What Kind of B2B Marketing Personalization Gets Results?

When it comes to B2B marketing personalization, most marketers believe the more personalized your message, the better your results.

Our research backs this up. 58 percent of B2B marketers we surveyed believed the highest effort personalization method is the most effective approach.

This means marketers are spending countless hours researching every detail about their prospects—everything from industry trends to company challenges to what they ate for lunch.

But is all that personalization truly necessary? And, more importantly, is it working?

All that account research comes at a cost, after all. Response rates for your email campaign should justify or, best case, outweigh your effort. Otherwise, you’re wasting your time, resources, and dollars on personalization that shows little to no return.

So, where’s the sweet spot? How much personalization is too much? And what kind of personalization actually drives action?

That’s what we set out to discover in our latest study.

The Marketing Personalization Study

In a live field test using our own prospects and messages, we targeted 7000 names in our database that met the following conditions:

  1. Each prospect was an ice-cold prospect; that is, an individual who had had no prior interaction with Corporate Visions
  2. Each prospect fit our ideal client profile in terms of vertical market, company size, and title

Next, we constructed a set of emails that contained identical offers and calls to action, but different subject lines and openings based on the personalization method.

The conditions for this experiment were as follows:

  • Industry only: We modified the subject line and opening to include a relevant industry insight
  • Company only: We researched the company’s annual report and press releases to find a unique angle
  • Personal + Industry: We added personal details to the industry-specific email
  • Personal + Company: We added personal details to the company-specific email

Get our latest eBook to see examples of the four emails we sent.

The Most Successful B2B Marketing Personalization

We tracked the results of these email campaigns over the course of one quarter, with surprising results.

Open rates showed a clear winner: individually personalized content. The emails that combined personal and company information clearly outperformed all other categories with a 26.17 percent open rate. And the industry-only personalization came in last, with a 20.11 percent open rate.


Now, as any savvy marketer knows, open rates are not the most valuable metric to track. Click-through rate is a better indicator of interest, attention, and lead quality. And those numbers told a very different story.

In fact, the click-through results were reversed. Personalizing by industry (without personal details) returned a 24 percent higher click-through rate than the company + personal details treatment.


Meaning Behind the Numbers

These numbers pose a fascinating question: Why would someone be interested enough to open an email, but then be turned off enough to not click through?

We have a theory.

People may initially open an email that appears personal. But when they discover it’s only a clever gimmick to grab their attention, they become skeptical, and the let-down factor is enough to prevent them from taking any further action.

On the other hand, most businesspeople are curious about what the competition is doing. When you share a story about how a similar company struggled and solved a common industry concern, you activate their voyeurism, and they’re better able to project themselves into the story. They may even be eager to find out what happened next.

In other words, you can never really be an expert about the inner workings of someone else’s company. But when you position yourself as an expert in their industry, you’re offering new knowledge and insights in a way that avoids any feelings of skepticism.

It’s easy to spend your time on granular research that never turns into revenue. But don’t lose sight of the goal of your personalization strategy: to win more business.

As this study proves, you may not need to hyper-personalize every piece of communication. When you focus on the approach that drives the most meaningful results, you’re able to scale more quickly and effortlessly—while delivering even better results to your sales teams.

Get our latest eBook, It’s Not Business… it’s Personal: Putting Personalization to the (Field) Test, to see the full results and example emails from the study.

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Tim Riesterer

Chief Strategy Officer

Tim Riesterer, Chief Strategy Officer at Corporate Visions, is dedicated to helping companies improve their conversations with prospects and customers to win more business. A visionary researcher, thought leader, keynote speaker, and practitioner with more than 20 years of experience in marketing and sales management, Riesterer is co-author of four books, including Customer Message Management, Conversations that Win the Complex Sale, The Three Value Conversations, and The Expansion Sale.

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