Increasingly, technology allows people to have customized experiences, finely tuned to their personal preferences. ESPN.com lets me filter sports news so that scores and updates from my favorite teams appear first. Apps like Feedly show me only the news that I’m interested in. Hulu asks me whether I find its ads relevant, and changes the ads I see based on my responses.
Consumer sites have been at the forefront of the progression towards personalization. We all know that what we see when we go to Amazon or Netflix is different than what others see – Amazon shows me products based on my past purchases and Netflix recommends movies based on what I have already watched and liked. This is great for me, the consumer, but it also makes a lot of business sense—why waste time and money marketing content or products that the customer does not care about?
The Problem With One-Size-Fits-All Content
And yet, take a quick survey of technology companies’ websites, and you’ll find a surprising amount of homogenous marketing and content. This is a significant missed opportunity. Tech businesses need to realize that when it comes to marketing, content is a part of the product.
Different Strokes for Different Folks
Your product is more than just what your technology does. The way you explain your product, and the content you create isn’t “just marketing”—it is the way people understand your product. If you want to expand your customer base, you have to offer a variety of content, with each piece speaking to a different audience.
Content should always tell a story. But, no one story will appeal to every customer. Car ads are a good example of this. If you’re an automaker, the story you tell the mechanic is different from the story you pitch to the driver. And the story you tell about each car varies based on your potential customer for that make—there’s a reason an ad for a sports car shows it speeding along exotic beach roads while an ad for a minivan depicts a family driving at the speed limit and respecting road signs. The audience for each car is diverse, and the story each set of consumers tells themselves becomes implicit in how they view the vehicle. No one ever bought a Ferrari for its safety features.
Give Them What They Want
Tech companies need to model this segmentation in their marketing. Granted, cloud platforms and #big data software are complex, requiring carefully constructed content that explains as much as it entices the consumer. But, at the end of the day, the story we associate with a product shapes our perception of it just as much, if not more, than the product details. Maybe the minivan can go from 0 to 60 in under five seconds, but this is probably far less important to a buyer than its gas mileage and safety ranking. The explanations offered about a product should be factual, but not all-encompassing. And that’s the way it should be—customers should learn what is most relevant to them. The content then becomes an on-ramp to how they view the product.
Content is most effective when it makes us feel that our needs are understood and can be met by the product. For retail sites, Bellroy wallets and Newton running shoes are excellent examples to follow. Bellroy customers can personalize their shopping experience by choosing the story that best fits their desires: slimming their wallet, having a travel-friendly wallet, or a wallet that can stand up to the outdoors. Newton asks customers what type of runners they are (from beginners to ultramarathoners) and then connects them to shoe models, with videos and product information, designed around their running style.
Apigee offers similar customer segmentation. Others in the tech market should follow its leads. Tech sites should provide different levels of content to engage key groups of people, just like college sites offer separate paths for potential students, parents, administrators, and professors, and investment firms have distinct links for individuals, institutional investors, and financial advisors. The goal is to guide people to the right information— that’s the information they’ll find most relevant and that will motivate them to buy. While this means businesses need to produce a multiplicity of content, it also leads to customers having greater attachment and understanding of the products.
Become a master at segmented content creation