38 min read

HubSpot Personalization Strategies That Aren’t Totally Creepy (HubHeroes, Ep. 75)


Personalization in inbound marketing (email, smart content, and more) can be a powerful thing – in fact recent data shows that 80% of buyers prefer brands that use personalization. And 90% of marketers say that personalization significantly contributes to achieving sales and other business objectives.

🔎 Related: HubSpot email marketing strategy best practices we love (HubHeroes Podcast)

But the line between successful personalization that fosters meaningful connections and buyer engagement, and personalization that is off-putting and downright creepy is a very, very thin one. Of course, HubSpot itself provides a ton of personalization features and capabilities – some are obvious, like the naming tokens you can use in emails and smart content. Some are not so obvious and, quite frankly, criminally overlooked.

So, this week, the whole gang is here and we’re throwing ourselves down the personalization rabbit hole. We talk about what folks are getting right with personalization, what so many of us are getting wrong, what most inbounders are totally missing with personalization opportunities, and how to maximize your personalization capabilities in HubSpot.

But, you know, without being a total creeper. There's a fine line between helpful and Big Brother, folks.

What We Talked About

  • How effective is personalization really, from our perspectives as both marketers and consumers?
  • What are some of your favorite examples of personalization you’ve either created or experienced?
  • Where do you draw the line between personalization that is CHEF’S KISS perfect and Big Brother Creepy?
  • George loves to say, "Keep it human, not creepy," but what the heck does that mean?
  • What's the difference between "declared" and "undeclared" consumer preferences, and why does it matter to the privacy and personalization conversation?
  • What are some of the most common mistakes you see folks make with personalization, particularly when using HubSpot?
  • What are your favorite ways to use HubSpot to create exceptional personalization experiences?
  • In what ways do we encourage inbounders to think about personalization differently in 2024? Has anything changed about personalization in the past few years?

And so much more ... 

Additional Resources

[00:00:00] George B. Thomas: I mean, I was torn if I wanted to hear it this week or if I wanted to shut it off. And then I was like, well, I guess I'll leave it play. And then it played for a while and I was like, well, there's no sense in shutting off now. And actually I just kind of got confused over the last 35 seconds. So

[00:00:17] Liz Moorehead: George, do you need a hug?

[00:00:19] Max Cohen: he needs a, he needs a potato.

[00:00:21] George B. Thomas: Maybe, I, yes. Oh, or if I, if there, could I have a life size potato that I could just like walk over to every so often in my office and just give it a hug? And like, hug the potato? That would be 

[00:00:33] Liz Moorehead: this is the benefit this is the benefit of folks like Chad who join us every week, uh, in the

[00:00:38] Max Cohen: Love Chad.

[00:00:39] Liz Moorehead: audience when we recorded this. We we Love you, man. If you ever

want to hang out with us, community. hubheroes. com, you

can always watch us live because he got the, he always sees like the chaotic Gremlin energy that we

[00:00:52] George B. Thomas: The weird 

[00:00:53] Liz Moorehead: with before we even get to the show. The theme song because my favorite thing that is already in the chat pane is how hard is it to become a potato? I don't think it's that difficult. George, you have different

[00:01:05] Max Cohen: I just, I just, I just wanted to see Chad's 

[00:01:07] Liz Moorehead: what happens when Devin isn't here.

[00:01:10] Max Cohen: I just wanted to see, I just wanted to see Chad's face when the live flipped on and we were literally just saying, yeah, no, you could become a potato for an entire week. Chat is probably like, why, why am I 

[00:01:20] Liz Moorehead: not that hard. 

[00:01:21] Max Cohen: I have important roofing, roofing company projects to deploy HubSpot to.

And I'm listening about how George could become a potato for a week. What's happened? Hehehehe Hehehehe Hehehehe Hehehehe 

[00:01:34] Liz Moorehead: head into the starch hub coming soon from HubSpot, you become a 

[00:01:39] Max Cohen: Hehehe 

[00:01:41] George B. Thomas: the starch hub. Like now see, I'm getting like an infographic, like HubSpot sales infographic of like the starch hub and these like little spuds on their couch. And like, anyway, let's, let's actually talk 

[00:01:54] Liz Moorehead: of all the potato personalization opportunities. Oh, so much potato

personalization. See what I did there? Do you see what I did there? That's called a 

[00:02:04] George B. Thomas: the thing.

