Pre-personalization-is-a-thingContextual content marketing is a top agenda item of sophisticated marketers. Delivering content that targets the immediate need of the person looking for information is technically possible. The value of these experiences, however, is dependent upon the quality of the strategy that informs the underlying content architecture that drives these content moments.

While most platform companies tell a good story about the automation of the “plumbing” of contextual content, they tend to downplay the hard manual labor that goes into getting ready to automate. We call this phase “pre-personalization”.

It generally involves:

  • Identifying all roles in the purchase decision
  • Gathering deep persona knowledge, including how they make decisions, where and how they gather information, and whom they trust for insights and ratification
  • Conducting multiple purchase journeys based on common buyer use cases
  • Developing or updating key brand messages or selling themes
  • Applying topic modeling framework to uncover emerging subjects and areas of interest for various buyers, industries or sectors
  • Using multiple inputs to create a federated profile at the person level to inform individual content needs
  • Developing an enterprise content roadmap
  • Creating a taxonomy that allows content delivery at multiple points in the buying journey
  • Mapping current content publishing processes to bring efficiencies to the system
  • Determining the best organizational structure and skill sets required for optimized publishing model

While not exhaustive, this checklist comprises an overarching roadmap for personalization readiness. Most organizations have some of these items crossed off the list, but most either have multiple gaps or have failed to organize the information in a cohesive fashion. Pieces and parts are often created by different groups and no one is riding herd to corral the information and organize it into a deeper, richer story.

Often, organizations default to the easy answer: purchase a platform and start cranking out content. While there are many great platforms, the tools and templates that they provide can be overly simple. These worksheets sometimes don’t surface enough information or don’t account for the interdependencies of multiple decision-makers. In addition, the buyer’s journey is too linear and general.

It can seem daunting to attack the pre-personalization punch list. It takes a senior sponsor to get the organization to “press pause”, consider what great looks like and collaboratively coalesce around the goal of getting there. Bringing in an outside facilitator to help map current processes, identify gaps and create a work plan, is an approach that helps breakdown siloes and prioritizes actions.

This eBook, Ten Steps to Building a Brand Publishing Center of Excellence, gives a good overview of the process and what it takes to become a world-class brand publisher. As background, over 300 CMOs were either interviewed or surveyed. Over 75% agreed that managing content is an organizational challenge; not a technology solution. First come processes and skills to drive content excellence. 92% of the CMOs believe that personalized content experiences will drive value, shorten the sales cycle and deepen customer affinity. The first step is to deliver personalized web experiences followed by customized experiences for defined accounts. Without the pre-personalization work described above, organizations will fall behind in differentiating their brands and managing the complexity of a personalized world.

Cheryl Treleaven

Cheryl Treleaven


Engaging your customers is at the heart of successful marketing programs. For more than 20 years, Cheryl has been building and executing content and thought leadership strategies designed to do just that. She is excited to be applying that well-honed skill to a help companies like Microsoft, Cisco, 3M, Intel, Capital One and Barclaycard tap into their stakeholder communities and build sophisticated content strategies.

Her experience base spans a range of industries – from technology and financial services to retail, travel, consumer products and healthcare. Cheryl has served as an integral member of her clients’ marketing teams, providing counsel on marketing and brand strategy, thought leadership, media relations, product introductions, and event management.

Prior to joining ComBlu, Cheryl spent 10 years leading corporate marketing for large, complex organizations.