Personalisation that’s driven by large volumes of aggregated data is trumpeted as allowing the modelling, manipulation and ultimately monetisation of customers all the way down to targeting one specific individual.

In ecommerce we have seen for years all the familiar,‘customers who viewed this also viewed this’ widgets, as well as on and offsite reminders of products that you might be interested in. Order details can be pre-filled and leading platforms such as Kentico now offer content customisation on both the main site and on dynamically created landing pages.

Soon, just like Minority Report, facial recognition will be used as a bridge to the physical world to recognise individuals and talk directly to them about what we have scored that they need.

Hoorah. Everyone’s a winner - right?

Well, maybe not!

Research undertaken last year showed the still widespread unease in how and what personal data is collected and used; people just felt that they were out of control of this process. In turn this led to an active dislike of personalisation - even the seemingly mundane things like being referred to by name in an email.

And if people don’t give over their data then the ideal of personalisation comes to a grinding halt. On top of this nearly 2/3rds of people actively reject grandiose statements that claim that “sharing personal data is a necessary part of the modern economy".

So, where now?

Well this same report provided some idea of how certain user fears could be overcome via transparency, and the ability for people to better manage and edit stored data. It also warned to be very careful how you aggregate different data strands and definitely don’t ‘over contact’. 

But these are just the starting points in moving away from ‘digital stalking’ and towards building trust in the value of a personalised digital relationship. How do we make people value the benefits gained from intelligent use of personal data?

Everyone holds up Amazon as the ‘great web hope’ of how to ‘do’ personalisation. But there’s only one Amazon; with it’s huge inventory, it’s enormous amount of generated data, and its almost infinite audience base. Most B2C companies aren’t Amazon - and if you’re a B2B company with a web site that potential customers only visit very infrequently as part of a group decision making process, how do ‘you’ make, what is obviously the powerful lever of a more personalised experience, work?

We’ve mentioned products like Kentico earlier in this piece. It’s technical solutions such as these that are evolving services from the need to have separate CMS, CRM and email systems, into one, cohesive ‘experience management platform’. These platforms are able to support the tactical needs of direct 1-to-1 messages as well as guide users through more sequenced ‘stories’ that provide a unifying rallying point when multi-party consensus needs to be achieved.

CEB have published some remarkable research into a book, which states that it is possible to be too good at personalisation.

Yes, you read right!!

It claims that for B2B communications a granular and super targeted level of intricate content often leads to individual stakeholders simply having their fear of change cemented and does nothing to bring what will be a diverse decision-making group together towards a shared vision to achieve change. It divides rather than brings together.

CEB claim, ‘the biggest challenge for a buying group, (the average number of stakeholders being involved in a B2B buying decision being 5.4), is not in selecting a supplier but in simply agreeing on a problem and a course of action.’

Personalisation of content becomes powerful if sellers ‘shift their attention to making purchasing easier by helping diverse stakeholders understand their business problems and the required actions, not just the (sellers') points of differentiation’.

While personalisation can take the conversation to ‘me’ and disrupt a stakeholders individual long held-beliefs, it can, and should, support the ‘we’ mindset aligned to a common vision of a future place. And this means that a central ‘big idea’ is still as vital as ever in the world of 1-to-1 marketing.

Underneath a ‘big idea’ come sequenced stories and content that disrupts, validates, or presents this new vision through discreet prompts delivered to different audiences, on different devices and touch points, via an integrated digital comms program.

And this needs a plan; a plan powered by ‘experience management technology’ that can retrieve and release the appropriate and sequenced content at the right times based on simple but effective desired user journeys. In other words, good old fashioned campaign planning built on creative ideas, smart services and clever content.

It might be time to rethink your approach to B2B personalisation. Don’t just try to be timely and relevant, this isn’t enough to attract today’s content saturated audiences. Be meaningful, be unifying, tell stories and create value. In doing so, provoke an emotional connection from the individual you are speaking to as part of a common, shared and collective stakeholder vision.