Yeah, that is a good segue, but now for some reason I'm thinking about Arby's sauce and curly fries and I'm not sure why. I'm 

[00:02:13] Liz Moorehead: George, did you forget to eat lunch today?

[00:02:15] Max Cohen: Hehehe

[00:02:16] George B. Thomas: Oh, I did not eat lunch today. I thank you for reminding me of that.

[00:02:19] Max Cohen: This literally we were talking about this when we hopped on George's like, how you doing? And I just go, I'm hungry. And no.

[00:02:26] George B. Thomas: was Max's first words, by the way.

[00:02:28] Liz Moorehead: Okay, well,

[00:02:30] Max Cohen: a baby, 

[00:02:30] Liz Moorehead: know what we're not talking about today? Food. We're talking about personalization.

[00:02:35] Max Cohen: All right, I'm out.

[00:02:36] Liz Moorehead: Peace, Max. It was good to see you. No, I'm excited

[00:02:40] Max Cohen: gonna head out. 

[00:02:41] Liz Moorehead: because George, you and I started talking about this earlier this week. And Max, even after you were talking about the fact that you were unfed and unloved, you did say you had a little twinkle in your eye about this topic.

Cause this week we're talking about HubSpot personalization strategies that are influential instead of just not. Totally flippin creepy. And I want to share two stats as we open up today's conversation. One, 80 percent of buyers prefer brands that use personalization. And 90 percent of marketers say that personalization significantly contributes to achieving sales and other business objectives.

But here's where it gets a little bit. Tricky. There is a very, very thin line between successful personalization that fosters meaningful connections and buyer engagement and stuff that is like off putting and makes me feel wildly uncomfortable and questioning whether or not the call is coming from inside the house. We wanted to have this conversation 

today because HubSpot provides. A ton of personalization features and capabilities. Some are obvious, right? Like the naming tokens, you can use an 

email and other places, but 

some are not so obvious and also criminally overlooked. so this 

week. We are throwing ourselves down the personalization rabbit hole. We are going to be talking about what folks are getting right with personalization, what so many of us are getting wrong, 

and the fact that Devin just joined us and now the world is a happy place and I feel so much better. We're going to take a moment. Yeah, Devin, what's up?

[00:04:09] George B. Thomas: Yes.

[00:04:10] Liz Moorehead: We're also going to be talking about what most inbounders are 


[00:04:13] Devyn Bellamy: what's up? What's up? 

[00:04:14] Liz Moorehead: boy? How you doing? 

You good? Look at that big smile. Look at that big smile. 

[00:04:22] Devyn Bellamy: I'm excited. I'm 

I like personalization. It's such a 

fun topic. 

It's, it's one of my favorite 

[00:04:30] Max Cohen: Oh, 

[00:04:30] George B. Thomas: Oh, there we go.

[00:04:31] Max Cohen: We're going to get a 

good personalization polo rant today. 

[00:04:35] George B. Thomas: seconds. And yeah. 

[00:04:40] Liz Moorehead: takes dropping from the sky. Everybody take cover. So, gentlemen. 

Let's go ahead and get into this conversation. I opened it up with a couple of maybe potentially persuasive data points about personalization, but I want to hear your 

takes, either as a marketer or as a consumer when you're off the clock. How effective is personalization for you? I'm going to open the 

floor, whoever wants to jump in.

[00:05:03] Devyn Bellamy: Personalization is highly effective when done correctly. I'm not going to go down that rabbit hole yet. I'm just going to say it's highly effective for me. Uh, when, uh, both as a marketer and a consumer as a marketer, it's highly effective for me. Um, because it helps me guide my content, um, strategy as well as, uh, create, uh, enablement materials and other things that are, uh, collaterals geared specifically towards those people.

But then also as a consumer, uh, I like it because my time is valuable and I don't like irrelevant things. Um, So it's always fun to be surfing on someone else's Facebook 

scroll and seeing what their ads are. And just 

imagining if that's all I saw on my phone, 

I'd be So 


[00:05:56] Max Cohen: Yeah. 

[00:05:58] George B. Thomas: So I, I like personalization. I think personalization is effective. 


when it doesn't look like. Smell like, or taste like 


[00:06:13] Max Cohen: Yeah.

