Your website sucks because it's pointlessly personalized
Through multiple miracles of technology, you can
Swipe a credit card
Get access to a personalization (p13n) platform
Access each visitor’s IP address
Send the IP address to the p13n platform, which attempts to guess what company they work for
Use that company information to customize their website experience
All this amazing tech and you’re using it to do this:
This is a cute trick, but what are the odds that it actually convinces some VP at IBM to use your product?
And what are the odds that the actual number of IBM employees you reach comes anywhere near to justifying the effort you put into rigging all this up?
Meanwhile, what are the odds that the platform misidentifies some visitors, displaying this message to non-IBM employees?
So maybe you skip the cutesy company-level personalization and opt to customize your content for more broadly-defined audiences. There’s a good chance your website still sucks.
Choosing the right segments is crucial, and you’re set up for failure.
Your trusty p13n platform will encourage you to focus on the segments they’re good at identifying. Like company size, or industry.
And you’re a creative person, so as soon as you hear this suggestion, you’ll have plenty of ideas for how to tweak the website accordingly.
But ask yourself, is this homepage any more convincing than the one at the top of the email?
I mean, maybe. But quite possibly not.
If your product is actually suitable for everyone from a part time freelancer to a Fortune 500 corporation, it’s going to take more than a couple headline tweaks to convince the latter that you understand them.
Even more importantly, there’s no guarantee that your visitors actually need a different experience based on their industry or company size.
So the effort you put into customizing the site based on this criteria … is wasted. Additional overhead for you, pointless bells and whistles for your visitors.
Here's what you can do
Don’t start from “here are the segments we can target” and just pick a few that sound fun.
Instead, ask yourself:
What are the groups of customers for whom the research, consideration, and initial signup phase of the buyer’s journey are significantly different? Exactly how is this phase different for each group?
If the answer is “I’m not sure,” that’s fine. Maybe you don’t need personalization at all!
Or maybe your energy is better spent researching the buyer’s journey. Do some customer interviews. Send out a survey. Run some experiments and segment the results.
If the answer points to distinct audiences that your personalization platform can’t readily identify, all is not lost.
How do these different segments currently use your site? Are there key pages that only Group C tends to visit? Can you ask new visitors a question or two to encourage them to self-select into one of the segments, and serve personalized content from that point on?
This approach may mean fewer visitors actually receive a personalized experience.
That’s fine. 10 visitors receiving custom information that actually helps them decide is better than 1,000 visitors receiving a weird, creepy reference to their place of employment.
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