Well-designed Taxonomy Drives Effective Content Personalization
Featuring Janet Rubio, CMO, True Influence
At True Influence, we constantly stress the importance of personalizing your B2B marketing content to improve conversion rates, and build stronger relationships with your prospects, at every point in the customer purchase journey, across all contact channels.
Most of the heavy lifting in pairing content to user preference is handled by Marketing Automation Systems (MASs), Web site CMSs, and other technologies. These systems analyze user’s direct interactions with your content, as well as the intent signals provided by third-party services, including True Influence’s InsightBASE, to help select content which is tailored specifically to a users’ interests.
In order for all this high-powered tech successfully to do its job, you must establish a taxonomy that defines how you communicate about your business. A taxonomy, by the way, is an established framework that tags and organizes your content by topic, targeted audience, and other key attributes. Automated systems use this framework to compile and present various content objects into compelling, personalized messaging.
For example, if a user views a blog post about Supply Chain Management, your web CMS can look for Calls To Action (CTAs) and offers matching the taxonomical node “Supply Chain Management,” and is tagged as being appropriate for the user’s persona in your MAS. So, it’s not just a matter of showing the user more content about the topics they are interested in; you can personalize around their role and point in the purchase journey. And that’s a very simplistic example of how a successfully implemented taxonomy can drive content personalization.
The key issue to remember is that a taxonomy goes well beyond marketing copy – it is an enterprise-wide method for describing your entire business.
A Team Effort
The first, most important step in building a company-wide taxonomy is simply winning company-wide buy-in to the process.
When I say “buy-in,” you might think I am describing a project fraught by internal politics. But that hasn’t been my experience. No one is going to question the need or the benefit to having a solid taxonomy – it’s really just a matter of doing quite a bit of initial homework.
Each team in the company will need to review and contribute to the project, so that their operations are encompassed in the taxonomy. Ultimately, you will want to present personalized upsell CTAs in your order processing system, for example, so your taxonomy will need to accurately categorize marketing content, product catalog descriptions, user personas, and other key business concepts.
In fact, in the process of defining your taxonomy, you may well come to more clearly understand and define how your business actually works. It’s one of core benefits of the process.
Thinking In The Fourth Dimension
As your team builds a taxonomy, you have the flexibility to design it for your company’s specific needs. You definitely want to loop in your data analysts to get their views on the taxonomy’s architecture, but a typical B2B taxonomy has four dimensions that describe different aspects of your information. Each is identified below.
- Topic: This is the most obvious attribute of your content, and also the most essential. In creating the initial framework for your topic taxonomy, less can be more; don’t aspire to include every possible topic you might discuss in your blog. Even if a blog post is mostly about HTML5, for example, your company may never have a service or product relating to that topic, and so there’s no reason to include HTML5 in your taxonomy. Remember, the idea is to match assets across all of your business operations. If a taxonomy node can’t be applied across the company, you probably don’t need that taxonomy node.
- Audience / Persona: Is the content, product, or offer more applicable to a financial controller or the CTO? Matching your audience to the topic is the essence of successful marketing; your team may want to consider creating content for each audience persona per important topic.
- Industry: Your company’s operations may be limited to a single target industry, but most B2B marketers will want to identify the vertical that content or offer targets.
- Funnel Stage: Some blog posts may be designed to generate interest in an emerging product category; others may describe financial analysis for a final buy decision.
Accurate tagging across these four dimensions will create powerful content personalization in almost any channel.
Working With Your Taxonomy
As I said a little earlier, most everyone in your company will agree to the value of designing and implementing a comprehensive taxonomy. But the work involved, both in designing and implementing a taxonomy, can be seen as additional tedium, or even busy work, by staff members. It is important to explain the reasons behind and goals for this project in advance.
Remember, less can be more when it comes to building your taxonomy. We definitely optimize some of our blog content to engage users around hot topics via SEO. These topics may not always be core to our business; we simply use these posts to introduce internet searchers to our company, and begin the process of more deeply engaging with them. Adding nodes to our structured taxonomy based on these posts will likely never drive personalization to offers and deep engagement content.
You may want to consider a device by which tax nodes auto-generated from high-funnel content are weighted as less important than core tax nodes, or are quickly vetted by team members before being added to the formal taxonomy.
The ability to personalize content offerings, based on content channel, is almost limitless when you have a taxonomy in place. Some prime applications include:
- Email newsletters and promotions: There’s really no longer any reason to have users sign up for distinct newsletters subscriptions. Even commodity e-mail services like Mailchimp can post content blocks into mails, based on topics a user has explicitly asked for, or has viewed on your web site and other channels. A popular case study for the power of taxonomies making the rounds these days is the story how Investopedia has simplified its email production and improved click rates with taxonomy-based automated personalization. This is a relatively simple, but powerful, story.
- Landing Pages: Landing pages should be highly crafted around a specific topic and funnel stage, but the CTA / offer package can be optimized for user personas, based on multi-dimensional tax matching.
- CTAs: Some marketers focus only on user’s content topic consumption for CTA promotion (if you’ve watched a YouTube video lately, you know what I am talking about). That may work for high-funnel pages and offers, but I believe in a strong match between your main page content and the CTA you are promoting further down the funnel, not only by topic but also reader persona. This requires not only a well-planned taxonomy, but also a strong editorial and marketing content calendar.
- Site Home Pages and Blogs: Content listings, product offers, related content, and sidebars can be driven by the same logic you employ for personalized emails, increasing engagement and session length.
- Chat and Conversational Marketing: Chatbots are the wave of the future, but if they react only to the specific terms typed directly into search or chat fields, they can get pretty far off topic pretty quickly. A structured taxonomy can map scanned user chats to topics that are core to your business. A smart chatbot can map “I am out of widgets” to the taxonomy node “Inventory Planning” seamlessly, to make a compelling whitepaper or webinar offer.
- Plan for Successful Content Personalization: Potential customers are overwhelmed by information. A carefully planned and implemented taxonomy can help your team personalize content to a prospect, across a wide array of criteria, making the most of every contact you have with a customer.