The State of Personalization

How to Make Marketing More Human Through Personalization That Scales


Personalized messaging is the most effective way to engage and close deals with your most coveted target accounts. But marketing and sales teams are running into a key challenge — personalized content is not easy to scale.

Cookie-cutter templates that only swap out a name to make it “personal” are not engaging enough.

Potential buyers are looking for a unique experience, but true personalization takes time and effort that many teams just don’t have.

So what do you choose? An investment in personalization or the ability to scale your messaging?

Spoiler: With the right tech, you might not have to choose.

Today’s Buyers Crave Personalization

Potential buyers want to feel like they are receiving red-carpet treatment. The businesses that succeed know how to make a decision-maker feel special.

In today’s digital world, decision-makers have unprecedented levels of choice. If you can show that you understand each buyer’s unique needs and desires, you will be able to stand out in crowded spaces.

A traditional website form forces your potential customer to take the first step in a slow engagement process with your company. You become just another brand name in a long list of potential solutions. The decision-maker will move on because this experience is familiar and expected and offers nothing to hold their attention.

We are programmed to respond to familiar experiences in the same way we always do. The most important tactic is to blow everything up that is familiar and create something brand new.”

– Brandon Young, CMO, Executive Pavilion Member

On the other hand, when key decision-makers visit your website and see personalized messaging, they become instantly intrigued and engaged.

Personalized messaging goes beyond inputting the target customer’s name at the beginning of an email. Personalized messaging means tailoring the entire engagement to the specific needs of the potential customer. 66% of customers expect companies to understand their needs and expectations. Only a personalized approach allows a company to demonstrate that understanding to potential customers.

With personalization, you can greet potential buyers as they enter your website, putting you in control of the first step in a real-time engagement process. The novel experience of a personalized conversation starter shows the customer that you understand what matters to them — and that you can help solve their challenges. For example, Proofpoint, a cybersecurity and compliance solution leader, saw a 147% increase in website visitor email submissions after switching to personalized messaging on their website. Improved engagement from website visitors is leading to a higher pipeline conversion rate down the road.

Novel Personalized Experiences Lead to Increased Engagement

In today’s digital world, the person-to-person nature of sales is being lost, which is making sales teams’ jobs vastly more difficult. In fact, a request made during an one-on-one meeting is 34x more likely to be fulfilled than a request made over email. Personalized messaging brings back the human element to sales in a digital world, helping sales teams replicate the success of in-person meetings.

Andrea Kayal, CMO at Electric, has observed that “Personalization drives two times the engagement of non-personalized outreach.” Kayal has seen firsthand the benefits of bringing the person-to-person approach back to business:

When we started marketing more to the person and their needs rather than the business, our ability to drive pipeline increased substantially.”

– Andrea Kayal, CMO, Electric

Increased Engagement Drives Conversion Rates and Qualified Leads 

Right now, your sales team might be sending out a large quantity of templated outreach emails to a wide variety of prospects. Your marketing team might be building out generalized marketing material hoping to attract a few quality inbound leads. These outreach emails are engaging a low percentage of prospects, and this marketing material is attracting a sea of unqualified leads — all while your target accounts are dismissive of your generalized approach. General outreach emails have a response rate of 8.5% and only 27% of leads generated from marketing content are qualified. CMO Brandon Young understands how a personalized approach can increase the returns on his team’s sales efforts:

When you really understand the audience and you start to trim the fat, you can get so much improvement through better targeting.”

With personalization, sales teams can make prospects feel heard, vastly increasing the chances of booking a meeting. Marketing teams can build out account-based marketing (ABM) strategies for your most sought-after accounts, spending more time on the prospects that are most likely to close. Drift has seen first-hand the pay-off of personalization — pipeline conversion rates are increasing by as much as 100% after the implementation of personalized, real-time messaging.

Personalization at Scale Today: Frustration and Dissatisfaction

There is no doubt that personalization increases the effectiveness of both marketing and sales outreach, helping create higher quality inbound and outbound leads.

However, 57% of the marketing and sales leaders that we interviewed for this ebook were not happy with their company’s current personalization strategy.

Where is this unhappiness coming from? Many executives outside sales and marketing simply do not see the value in personalization and are not applying appropriate effort to create personalized experiences for potential customers.

Brandon Young has experienced that “you have to convince the organization of the value of personalization. Executives often assume they have the right process, but they aren’t doing justice to what personalization really means.”

Others feel that their business’ personalization efforts are only surface level. Darren Noble, VP of Enterprise Sales at Hootsuite, is dissatisfied with the depth of some personalization efforts:

Sometimes sellers think that they are personalizing by just inserting someone’s name, but it should be much more than that.”

– Darren Noble, VP of Enterprise Sales, Hootsuite

Even more frustrating is the uneven distribution of personalization in marketing and sales material. Maybe some outreach emails are personalized, but the website remains generalized for all visitors. These inconsistencies lead to a disjointed experience for a potential customer.

