4 Things You Can Learn about Personalization from a 6 Year Old

Recently, while discussing inside sales strategies, a very wise and successful head of worldwide business development said to me, “Leigh, you have to make every call personal. You have to focus on personalization.”  This definitely resonated with me. For my business development team, personalization means knowing more than just someone’s name before you make a call. It means researching the company, where they are located, recent news releases, new hires, new products, etc. Heck, if I could, I’d find out what baseball team they cheer for and what they had for lunch!

After that conversation, I thought about the importance of personalization all day. That evening, as I checked the agenda for my 6-year-old’s class project, I had to laugh when I saw his first social studies assignment was a PERSONALIZATION project.

Of course, for a kid in grade 1, personalization means different things than it does for a sales and marketing person. For my son, it means: Where do I live, who is my mom, who is my dad, and so on. His answers to the questions about his parents were pretty hilarious. Apparently, I bake a lot and his dad fixes things….

This got me thinking about whether most sales and marketing organizations are really that much more sophisticated than my 6-year-old when it comes to personalization. Here are 4 things sales and marketing professionals can learn from a 6-year-old about personalization.

1. Personalization means different things to different people
Everyone in sales and marketing talks the talk about personalization but, depending on who you’re talking to, it can mean very different things. For my 6 year old, admittedly it’s pretty basic: his first and last name, the street his house in on and his mommy and daddy’s names. But you know what? For a marketer, it doesn’t take all that much more than a first and last name and an email address to start a prospect down the path to personalization – the rest can be fleshed out later through progressive profiling and/or data appending services. Those all-too-common lengthy forms that want to know everything all at once aren’t necessary at all. They just get in the way, placing barriers in the way of a prospect reaching the piece of content they want or the product demo on the other side of the form.

 Sales and marketing involve a value exchange. I give something of value in the form of information, education and resources and, in turn, my prospect provides more information about their motivations, pains, use cases or budget. Sales and marketing need to “give to get.” When every interaction is focused on what you can get, you provide little incentive for your prospect to give. But by giving more, you can learn more about your prospect and make every future interaction more personalized and valuable.

2.  What’s in a name?
I’m old enough to remember when personalization meant starting an email with the recipient’s first name and, if you were really fancy, referring to his/her company name in the email. But most times, this superficial approach missed the point by serving up the same message and content CTA to everyone, without any insight into the buyer’s persona or where they were on their buying journey. Have you ever been in a sales situation where a salesperson used your first name too much in a heavy-handed attempt to build rapport and ingratiate their way into a sale? Knowing someone’s first name doesn’t mean that you know the person at all. While it’s a step on the journey to better personalization, sales and marketing need to reach beyond first name personalization if they really want to be relevant and authentic.

3. Knowing someone’s interests goes a long way
My son’s personalization project at school asked what his interests are (at the moment, he’s mostly into Star Wars – “Obi Kinobi” and “Dark Vader” – and his Taekwondo class, which he calls Power Rangers school), and also his parents’ interests. His mum likes to cook and bake (!), while his dad likes to play Bob the Builder with tools around the house. What’s the lesson here for a marketer or a sales rep? Well, it made me think about how one of our clients, Qvidian, is using content engagement metrics to personalize sales follow-ups – because the more details you can collect about someone’s interests, the more personal your call will be.   

The people within Qvidian’s nurture program are offered content in different message tracks based on topic, title and buyer persona, but instead of providing a single content asset like a white paper or blog post, three other related content assets are served up within the content experience to encourage readers to move from one asset to the next at their own pace. As Qvidian’s Senior Marketing Programs Manager, Kaitlyn Myers, puts it:

 “People today all have specific needs. Marketers can’t do cookie cutter content anymore. If you want to stand out, you need to make your stuff relevant and personalized. LookBookHQ enables us to deliver more engaging, behavior-driven content experiences that educate and propel buyers.”

The ability to deliver personalized content journeys has not only improved Qvidian’s nurturing, but the post-click content engagement metrics they capture are giving their Business Development team a leg up when it comes to understanding the needs and interests of individual prospects. Qvidian’s sales team can see exactly which pieces of content people are viewing, for how long, and the topics on which they are self-educating. This intel is invaluable in identifying sales-ready buyers and making sales follow-ups much more personalized and meaningful.

4. When it comes to someone’s interests, timing is everything.
If you have kids, you’ll know how quickly their interests can change. One minute, they are so completely in love with Power Rangers that it’s all they talk about, and the next they roll their eyes and shoot you a “Whatever!” look when you mention them, as if to say, “Mum, why can’t you keep up???”

 It’s not all that different with your prospective buyers: you need to reach them with the right content at the right time while you have their attention and while their interests are aligned with yours. Today’s buyers move fast when they’re self-educating. Research shows that engaged B2B buyers tend to consume a lot of content in a very short window when they’re getting up to speed on a topic or solution, and this content “bingeing” behavior – think of it as the B2B equivalent of binge-watching episodes on Netflix – is a key indicator of sales readiness. If you don’t catch them in the act of self-educating, you’ll miss your opportunity to get your particular viewpoint across.

Put another way, content engagement metrics not only give you insight into a person’s area of interest, but also the timing and seriousness of their interest. The idea is simple but powerful: If you know that a prospect – let’s call him Bob – spent 7 minutes engaging with three different pieces of content, while another prospect, Sally, looked at the first asset for 10 seconds and then multi-tasked on over to check their Twitter feed, who would you say is more ready to get a call from sales? The thing is, in your marketing automation platform (MAP), Bob and Sally look exactly the same: they both clicked on the same link, but only Bob is highly engaged. Chances are your rep’s going to jump all over that call to Bob and his or her personalized message to him on the phone is going to be a little different than the message to Sally (when he/she gets around to calling her).

Summing Up
The more you know about a person before your sales rep picks up the phone or your marketing team deploys that next campaign, the better. Every inside sales rep has been there at some point in their career: You’re at a company that hasn’t yet implemented a mature lead nurturing or scoring model, so you have to cold call a name on a list and just hope and pray you pronounce their name right!

Just as savvy marketers like Kaitlyn at Qvidian know the value of delivering personalized content experiences after someone clicks, business development and sales professionals understand that cold calls are – or should be – a thing of the past. Your prospects today are busier and more distracted than every before. Neither you nor they have time to play 20 questions on the phone.

You can read the full Qvidian case study here.


Leigh Solomon is VP Business Development at LookBookHQ. She has over 10 years of experience in leading global Inside Sales initiatives for fast-growing technology companies including Clarity Systems and SpeedBit. As owner of Sales Generation Consulting, she helped her clients build effective inside sales models and hire the right talent to drive results and growth.