Leveraging Marketing Personalization in 2021: How to get ready for it

iResearch Podcast Episode 11: Thought leaders voice

As part of iResearch's Thought Leaders Voice podcast series, Dynamicwebs' VP of Marketing, Eric Jan C. van Putten, joined a conversation about “Leveraging Marketing Personalization in 2021: How to get ready for it.”

Key Takeaway

  • How can brands provide relevant, personalized content at every stage of the marketing funnel, and how can they take this process and perfect it beyond delivering emails?
  • What are the biggest challenges faced by marketing leaders on both an operational and strategic level right now and coming up in the future?
  • How can you really measure and demonstrate the ROI of personalization?
  • How important is it for brands to invest in customer data and analytics foundations & build up agile capabilities to drive personalization?

Listen to the podcast here →

In the Thought Leaders Voice podcast series, iResearch explores the world of how independent thought leaders bring their ideas to scale within the business world and share powerful, thought-provoking insights.

The objective from this podcast series remains to educate senior-level marketers & thought leaders to help them solve some of the most quizzing marketing questions propping up right now.

This is an independent and self-sponsored series aimed towards enhancing the profiles & importance of thought leaders amongst CXOs.

Join the conversation to access actionable advice shared in an incredibly insightful way.

Listen to the podcast here →

The podcast episode was originally aired on 06 May, 2021.

Eric Jan C. van Putten is a data driven marketer who brings more than 10 years of experience in B2B marketing technology and customer experience marketing and has been involved in operational excellence as well as driving significant marketing efficiency and performance.

He is passionate about new marketing technologies and using them to drive business results. He always sees opportunities to increase marketing performance and efficiencies.

Rachael Kinsella:  Hello everyone Welcome to thought leaders, voice. I'm Rachael Kinsella editor at iResearch Services, and your host today. We're delighted to welcome our guest, today CMO and marketing technology Rockstar, Eric Jan C. Van Putten, vice president of marketing at Dynamicweb who are a leading e-commerce and digital experience management software provider to the mid-market and enterprise. He is a clear change agent and B2B marketing technology and customer experience, and has been keenly involved in operational excellence as well as driving significant marketing efficiency and performance throughout his career as a marketing technology leader, having previously held marketing operations leadership roles, a content serve, product information management vendor and cycle, a leading digital experience platform vendor. Hello, Eric. Very warm welcome.

Eric Jan C. Van Putten: Hi, thanks for having me.

Rachael Kinsella: It's a pleasure to have you here. 

Eric Jan C. Van Putten: Absolutely. Thank you for having me.

Rachael Kinsella: So we've got plenty to talk about today on the topic of marketing technology, and one of the big trends that you and your partners have identified in recent discussions is the circular nature of MarTech trends. We've gone from the importance of finding and getting the right data to appropriate classification, to using that effectively and quickly across the right channels and simplifying and automating the process to create personalized and meaningfully categorized content in a way that doesn't have to be replicated manually multiple times. What do you see as the biggest challenges faced by marketing leaders on both an operational and strategic level right now and coming up in the future?

Eric Jan C. Van Putten: Thanks, Rachel. That's a really good question because first of all, I absolutely love marketing technology and how technology can help you drive business results. And those two don't always go together. I would absolutely say that technology has become more accessible over the past many years. If you go back 10 years, you would build a website. You probably would need developers to really build something. And these days you get the right plugin, you get something integrated and you're off. And although on one hand, that really sounds fantastic that the ease of integration has grown. There's actually a tremendous risk in that. Because it's so easy to add technology to the marketing technology stack, the MarTech stack, more departments do it. And before you know it, you really create a Frankenstack and there's quite some dangers in that. Not only will add a risk, every integration breaks at some moment.   Sometimes it only breaks once a year, but if you have 10 or 12 integrations, you're still in the hot seat every month or so. An additional challenge from it is it adds costs to keep the integration up in the air, updates have been your one system upgrades. Now your integration breaks, not only really potentially have missed revenue. You have to explain to management why your technical structure has broken down again. And I do foresee that with the massive explosion of MarTech and solutions out there for any issue that you might face that this is something that will continue. But yeah, very much be aware of the Frankenstack. If you're able to invest and have a strategic approach to get what you need and slowly build it out from there, you might actually not need 20 solutions talking to each other.

Rachael Kinsella: Sure. So it's investing the time and the effort wisely and building that gradually and not trying to run before you walk. 

Eric Jan C. Van Putten: Absolutely. And have a data governance, have a good plan, have a deep understanding on how data runs from point A to point Z and from a marketing operations point of view, really see how you can make that scalable, make it a solution and an integration that is flexible enough to handle many approaches, but tightened and templated enough so that you don't spend massive amounts of time every time you get a new product, you get a new marketplace integration, or you get a new, let's say assets to promote.