[00:06:13] Devyn Bellamy: it's stalking. 

[00:06:14] Max Cohen: it's an invasion of privacy, right? Um, you know, personalization, I think it's so interesting. Like I'm, I think I'm much more interested in personalizing experiences versus. personalizing communication, right, which sometimes can go hand in hand, right. But, you know, I feel like a lot of people go, Oh, I made the email say hi, first name, I heard that you're an X industry.

And that's where they stop. Right. And that's also where I think, you know, when you're not doing it carefully, right, and you're just kind of relying on that being the extent that you take it, you also introduce all of these, like, Really great opportunities to, uh, embarrass the hell out of your salespeople and turn their crappy outreaching to email into a funny LinkedIn post that someone else, you know, goes and blazes them online for.

So, you know, I, I think it should be, you gotta be careful when you're doing it, right? You want to make sure it's not shoddy. You want to make sure it's thoughtful and you want to start asking yourself the question, like, how can I. How can I shift this person's experience and deliver more relevant content, not just words that I think are relevant to somebody, you know, in an email template, right?

Um, and we just got to do more with like smart content on HubSpot and stuff like that, which also you can get really, really creepy if you do it wrong. Like I'd freak out if I went to a website and it said, Hi, Max, I'd be like, Yeah, see you later. Clear history, 

[00:07:44] Liz Moorehead: Hi, Max, have you eaten lunch today? We know you haven't.

[00:07:47] George B. Thomas: yeah, unless, unless you had logged in. And it was like the greeting that you expected, because that's the other thing, like, if it's personalization that I expect to happen, then that's also where I think it's really effective.

[00:08:02] Max Cohen: Will you,

[00:08:02] Liz Moorehead: gosh. I'm taking a look at our chat right now. And Chad is talking about 1 of the not so great examples. He's seen 1 of our customers had an automated sequence that emailed the exact same email template to their customer in the same email thread 7 times in a row.

It was personalized with their 1st name though.

So that's good.

[00:08:20] Max Cohen: listen, if there's one thing we like here, it's persistence.

[00:08:23] George B. Thomas: yeah.

[00:08:24] Max Cohen: It's consistent. We call that consistency.

[00:08:27] Liz Moorehead: want to take no for an answer. No. Well, what are some of our favorite examples of personalization that you've either created or experienced?

[00:08:35] Max Cohen: I've said this a thousand times in the show, but like one of the best things that I think you can do right away is smart content on your homepage when customers show up versus prospects. I mean, think about it when people come to your site, they want to be able to get helped super quickly, right? They don't want to just another Avenue of someone trying to sell them something that they already own.

So it's like, listen, uh, you know, if you've got the opportunity to change that CTA button from get in touch with sales to go to our knowledge base or get in touch with support, do that right away. Right? Like, you know, when people have problems and they go, oh, crap, I gotta go deal with this again. They like to self solve.

They're going to go to their website. And if all they're kind of faced with is, Hey, buy this thing again. You've already bought. You're just putting barriers in the way of like changing that person's experience to get what they need quicker based on the context of what you know about them. Right? So that's my favorite one.

Just, just make it easy for your customers to get to the customer people, not the folks trying to sell them again.

[00:09:30] George B. Thomas: So, Max, I love that yours was external, because I'm actually going to flip the coin over and go the exact opposite way. literally working with a client earlier this week. And first of all, let me back up for a second. Ladies and gentlemen, anything that you put into HubSpot as a property, default or custom property can be a personalization token.

Therefore, meaning if we're talking about communication, it can be fed back into said communication. Now, That other thing I'll add onto this as a layer is most people, when they think about personalization, they think about what they can do to somebody on the exterior of the team. And what we did is actually created a dope internal notification using personalization tokens to deliver exactly what a particular lady in the organization needed at exactly what time.

exactly the right time. She needed it. Therefore, she didn't have to go dig and look. She just got this notification. It wasn't a default HubSpot notification. And it was very specific to seven pieces of information that she needed to see every time somebody made a purchase in their organization. And that's, that's deletion, but it's internal deletion, right?

It's how can you use personalization to make my life easier as an employee of your organization?

