2014 – The Year of Contextual Marketing

You may have noticed a lot of buzz about contextual marketing. The rise of the term “context marketing” has largely been spurred by the launch of HubSpot’s Content Optimization System (COS). The COS is part content management system, part personalization system. COS essentially enables marketers to serve targeted content based on a website visitor’s lifecycle stage and previous engagement with marketing content. If you believe that content is king, well, context is essentially the kingdom.

Your website attracts people from a variety of industries, with differing experience levels, job titles and customer lifecycle stages. Marketers create targeted blog posts, landing pages, and email campaigns, yet, websites remain largely static.

HubSpot’s COS is transforming how marketers deliver a personalized website experience. Based on a visitors past behaviour and engagement with website content marketers can dynamically display targeted content, images, forms and calls-to-action based on any number of criteria including a visitors:

  • Interests
  • Job title
  • Industry
  • Customer lifecycle stage

HubSpot has dubbed this ability to dynamically serve content “Smart Content”. The COS platform aims to give marketers the tools to deliver a dynamic, targeted and personalized web experience.

The COS works in similar fashion to the way ecommerce giants like eBay or Amazon display links for products that “People also viewed” or that are “Suggested for you”. For example, if a lead has expressed interest in a certain model of car, then the “You May Also Like…” module can dynamically change to show the preferences of that person. Displaying personalized content makes it that much easier for website visitors to take the next step and download a whitepaper, sign up for a free trial or go for a test drive. To see an example of HubSpot’s COS in action take a look at our recent blog post: Inbound Marketing for SaaS Companies – How the New HubSpot COS Can Help.

There is an endless list of use cases for the COS platform. Here are a few ideas for using HubSpot’s smart content features to align your content with your visitors’ traits:
Align content based on interests

  • Show content about a specific product or service a visitor has expressed is interested in
  • Surface content that nurtures leads down the sales funnel for a specific offering
  • Cross-sell complementary products or services

Align content based on job title

  • Aligned content to a visitor’s level of expertise
  • Answer the questions leads in certain job roles typically have

Align content based on industry

  • Display customer logos or case studies that align to a visitors industry
  • Create specific messaging that highlight specific use cases or values of your product or service for specific industries
  • Highlight industry trends
  • Show testimonials from notable industry opinion leaders

Align content based on customer lifecycle stage

  • Use Smart content to nurture leads through the customer lifecycle
  • Encourage current customers to access training courseware or downloadable resources
  • Encourage customer advocacy

While the launch of HubSpot’s COS marks a significant step forward towards end-to-end marketing personalization, there are some technical limitations that you should be aware of. HubSpot has positioned the COS to be easily accessible for people with limited design and technical skills. As a result, the system lacks some advanced website functionality that many larger organizations require.  Unlike the open source flexibility of WordPress, COS is a closed-source system. This means that you are limited to the platform’s off-the-shelf capabilities and integrations. At this point, WordPress is still a better fit for organizations looking to build more robust websites. However, in the right applications, HubSpot’s COS can certainly be the answer.

There is no doubt that contextual marketing capabilities will revolutionize the way marketers deliver personalized customer experiences online. And HubSpot’s COS offers a glimpse into what that will look like in 2014 and beyond. Expect to see competitive product offerings go head-to-head with HubSpot’s COS, bringing contextual marketing to the mainstream in 2014 and redefining the standard of website user experience.

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