Rachael Kinsella: Yeah. So really getting to grips with what you already have at your disposal looking at the data you already have and where it's coming from and how it can be used. And really being clear on that before investing in anything else or just trying to build.

Eric Jan C. Van Putten: Absolutely. Well let's maybe if would like to, if I may add on that one is, I'm a big fan of the methodology related to people, process and technology. Yeah. When you combine that trifecta almost, it is how technology can be successful if you have the right people, but certainly the right process. And it is a combination that will make things fly if you want.

Rachael Kinsella: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. It's all about getting those processes in place with the right people, working across the different areas of the organization to make best use of the systems and the data you already have. So that leads us quite nicely on to how we can make things a more personalized experience using that data and using those processes in an effective way. How do you feel that we can move beyond purely email personalization to providing relevant personalized content experiences at each stage of the funnel? Because I think quite a lot of the different stages can be missed or data can be lost throughout that process.

Eric Jan C. Van Putten: Yeah, no, absolutely. So personalization is still something I also think as a marketer is one of the stronger options that we have in basically make our marketing perform better. And with that help the business perform better. Email, website behavior, other integrated solutions really comes down to a couple of elements. First of all, you need to be able to capture and make use of the customer data available. That could be a dedicated customer data platform, but many solutions, many suites already have some form of segmentation data available in their platform. And being able to make that to capture that data and to use that data in any way possible is where a lot of strength and a lot of opportunities are hiding in. Personally for example, I think why should we apply personalization? Well, it will help you have a better performing marketing and business department. Your websites can do better. Your email can do better, your e-commerce will sell more or higher guard values, you name it when personalization is applied in the right way. Now related to that as well is if you have that customer data and you have that analytical insights, you can also really see what personalization helps drive the needle, whatever you're trying to accomplish with that. And it's really in my personal opinion  because there are sounds out there that personalization is dead or is actually on its way back. And I don't agree with that. I think that simple, or probably too simplistic personalization, like last or first name, that's probably a little bit too simple, I would say, try to do more, try to do better than that, but how great is it, if you get an email that actually contains the right information in continuation in your research, or if you have bought that washing machine online, and now if you're doing it wrong, you get another email with the same washing machine with a discount? How about you actually either sell guarantee or you sell a dryer, or you sell whatever product is fitting, where you are at that moment. And I think there's tremendous opportunities in applying personalization. And again, thanks to technology, it’s also getting easier. If I would go back in my earlier years, you would have to create a, either you had to go into coding HTML or deeper. These days, you can set up a simple rule as something like this person has looked at the helmet and did buy a mountain bike. How about we actually try to sell you to helmet later, probably you are going to need it. And it's not that hard. It's literally as simple as I just explained.

Rachael Kinsella: Yeah. Yeah. It's all about relevance and knowing your customer and getting them at the right stage of that buying journey, but also event driven opportunities for personalization and you know, what a way to differentiate and to stand out by doing that well and really using the data that you have on your customers in a more efficient way. 

Eric Jan C. Van Putten: If I may add actually on that as well, because it's the  gathering of data, whatever sources you have, your website, your email behavior, your salespeople actually in touch, in B2B that becomes even stronger. You are in shop experience, gather that as best as you can in one central place, and then make sure that the systems that create touch points. And I know that that's a little bit broad, but I'm talking about email marketing, your website, e-commerce, the CRM again for your salespeople, that data is available because then not only can the website start personalizing, they can push the next product first, but also maybe a little bit more in B2B. The moment that person actually gets on the phone with your salesperson, that salesperson has that 360 view of this person has looked at this website. They've bought this in the past. They have not bought this. I think I can now help the customer for a positive experience, but let's also be realistic push the right product so that we can actually make a sale.

Rachael Kinsella: Yeah, absolutely. But that commercial lens actually leads me quite nicely onto my next question, which is how can you really measure that and demonstrate the ROI of that level of personalization? 