Marketing and sales leaders are being forced to choose between a less effective, generalized approach to reach a large number of potential leads or a more effective, personalized approach that only reaches a small number of leads. The effectiveness of personalized messaging is clear, but the lack of scalability and inefficiencies are holding many companies back from embracing personalization.

Inefficiencies are Abundant in a Handcrafted Approach to Personalization

To create effective personalized experiences, your salesperson or marketer needs to know everything about your target accounts — who are the key decision-makers; what do they need;  where are they located; how have they interacted with your company before?

You might be interviewing your sales reps to learn this information about prospects. But relying on reps to provide this information only prolongs the time and effort needed to create personalized experiences. This time-consuming process is detracting from your sales reps’ time spent working to book meetings and close deals.

By relying on your sales reps to gather qualitative information, you might be missing out on other data points that could be useful. Who is visiting your website? What pages do they visit? How much time are they spending there? When are decision-makers most interested in your business? These are insights that can be used to create effective personalized experiences but are often not leveraged by sales and marketing teams.

More Personalization Requires More Hands

You might believe that the only way to build an effective personalized experience is to gather a complete understanding of individual decision-makers and then build handcrafted material tailored to those individuals. While this strategy may be effective for converting a few target accounts, the process is time-consuming and detracts from time spent on other qualified leads in your pipeline.

A completely handcrafted approach means that the only way to create a larger quantity of effective personalized experiences for your target accounts is to hire and onboard more sales reps or marketing team members. Mark Jung, VP of Marketing at Dooly, believes that:

Scaling leads to people making mistakes. When you create something really meaningful, it often shouldn’t be scaled. Scaling can do more harm than good sometimes.”

– Mark Jung, VP of Marketing, Dooly

Mark’s belief is understandable — effective but scalable handcrafted personalization seems like a daunting task. ROI for personalized messaging appears limited if your cost of investment needs to increase in order to win prospects.

The Tradeoff: Quality vs. Quantity

Many marketing and sales leaders are experiencing a frustrating reality — the more personalized your messaging, the less your messaging can be scaled. To deal with this tradeoff, teams are reducing the amount of personalization within their messaging. Perhaps 20-30% of an email will be personalized and the rest will be taken from a template. Others are building personalized material for large segments or industries because it seems impossible to reach the level of individual personalization on a wide scale. Daren Noble at Hootsuite understands the effectiveness of personalization for his sales teams, but feels limited by lack of scalability:

It’s important to make personal connections with outreach messaging, but we need to do it at scale so that we can reach our revenue targets.”

Marketing teams are also frustrated by having to make this tradeoff. ABM is vastly more effective at grabbing the attention of target accounts — 87% of marketers say that ABM strategies outperform generalized marketing techniques. But, ABM requires more investment and reaches a much narrower audience than a generalized marketing approach. Your team might be able to invest in ABM to create initial engagement, but lack of time and resources means you have to revert to a generalized approach after first contact.

Eliminate the Tradeoff: Tech Makes Scalable Personalized Experiences Possible

Companies like Drift are making it possible for sales and marketing teams to create individually personalized experiences at scale, allowing you to unlock the rewards of personalization without sacrificing your ability to get your message to a wider audience.

By removing the limits on the scalability of personalized content, your team can quickly accelerate revenue growth and vastly increase ROI on personalized messaging. With the right technology, you can expand your ability to create individually personalized experiences without expanding your team or time commitment.

With Drift, ROI on personalized messaging is skyrocketing. Lessonly, a training and coaching software recently acquired by Seismic, is using Drift to help their SDRs create and engage prospects with personalized experiences at the perfect moment. Since adopting this approach, Lessonly is experiencing a 400% higher conversion rate to demos.

WebPT, a leading physical therapy software, uses Drift to increase ROI of their digital advertising campaigns. By using Drift to increase the relevance of their landing pages, WebPT was able to vastly increase their monthly recurring revenue from leads coming from Google and Bing ads. Companies are using Drift in all areas of their marketing and sales process to increase conversion rates, improve efficiency, and grow revenue. In fact, companies that use Drift can experience up to 670% ROI over three years.

Unlimited Scalability for Personalized Sales Teams

Custom chatbots allow you to greet website visitors with a personalized conversation starter. Chatbots can create an engaging conversation by taking into account a potential customer’s previous interaction with your company, how they navigated to your site, and their areas of interest. Chatbots can book meetings, making it easy for you to schedule with prospects even if all your sales reps are asleep.

Commvault, a global leader in data management and protection for enterprise companies, increased their new business revenue by 105% using Drift chat.