[00:10:48] Liz Moorehead: Say deletion one more time, please. Just

[00:10:50] George B. Thomas: Well, if I'm going to do that, I should probably be like delightion of 

[00:10:54] Liz Moorehead: Oh my god. 

[00:10:55] George B. Thomas: humans.

[00:10:56] Liz Moorehead: I have, oh,

[00:10:58] Max Cohen: I'm feeling so delighted right now.

[00:11:00] George B. Thomas: if we're going to throw it out there, we might as well just throw it out

[00:11:03] Max Cohen: I'm feeling, I'm feeling sufficiently deloished at the moment.

[00:11:06] George B. Thomas: I'm delighted. 

I'm trying not to 

[00:11:08] Liz Moorehead: are you feeling 

[00:11:09] Max Cohen: save us!

[00:11:09] George B. Thomas: now.

[00:11:10] Liz Moorehead: are you feeling Devon? Are you just politely abstaining from making a comment on white people? Nonsense. 

[00:11:15] Max Cohen: Devin, Devin Deloished Bellamy over

[00:11:17] George B. Thomas: Oh, we're getting canceled. Is that an edit? I don't know if that's an 

[00:11:21] Liz Moorehead: No, you can leave that in because we're ridiculous. We're ridiculous. It's fine. We are full of nonsense. Anyway, 

[00:11:28] Devyn Bellamy: the thing is, 

[00:11:30] Liz Moorehead: we're good. 

[00:11:31] Devyn Bellamy: if I, if I 

call the salad, every time something 

like that happened, 

we, we would never get anything done really. So 

[00:11:38] Liz Moorehead: that's some constructive feedback I wasn't ready for. Okay. But fair. Fair. 

[00:11:43] Devyn Bellamy: you guys 

[00:11:44] Liz Moorehead: Let's talk more about romantic comedies. Anyway, I'm just kidding. Devon, do you have any favorite examples of personalization that you've either created or experienced? 


[00:11:52] Devyn Bellamy: I absolutely do. Um, It's just, it's so interesting to me. The, um, Netflix thumbnail algorithm is my favorite, uh, bit of personalization. So the way it works is that Netflix, uh, will go through every single frame of, of a movie, uh, and then identify, you know, what's in it, and then they'll pick out the ones, uh, that are, um, most impactful as thumbnails.

But then they will 

take different thumbnails for different 

people because they think that they'll react for you. So my 

Netflix does not look like your Netflix

even though they're showing the 

[00:12:35] Liz Moorehead: why every picture is Henry Cavill on mine.

This makes a lot

of sense. This makes 

[00:12:38] George B. Thomas: Yeah, go figure. 

[00:12:39] Max Cohen: Me too. I was wondering why.

[00:12:41] George B. Thomas: but it's funny, Devin, cause you're, you're mentioning that. And I, again, I go back to when you don't know that it is actually personalization because you can't see the other 17 or 17, 000 people that it's happening to. But like, and, and when we dive into that, we really don't know what's happening, but it's happening.

Same thing with things like Amazon's product recommendations. Like it's just happening based off of things that we've done to make our life easier. Um, Spotify's I love Spotify. I'm jamming out all the time when I'm working. The discovery weekly is based on like our listening habits. Um, Starbucks mobile app has things in there.

Like my daughters, they love Sephora, right? Because Sephora's beauty insider is literally a thing where it's pretty. Personalization at its best based on that. And like, uh, there's just so many different ways that in our life, there is this personalization that is more of experience, some of communication that is just naturally happening.

And so it's frustrating when we get on with so many humans and, and Max, you joked about it, but dang gum, if it ain't true, I used first thing today. Who the, who can, but, you know, like it's, it's just, it can be so much more. But, but you have to have your ish together for it to be so much more too though.

[00:14:01] Max Cohen: And it's like a lot of people are picking up. 

[00:14:02] Liz Moorehead: Selim pointed, go ahead, Max, 

[00:14:05] Max Cohen: was gonna say a lot of people are like picking up on those, you know Uh low effort personalization tactics and it's becoming just an easy sort of like indicator that oh this person's trying to sell something to me Right, like think about like you all one We don't really email our friends anymore.

But like when you email, you know, uh, uh a co worker Do you ever say, you know, Hey, Liz, like I've got like what, you know, and people always thought it's like, Oh man, if they see someone's name in it, they'll think it's like a friend or it'll catch their attention. But now we're just in a mode where marketers ruined it like we do many other things.