Eric Jan C. Van Putten: Absolutely. So there are studies out there that saying that personalization will be abandoned more and more by organization that has bought into it. And that really surprises me. And there are two elements that I suspect why, that is, and those reports go into that actually as well. So it's not my suspicion only. One personalization is perceived as hard to do. If I want to address that first. It is really not that hard to do, but we sometimes try to run before we crawl. We want to add personalization across six channels across 25 pages, [13:14 inaudible] more. And we set up rules for each individual module paragraph or little square. That gets complicated, before you know, it, you have a hard time figuring out what is active, where so start simple. If you are in B2B or you are in ecommerce, start with homepage personalization. Start with product pages personalization and you will see an uptick in touchpoints. You will see longer page visits, more page visits. Your conversions will go up. And that is really not that hard to do based on either behavioral data brings it to the implicit explicit available data on the customer that will help you drive that. Then onto the second part of that, how do you measure that? Well, kind of comes down again to, let's not over-complicate it. Can you measure the effect of personalization? Yes. If you tack your setup in the right way, which does not have to be hard based on either cookie or you put additional UTMs on personalized hyperlinks or other trace [14:38 inaudible] solutions, it can quite easily be done. Simple example, I’ve applied personalization on the homepage or product pages as well. And by simply adjusting the page with matching messaging images, logos, and then also having our request a demo button adjusted based on that,  we got a 30% uptick the moment personalization was applied in our demo request. And I think that simple-ish approach is a fantastic start, crawl, walk, then run.

Rachael Kinsella: Brilliant. And what would you say, would you be your top tips around that obviously starting simply trying contesting a few methods, home page would be the first vote of call. How about integrating that across other touch points and other channels?

Eric Jan C. Van Putten: Absolutely. So the beauty of this is, is that with the right setup. So you do need the right platform. You either need a platform, a best of suite approach versus point solutions, and then create potentially the Frankenstack if you're not careful. But it comes down to gather the right information, every page visit, every sales touch point, every in shop experience, every [16:11 inaudible], every email open, every email click, gather it as best as possible. Because that data will allow you to use it to create that better commerce or customer experience. Every touch point can be personalized and then report it upon. So, although it sounds like quite an easy task to always go through the standard, like email or your website, or but you can actually take it further, integrate this with your CRM or take it with social media, start applying data elements that are way more segmented on something like that. Image personalization is also up and coming in the whole email scene and although very cool and quite scary. I personally, for now in B2B still see it as a little bit of a gimmick, is creating that quick insight sales video. Like, Hey, Eric, I just saw your LinkedIn profile. I checked out your website and I think really liking what I'm seeing this, that, and that. Creating that one-on-one fantastic. Now apply, and this is the scary part that fake video stuff on top of that. Now you can scale that video into a thousand messages, easy. Maybe a gimmick, may be a great moment to grab hold of people. But yeah, opportunities are there.

Rachael Kinsella: It's very difficult to gauge where that fits with the human connection and that personal element. I mean, increasingly we're seeing B2B and B2C becoming far more like each other in terms of the way we interact with our customers. The way we map and personalize those different touch points. But having that relationship and that one-to-one approach is more important now than ever. So how would you find that you would balance that with innovation and technology and some of these methods that could be a gimmick, but could have real world applications?

Eric Jan C. Van Putten: It's a very good question. And I know I'm going to sound like almost the age old marketer here. But it is about the combination of driving value. And it is about trying to drive that positive experience with your brand and every person, every technology, every touch point can contribute to that. And I think we're forgiving, right? When someone makes a mistake, you get a test email or dear first name, that's fine. No one will be really bad about that. But if you take technology, if you take automation and maybe even the gimmick element and you dial that up all the way to 110, then it can become a different story, right. How many of us now get at least five emails a week or a day or an hour in their LinkedIn, say like, Hey, I saw your profile. I like what you're doing. Do you have 15 minutes for me? And that is yeah, technology applying in the wrong way. If you, to some degree, can push some value by targeting more specifically, if you can have your message fit to the receiver, your click rates, number rates, open rates, you name it will absolutely get a very positive uptick. 

Rachael Kinsella: Definitely. Yeah. Again, it's about knowing your customer, knowing your target audience, applying it to their experience and tailoring it, but keeping it simple and not trying to do too many gimmicky things, just because you've heard that it might be a good idea. If it doesn't apply to your business, and if it doesn't apply to your client base, then no point.  

Eric Jan C. Van Putten: Because it still takes your time. It still takes your  resources and time is limited. Let alone the costs, the headaches, the frustration. So, yeah, be careful with that.

Rachael Kinsella: Do you see any fundamental differences between B2B and B2C in that sense? Or do you think the same rules and principles can be applied?

Eric Jan C. Van Putten: Oh, fun one. So B2B is absolutely learning from B2C. Depends very much on the situation of course, but I do think B2B can learn a lot from B2C and that positive experience. B2C is usually at a different scale. So the only significant impact that can have is a cost base, right. Because if you're paying for personalization based on IP, for example, at B2C websites could actually have way more traffic than a B2B environment usually has. So that has a different price tag associated with it. The benefit of B2B is that you can have a deeper relationships with it because usually you build ongoing relations. So yeah, there are absolutely differences between the two, but they have been coming closer together for many, many years now.

