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CMO Pitfalls: How to Crank Up Your Personalized Content

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Author: Mark Nardone, Chief Marketing Officer at PAN Communications, headshot
Mark NardoneChief Marketing Officer

Personalization has been widely discussed within the marketing, social media and PR industries. The ability to cater messaging to your target audience is not a new concept, however it is a more difficult task for B2B companies versus the B2C market. It’s certainly not for lack of information. Most companies are already using automation technology and a variety of tools to pull data and start the analysis to identify and craft their buyer personas. So, where is the disconnect? Why are audiences pulling away and disengaging from already tailored content? Are you considering how content is consumed across an omni-channel experience?

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Below are three areas that your marketing team can start focusing on to help with this common CMO pain point:


Alignment to funnel goals is essential when it comes to getting results from your personalized content. You may have the perfect alignment of content to each of your buyer personas, but are you considering the various stages of the buyer journey within this content? Top, middle and bottom of the funnel content are all equally important, and timing these touch points accordingly is essential. Companies that properly nurture their leads see more qualified prospects than those that do not cater to or – better yet – anticipate the needs of their buyers.

Creating a roadmap for your buyer’s journey allows you to concentrate on attracting, converting, closing and delighting your audience and prospects. If you plan accordingly and are consistent in that approach, then you’re giving your brand the best chance at achieving ROI from your content efforts. Start by mapping content to each stage of the buyer’s journey: awareness, consideration and decision. But don’t think of this journey as linear; start thinking of it as a circular journey. As Heather Sears, former Vice President of Marketing, National Markets, at YP, points out:

“The old marketing funnel has morphed into a rollercoaster. It’s been called a pretzel and a zigzag, and the main differences include more information gathering across screens, locations (in/out of store), and communities (multiple sources of social recommendations).”

Don’t start from scratch when you map out your content. Begin by identifying the marketing assets that you have at your disposal. Conduct a content audit of all your evergreen pieces and categorize them by the following criteria: buyer persona, buyer journey stage, marketing funnel stage, and type of content. If you are unsure about a piece of content, just ask yourself – who is this helping? If the content doesn’t support the buyer journey, consider making edits or tweaks to improve value. If you are a “blast the content” type of marketer, it’s time to change. Audiences need to interact with content at every stage of their journey – we call these micro moments.  This calls for a far more engaged approach to what matters to your buyer.

Start listening to your audience: What exactly are their pain points? What are they passionate about? Take this information that you have gathered and begin to develop content that taps into this emotion. There are several pain points that your customers have. If you don’t know what your customers’ pain points are, then do some research. Start listening to them across all active social media channels, speak often to your current customers or integrate with your sales team. These are a must-have to staying ahead of the customer experience, and ensuring the emotional connection is making an impact that drives an outcome.


When you combine account-based marketing techniques – like a microsite –  to the above funnel approach, you will begin to see some powerful results. In fact, a recent survey from Alterra Group showed that 97 percent of marketers agreed that an ABM approach resulted in a higher return on investment (ROI) compared to other marketing activities.

Why do these two concepts perform so well together? Personalization. While your inbound efforts start to bring prospects to you in a “pull” form, ABM goes one step further to focus on individual decision makers or influencers inside targeted customer accounts. As mentioned above, B2B marketing in a personalized way can be a challenge, but with an ABM strategy, you stop selling to your prospects and you start giving them something of value. Through this process, you are creating trust by sharing knowledge and domain experiences (hint: through the voice of your current customers) and now you’ve got a relationship in the works.

The only way to make this approach work successfully is to integrate your marketing and sales teams – they should almost be one. Lean on your sales team to identify specific prospects and targets; they will be able to identify real-time challenges that prospects are faced with. Whether this is competitive insight or solution gaps, they should have this information already in the works. Once you have identified your targeted prospect, do some additional research – LinkedIn, Twitter and the company’s website, for example – to develop a better understanding of their specific pain points. After successfully creating this content, choose the right promotion and curation techniques for maximum exposure.