And we just instantly go, Oh, I see my name in a subject line. Instant, instant delete, right? Instant not open. You know, see you later, buddy.

[00:14:46] George B. Thomas: So wait, 

[00:14:47] Liz Moorehead: Selim brought up. to, 

[00:14:49] George B. Thomas: oh, well hang on. You, go, go to sleep in a second because I have to unpack something that just happened. Max said that we don't email our friends, but when we go to email our co workers, are your co workers not your friends, bro? Like, what is, what is happening in that statement you just made of, like, who you are willing to email and who you're not willing to email just

[00:15:10] Max Cohen: George, shut the 

[00:15:11] Liz Moorehead: in all caps just said no. We're all friends here. Everyone is happy.

[00:15:17] George B. Thomas: Illy.

[00:15:18] Liz Moorehead: we all happy?

[00:15:19] Max Cohen: Yeah, we're happily, baby.

[00:15:22] Liz Moorehead: Everyone's fine. Everyone

[00:15:24] George B. Thomas: We're good. Now, let's get to Salim. Okay, let's do it.

[00:15:27] Liz Moorehead: My God, I got porcelain. So first of all, let's just go back to his answer to your question, George, just now, aren't you friends with you? His was a resounding no, in all caps. So there's that.

Uh, what was interesting is he brought up something. He brought up an interesting point about the Netflix algorithm, which has said there has been some quote unquote bad oopsies in the past because it's brought up some profiling microaggressions, let's just say,

so personalization can have a

dark side to it.

Now, the other thing that he brought up that I. That was fascinating is that he said in a world of algorithms, I personally want some control over the personalization that I receive. So George, I see you nodding along and we got an amen from Max. George, talk to me about why you're nodding along with that.

What, what is resonating with you there?

[00:16:19] George B. Thomas: Well, what's resonating is I love that. And I don't think most people are thinking of that, right? Like, honestly, is there a setting I can go to in the back of HubSpot that allows me to, um, uh, really intensive, uh, personalization or very minimal personalization or better yet, is there something on my website or the experiences I provide outside of the website where, you The users can actually say, well, this is how much I'm willing to embrace personalization or even want it versus not want it.

Like there's, there's, I can't go to Netflix and be like, beep, give me default mode. Cause I don't want your algorithm to run on me. Like it just, like, I don't have a choice. And so that's why I was shaking my head of like, yeah, it's always a big win when you can give people the keys to their kingdom back.

And if it's the keys to how much they want or don't want the personalization that you're providing, I think that's a good direction to go.

[00:17:17] Max Cohen: Can I, can I, can I present a paradox? I dunno if it's a paradox. I don't really know what paradox means. Um,

[00:17:24] George B. Thomas: Hang on. I'll look it up while you're doing whatever you're going to do.

[00:17:27] Liz Moorehead: our brains, do it, Max, do it, do

it, do it. 

[00:17:30] Max Cohen: I do, I really wanna see ads that aren't relevant to me.

[00:17:33] George B. Thomas: Maybe. If it's the right ad, like imagine if

[00:17:36] Max Cohen: well, how could it be the right ad?

[00:17:38] George B. Thomas: dope hats, right? And then all of a sudden you got this ad and you went out and you bought like the latest and greatest Rev Ops God hat because it was like an ad for a hat that you didn't know you needed. Then it was valuable, but you didn't know, necessarily know that you didn't want to see it,

[00:17:56] Max Cohen: wouldn't that mean that it's relevant to me?

[00:17:58] George B. Thomas: but it not like, well, Ooh,

[00:18:02] Max Cohen: right? Like, why would I want to see?

[00:18:04] Liz Moorehead: very interesting.

[00:18:05] Max Cohen: I'm just saying, why would I want to see ads about like, I don't know, horseshoes? Like, like, you know, just

[00:18:11] George B. Thomas: it's a good game, bro.

[00:18:12] Max Cohen: it's

[00:18:13] George B. Thomas: slow your

[00:18:13] Max Cohen: true, true. But like, you know, I get the, I get the argument of like, you know, I want to be in control of my data. Yeah. But I also think about my experience online, and I'm a consumer just like anyone else.