Rachael Kinsella: Yeah. And those processes can be enhanced with effective use of the right technology for sure. 

Eric Jan C. Van Putten: Absolutely. Because that's a little bit of the beauty of it. Taking this as an example based on the different technology it's also, the amount of setup is probably going to be the same, or it's very similar. Even if you have 10 visitors on your website or a million, the setup is going to take the same amount of time. The benefit of having more traffic though, is you'll learn a lot faster what works and what doesn't. 

Rachael Kinsella: Yeah. That's a really good point, actually. Well, I think sticking with that human element, I like, I’ve seen some of your interviews recently where you've cited some marketing inspiration before your career even started. You started your mother as an inspiration. I just wanted to mention that to you on this call, because it does seem that both marketing and technology are in your blood. You've got that marketing background, you've got the technology education. And I think you're in quite a unique position from that perspective on understanding the technology and how it works and how it can be applied for marketing success. But also as you say, you've got the age old marketing training and techniques. You don't see many strategic marketers who are really in the know on that technical detail and how things can work more efficiently. Just like to ask you a little bit more about your experience with that, how you feel it's benefited you and how you're able to bridge the two worlds.

Eric Jan C. Van Putten: So thank you. And indeed I went into marketing thanks to my mother who was in marketing, but let's call it a little bit more non digital marketing. And I always loved technology computers, double dial up all that kind of fun stuff. [24:45 inaudible] time and age with that, and I have an IT education as well. But I always knew that marketing was it for me. And yeah, I agree. I think that you don't see, it is growing luckily, but you don't often see really technical it's more than digital I would say, but let's say technical savvy marketers. It is absolutely growing and there are plenty of people out there that can do a heck of a lot more than I can do. But at the same time, it is the ability also that gets you value. I guess, being able to speak the business language and knowing what is technically feasible almost anything is doable, but does it also make sense and then build the priorities and you need the right organization for that. You need buy-in from the involved parties, you need to invest to some degree, and you need to be able to translate why you are integrating your rep side into your CRM via this and that solution, instead of just emailing stuff into your CRM. You need to be able to explain why you want to have this customer database gathering clicks, marketing automation, views on the website, your CRM touch points for your sales to build that 360 view. Because hopefully not many company owners, CEOs, leaders will just have you spend tremendous amounts of time making investments left and right to get a really cool technical system. No one really cares about it unless, it can be applied to get those insights. This channel works. This campaign costs us 25,000 euros and delivered us a 100,000. So that is where technology and marketing really is getting together. And then in addition to that also build to scale. Why do I say that? If your organization is not growing, you might absolutely get away with doing a lot of manual steps. Scott Brinker recently posted that as well, that with the growth of marketing technology in organizations also to manual labor actually went up related to that.  I do feel what he's saying there, but that doesn't sound right. We have technology to make our life easier, but because we think there's one thing is very cool, we want that. Yes, that is fine that we just copy paste that Excel on a weekly base. But yeah, do that with 25 technologies. So that in mind, it's really about how technology can help drive business value.

Rachael Kinsella: Yes. Yeah. So I think, I guess marketers are increasingly wearing many more hats these days, so they have tough, but for the technology side of things, looking at digital marketing, strategic, then speaking the same language as the rest of the organizations. So getting buy-in, as you've mentioned, I'm speaking the same language as sales to be able to get initiatives off the ground. [28:47 inaudible] feedback.

Eric Jan C. Van Putten: Absolutely. So on that one as well. So I’ve had the luck this far to build nationally and internationally new marketing teams. I've had the luck in taking over teams and scale them as well. And I think there's a couple of elements where I see real differences in the success of those teams, or maybe more importantly, the individuals. There's a couple of things that really make a difference when you're earlier in your career in marketing, probably other departments as well. But one is be curious, try stuff out, read, make mistakes. Attend that extra meeting, take a sales meeting with someone trying to sell you something. See what your market or your expertise is developing it. So stay curious. Second, hustle. Yeah, I'm not saying to anyone that you have to work 60 hours a week, but do hustle, right.   Because if you are able to really hustle and work hard and put your backs into stuff, the results do speak for them. You are able to move mountains extra in that half an hour off everyone else basically shut down their computer that you take that half an hour at a different time back. Sure, why not? But that makes a difference as well. And then third and fourth, I would say, but that might come a little bit more with getting older is focus and prioritize and be crystal clear about that sometimes. Oh, there's one integration broke, that's fine with me. I don't care about it. I will get to that in two weeks. Or right, it's that focus about what is going to really drive the needle, spending two more hours on a thousand bucks a month Google ad, or spent that hour on doing something in joint partner marketing. And I can't say which works better for you, but focus on what drives the needle.