After a recent conversation with Matt Heinz of Heinz Marketing, he noted the following questions that one should ask while embracing an ABM strategy:

“Inside a complex B2B company, CEB Global, an insight and technology company, now says there’s 6.8 people on average involved in the internal buying committee to make a decision. How well do you understand who those 6.8 people are? What roles do they play? What approaches do they bring to the table that are different from each other? And how do you build consensus amongst them, around the need for a product like yours, while still creating value for their organization? Answering those questions continues to get more and more complicated, but successfully answering those questions unlocks the ability for marketers to truly create value for their own organizations.”


Now that you have personalized your content, tailored it to the funnel strategy and capitalized on ABM best practices, you can now dig into having an engaging story that doesn’t just come from your company. A common mistake among many tech and healthcare companies is that they tell their story only from their brand’s point of view. You need to have advocates: customer advocates, employee advocates, the media, thought leaders, influencers and any other third-party that is willing to back you up on your company’s mission and message. Building trust and creating brand champions for your company is hard, but the results outweigh the struggle.

Not sure where to start? Well, who better to tell your company’s story than your very own customers? Case studies are underused within B2B and healthcare companies for generating maximum brand awareness. Successful customer impact stories are your greatest undiscovered tool. They can be used in PR to pitch to the media, testimonial quotes can be implemented throughout your website and curated throughout social media. But why stop there? Since your customers are your greatest secret weapon try re-working a case study into a Q&A video with your customer, create an infographic or draft an associated blog post. An emotional connection isn’t formed with prospects by having an outdated case study section on your website. Pull these stories out and nurture them. The result will be capturing the attention of other like-minded companies or individuals that went through a similar problem but have yet to find the right solution.

When you tell a story with a case study or any story for that matter, you should be tapping into your readers’ emotions. In a recent article from Chandar Pattabhiram, the columnist describes what is called the “Engagement Economy” and speaks to the impact that storytelling has on a buyer’s experience.

“Marketing is all about winning the battle for the mind of the customer, and the best marketers use emotion as a weapon of mass influence to win the battle through powerful storytelling.” – Chandar Pattabhiram

This type of storytelling comes down to listening, learning and engaging with your customers. By approaching storytelling in this manner, you take out assumptions and you lead your audience along a buyer’s journey without selling or pushing them in that direction. Staying genuine and connected to your customers will result in more lead gen with better qualified leads.

As Ted Rubin, Social Marketing Strategist, recently noted:

“There’s no excuse not to be listening to what’s happening. But I’ll tell you, I think the biggest majority of brands aren’t. I think that there are a select few that are doing a great job of truly listening. And when I say listening, I’m not talking about listening software. To me that’s just the first step. That gives you an idea into keywords and some things people are saying and you’re hearing about things that are trending. But it’s not truly listening. Truly listening is stepping in on conversations.”

While the three strategies described above may work separately, the combined force of all three will drive the best results for B2B and healthcare brands. The benefits will drive revenue, improve customer experience, and increase brand equity and loyalty. Sounds good, right? If you don’t have the time or resources to implement one or more of these three strategies, start thinking of alternative ways such as skillset realignment or outsourcing to an agency to reach your marketing, PR and sales goals.

There’s no secret formula in today’s marketing environment.  Change is inevitable and starts with your ability to be agile and ahead of the opportunity. Reactionary marketing is old school. Today, modern marketers are motivated by experiences and emotions. It begins with data – and quite honestly never ends; it simply evolves.

Personalization and storytelling aren’t the only pain points that keep CMO’s up at night. In my last blog titled ‘CMO Pitfalls: What are the 3 Factors that Drive Success?’ we briefly discussed why measurement and analytics are key drivers for successful marketers and their teams. In my next CMO Pitfall blog we will take a deeper dive into how CMOs can continuously demonstrate and prove their value.

Let’s continue the conversation @MarkCNardone.


An image of PAN's Brand Experience Report on the Potentials and pitfalls of AI for marketers

In our annual Brand Experience Report, we asked marketers and customers how they are using and experiencing AI to better understand how the technology is changing that relationship.