I like to buy things. And I guess if presented of the choice of, hey, when you go on online, you will get completely out of left field ads that mean absolutely nothing to you, or ads about stuff you might actually care about. I feel like I would choose the second option, right? I'm not saying it's 

[00:18:44] Liz Moorehead: it gets really interesting. 

[00:18:46] Max Cohen: yeah. 

[00:18:47] Liz Moorehead: We're getting into the realm of declared preferences versus undeclared preferences. And this is something I ran into, not in something with personalization, but this example may talk about this a little bit. So back at a company when we used to do a newsletter, I wrote it three times a week.

It went out to 40, 000 active subscribers. We were messing around with. What it was going to look like visually, and we did an A B test, we were some of us were convinced, and this includes me that if there was relevant imagery, it would increase the engagement and click throughs to particular pieces of content that we were trying to drive people to, but there was this other group that said, Hey, we think actually, if we go with a more plain text, streamlined approach, and we take out, uh, the imagery that I think a lot of us got used to putting into our newsletters. We'd see better performance, like still use images if you have it, like in the intro and it's super relevant, but like, we're going to take out that everything has an image. What was funny is we ran a simultaneous test. We surveyed our readers and asked, do you prefer newsletters with images? Yes or no? It was a little bit more specific and they said, yes, we prefer images.

What was funny is that the AB test results, which we ran three times across three different 60 day periods. Came back, they would engage more and click more on the ones that were not. Image heavy the ones that were almost virtually plain text. So what's fascinating is particularly when we

start getting into privacy and data and to be fair and clear. I am a big fan of 

data privacy and I don't like massive corporations. Just selling my

stuff to everybody. But what's interesting is we

talk a lot about people saying, well, yeah, I don't want you to know anything about me. Well then a lot of the personalization that you do not realize is there, that is making you have a more tailored experience that you do not even realize, goes away. and once that goes away, then you get mad at the platform, because you're saying, well I'm not getting the You're not learning from me 

anymore. So it's that weird back and forth paradox that I think Max is talking about right? Where It's like, we say we want data privacy. We say we don't want these organizations to have access to all of our data.

We want more control, but I don't think we always understand how these 

different types of algorithms and personalization strategies really are happening at a micro level in ways we don't 

even realize. That, that's all I have to say, 

[00:21:15] George B. Thomas: So, so, it's interesting though. Like I, I, I want to, I want to,

man, there's just so much that fricking my, okay, come on brain, you can work, you can work. So

the, the thing that keeps like punching me in the back of my forehead is this idea of you don't want, you don't know what 

you. Want like, you. really 

don't know what you want.

You think, you know what you want, but you don't know 

what you want. And, and it's like, again, the secondary thing to this would be like, um, you know, everybody wanted a faster horse until they wanted a car, everybody wanted an MP, MP three player until they actually realized they wanted a phone. Like, like that's, it's all of these things where we think we understand what we would be best for us.

Until we realized we didn't know what would be best for us, or even we think we know how we act until somebody sheds light on this is actually how you act when you're doing the thing. So it's just, it's really weird. And so, by the way, Let me circle back around to I said, Max, I would look up paradox, um, for you because you're like, I don't even know what a paradox is.

A paradox is like a puzzle in a sentence. It's when you say something that sounds impossible or silly because it goes against itself. But if you think about it more, it can actually make sense or show you something true. So like, Is it confusing? Is it super insightful? Um, by the way, paradoxes are everywhere.

And there is a TEDx talk, by the way, of like several different paradoxes that we fall into or fall prey of almost every single day. Anyway, we'll leave paradox alone, but we've only 

[00:23:02] Liz Moorehead: it's a mystery, it's a mystery wrapped in a riddle, wrapped in an enigma,

[00:23:06] George B. Thomas: Yes. Yes. Yeah. Wrapped in a 

potato, though. It has to be in a 

[00:23:10] Liz Moorehead: Fantastic. 

[00:23:11] Max Cohen: Can we, can 

[00:23:11] Liz Moorehead: George, I want you to stay on The 

[00:23:13] Max Cohen: Paradox? 

[00:23:15] Liz Moorehead: A hundred percent we

can. A hundred percent we can. I love it. George, I want to keep you on the mic for a second.

