeling overwhelmed and paralyzed. Personalized help can instill confidence in consumers and trigger them to make a decision that moves them along the purchase process or helps them complete it.

There are many unknowns when building your personalized marketing strategy. Focusing on the following key barriers can help ensure your personalization program will be grounded in business fundamentals:

1. Customer data: Focus on collecting high-priority data (versus collecting all data) and use it well.

2. Technology: Much of the technology needed to deliver effective personalized experiences may already be in place. Use the technology you have to learn and build the case for more sophisticated personalization.

3.Content: Create personalized marketing content at an “atomic” level, breaking down messaging into smaller components that contribute to an overall experience.

4. People: A lack of digital, technology and data analytics skills can impede personalization efforts. Build your team’s baseline knowledge of personalization competencies.

Connect marketing personalization strategy to brand strategy early in the planning cycle. And set a strategy that optimizes ROI and lifetime value, realizing that one-to-one personalization may not always be necessary.

Drive stronger performance on your mission-critical priorities.