Drift can also send alerts that notify sales reps when a target account has clicked through to your website, allowing your reps to instantly engage. If no sales reps are immediately available, chatbots can work alongside your sales team, providing personalized experiences while still giving reps the opportunity to jump into the conversation with highly-targeted accounts. Chatbots can further help out sales reps by dismissing unqualified prospects. Enabling a chatbot to participate in this approach makes the individually personalized experience scalable as the number of visitors to your website grows.

This is the challenge Okta faced as its enterprise grew internationally. Okta’s website gets more than a million unique visitors each month. Helping each of these buyers address their needs by manpower alone isn’t possible. To scale, Okta needed an intelligent platform that could answer questions — just like their best SDRs do. So they turned to Drift’s Conversational AI.

Artificial Intelligence is on the Rise 

Your marketing and sales teams are eager to adopt AI into their approach. Based on the 2022 State of Marketing AI Report, 51% of marketers said that AI will be very important or critically important to their success in the coming year, and 67% of marketers are starting to explore use cases for AI. Sales teams are also implementing AI into their sales strategies: In 2020, 54% of sales teams were using AI compared to just 21% in 2018. We expect this number to grow because AI adoption is paying off. High-performing sales teams are 4.9x more likely to be integrating AI into their sales approach.

Drift’s Conversational AI is one way that sales teams are incorporating AI into their go-to-market strategy. Drift’s Conversational AI uses AI to engage potential customers at any time of the day. AI chatbots can mimic the personal experience of interacting with a sales rep, allowing you to grow the capacity of your sales team without hiring and onboarding any more reps. Through an AI-driven personalized conversation, AI chatbots can determine which website visitors are unqualified, allowing sales teams to exclusively focus their time on booking meetings with qualified leads.

This is one way that using AI chatbots lower your cost of investment while creating better returns and increasing the efficiency of your sales teams. In fact, Drift chatbots are increasing the efficiency of sales reps by up to 50%.

Scalable personalization is opening up a world of opportunity for outbound sales strategy, too. Sales reps can create interactive components within their outreach emails, giving them the opportunity to jump in with a personalized approach at the exact moment the prospect is interacting with their email. Of course, if the sales rep is not available, a chatbot is ready to carry on the personalized experience.

PTC, a digital solutions platform for the manufacturing industry, has been incredibly successful in implementing AI into their sales approach. Before, PTC required potential buyers to complete a form to determine if the potential buyer was a qualified lead. Sales teams would often follow up with qualified leads one or two days later. This rigid approach caused their pipeline development to slow down and stall. After implementing an AI-driven approach called an ROI Engine, PTC could easily identify qualified potential buyers and instantly engage them with targeted messaging. This AI approach allowed PTC to engage prospects in 20,000 conversations, a sizable increase from their previous approach. Further, PTC now converts marketing qualified leads four times faster than before. 

A New World of Insights

By eliminating the traditional “fill out a form and wait to be contacted method” and replacing it with a personalized conversation starter, sales teams can more quickly gain insights into the key issues in which prospects are interested. Technology like Drift Audiences can collect information in real-time, reducing the need for sales reps to gather and maintain prospect information.

Through website analytics, you can discover new people that are interested in your business. A more traditional approach would leave you unaware that key decision-makers at a target account have started visiting your website. Now, you can build out a personalized outreach strategy to engage these interested prospects. Marketers are also using AI-driven insights to create more effective ABM strategies. 40% of marketers say that AI is allowing them to get more actionable insights from marketing data, and this number is quickly growing as more marketers adapt to AI.

Don’t Lose Momentum Created by ABM Strategies

With ABM, you avoid wasting time attracting unqualified leads with generalized marketing strategies. However, most of the time ABM personalization ends after the initial engagement is made, and the sales process becomes generic once again.

Now, you can continue to build on the momentum of ABM with a chatbot to keep the conversation personal. If a targeted account arrives on your website when no BDRs are active, the chatbot can make sure the target prospect is still greeted with a personalized experience. ABM is a high investment marketing strategy. Make sure this investment doesn’t go to waste by maintaining the personalized experience after initial contact is made.

Okta has become vastly more successful in converting marketing qualifying leads to pipeline since adding Drift’s AI chatbots to its sales and marketing team. With AI, Okta’s conversion rate from marketing qualifying leads to sales qualified leads is two times higher.

Skyrocketing ROI

Personalized messaging and ABM are significant investments for sales and marketing teams. While personalized messaging often pays off, lack of scalability means the cost of investment is sometimes too high. With technology, you can increase the effectiveness of your personalized messaging while decreasing the cost of investment, making your ROI skyrocket.

Technology is creating a new world where you no longer have to choose between deeply personalized content and scalability. A technology-driven approach to building personalized buyer experiences is making it possible to scale individually personalized messaging and accelerate revenue growth. That’s what we call a win-win.

To start building your personalized content at scale, book a demo with Drift.

Personalization That Feels Personal

Canned responses and generic email templates are out. Personalization that's personal is in.