So we've been talking about the, the paradoxes and the potatoes of

personalization. yeah. Absolutely. Absolutely. Oh my 

[00:23:27] George B. Thomas: The two 

[00:23:28] Liz Moorehead: That's the new paradoxes and potatoes.

[00:23:31] George B. Thomas: Yep.

[00:23:33] Liz Moorehead: we're getting at here is this idea of how do we, what is that line right between chef's kiss perfection of personalization, right? And keeping it from being big brother creepy. And you like to say when it comes to personalization, cause I've heard you say it on trainings.

I've heard you say it directly to me. You talk a lot about quote, keeping it human and not creepy. Can you explain what that means? And then I want to hear from the other guys, Max and Devon, about how you view that line between creepy and, and yay, we like it.

[00:24:05] George B. Thomas: Yeah. So it's, and hopefully this makes sense, but for me, there's like a definite, like a line that I think mentally I draw in the sand, um, or whatever. Maybe it's a piece of paper. I don't know, but I draw a line. And at the end of the day, when I think about personalization, when I go in to do things, whether it's experience or whether it's communication, uh, it could be a personalized video.

It could be a personalized email. It could, whatever it is. Um, there's this line of, am I, uh, what I am about to do, smart rule or personalization token. Is it leaning into me being more helpful? And actually helping them lean into the thing that we're trying to do, or is it just trying to be a blatant strategic like technique that I feel like I'm supposed to check a box on, or that I feel like I'm trying to get over on somebody with this thing that I'm doing and so really what I, what I kind of think of, if I simplify this for me is, Is it 

helpful or is it distracting to where they're going to go and what I need from them? And when I say, is it distracting from where they're going to go and what I need from them? What I need from them is trust. What I need for them is to move one step closer to where it is that's 

best for them. And if I try to do some weird, radical, 

personalized, smart rule that like freaks people out, by the way, you know, you can't be freaked out and trust somebody usually. 

It's just like, it's almost impossible. So is the thing that you're doing being helpful 

or is it being a disservice to you and the potential customer? This is how I would draw the line.

[00:25:58] Liz Moorehead: Devon and Max, what do you think? What do you draw on the 


[00:26:02] Devyn Bellamy: Yeah. So I have thoughts. My, my first thing is, um, when it's overly specific, there was a trend on Facebook a few years ago Where they will say a job, or they will say like, uh, they, they call me and then insert job title because blank, blank, ninja, ninja superstar, man, whatever it wasn't available or it's too long or something.

Um, and people thought, Oh wow, that's an oddly specific shirt about what I do. They were just drop shippers that were targeting like hyper specific. Um, job roles, uh, and they were doing the same thing with age. It's like yeah, I'm so cool. Cause I was born in 1980 and it's like, yeah, that's a great shirt, but it's like, wait, how did they know I was born in 1980 out of coincidence?

So, uh, when it's like overly specific and creepy when it's obvious, um, one of the things I, talk about with my LinkedIn is I have the hand waving in my name, um, because that. screws up A lot of people's aggregators and I love it. Uh, they'll just send me a thing and say, Hey, Devin, and you'll have the hand in it or the question marks.

Um, love that. Uh, so when it's obvious, uh, and then when they get it wrong, when the data is wrong in there, or they have the wrong personalization token in or the personalization token doesn't take. Um, but I think the worst is when, uh, when I'm finding that the data has been misused ever since that Cambridge Analytica stuff.

Uh, and just seeing how deep that rabbit hole went. Uh, that was, uh, that was scary because before then you didn't really think about data to that. extent, like people, when they thought about privacy, they're like, I don't care because they have nothing to hide. Um, and. On the flip side, they would say, well, if you don't want that data out there, don't put it out there.

Uh, And then, you know, you can take a step further and disconnect the microphones in your phone, like Edward Snowden. But, um, the fact of the matter is, is that just based on your activity, 

they can glean so much information. 

So that, that is 

terrifying. But at the 

same time, I do love my

[00:28:31] Max Cohen: Yeah, 

[00:28:32] George B. Thomas: See, and I'm, I'm now sad 

because from this day forward, I can no longer wear my 1971 is the best year ever shirt because what the frick? Like I didn't, do you mean they, that wasn't just for me? That was like for everybody. Like, 

[00:28:49] Liz Moorehead: Yes, because 1982 is the best year. I'm so sorry,

[00:28:52] George B. Thomas: See, no, that's not what I've heard. I've not heard that.

[00:28:55] Liz Moorehead: Purple.

[00:28:56] Devyn Bellamy: That was like, 1996 is where 

it's at.

[00:29:00] Max Cohen: me? I must just look so young and beautiful. I mean,

[00:29:05] Liz Moorehead: You know, Max, that's what it

is with both of 

  1. When are you going to drop that skincare routine, bro?

[00:29:10] Max Cohen: yeah, I remember, hold on, quick aside here. I remember the first time I met, like, Dax finally when we were over at, uh, Inbound. We were giving out, uh, ice cream pops to people in the hotel lobby after we had just, uh, acquired them. And I don't know where it came up, but we were talking

[00:29:26] George B. Thomas: Tony? You acquired him from Tony?

[00:29:29] Max Cohen: that was before, before we, before I met Tony, but we just had him in the lobby and there was just some lady talking to Dax and somehow they started talking about age and Dax said to her, uh, cause she was asking like how old we were or something.

And Dax goes, I'm 10 years his senior. And I look over at Dax. I'm like, Max, how old are you? He's like, I'm 38. I'm like, I'm 35, dude. Like, everyone thinks I'm like, a child. Like, I am, I am, yeah, anyway, um,

[00:29:56] George B. Thomas: mean, you do drive places on the podcast.

[00:29:59] Max Cohen: hey, you know what? Adults drive cars, so irrelevant. Anyway, um, when it comes to like, skirting the line of like, creepy stuff, right?

I think, you know, people don't, especially when people are on the internet, right? People don't like to feel like they're being watched, right? People like to feel that, you know, they're, you know, they're, they're doing stuff, they're anonymous, they're, there's no one looking over their shoulder and watching what they're doing on the internet, right?

This is 

why private browsers exist, exist. Um,

[00:30:36] George B. Thomas: there's private

[00:30:37] Max Cohen: you know, there's a private browsing button. Anyway, um, come on George. Um, and so I think like when you start to think about like, oh, what are these things we can do when we know what 

people are doing on our website, right? That gets super weird, right? Like the biggest thing that cringes ever is like the automated emails that come from a sales rep saying, Hey, I saw you were looking at our pricing page.

Like, what is that? Like,

[00:31:07] Devyn Bellamy: Remember? But for like three months, that was the end

[00:31:10] Max Cohen: Yeah, 

[00:31:11] Devyn Bellamy: Like that was the hot 

move for a second.

[00:31:14] Max Cohen: don't do that. Don't let me know that you saw me doing something and I was in a vulnerable position, right? Yeah 

[00:31:21] Devyn Bellamy: specific 

[00:31:22] Max Cohen: you saw I was doing 

[00:31:23] Liz Moorehead: Salim threw one of those out. He

[00:31:25] Devyn Bellamy: to hang the wall. 

[00:31:27] Liz Moorehead: have heard a 

Facebook blueprint specialist say, 

we can easily target recently 

divorced women whose 

birthday is in March so we can sell them feel good chocolate. Hoo! Hoo! 

[00:31:38] George B. Thomas: I need a bath. I literally need a bath. That being read.

[00:31:44] Max Cohen: they 

[00:31:44] Liz Moorehead: going to start getting targeted for dove soap now, just so you know, Max, keep

[00:31:48] Max Cohen: and it's just like you know, the the other kind of creepy stuff too is just like

[00:31:53] George B. Thomas: brain.

[00:31:54] Max Cohen: I, I like soap too. Um,

[00:31:56] Liz Moorehead: just making sure Mark Zuckerberg heard a

[00:31:59] Max Cohen: Can't wait to get all these, I 

can't wait to get all these 

[00:32:01] Devyn Bellamy: Yay, soap! Hahaha! Hahaha! 

[00:32:03] Max Cohen: gonna be getting like ads for like, you know, from O'Rida for like potato french fries and, Not that there's other, oh sweet potato, 

[00:32:10] Liz Moorehead: lot 

of 1971 pro content. Yeah. It's going to be real

[00:32:14] Max Cohen: Um, the, the, the, I mean the other thing too is just like following people to places, Um, That you just kind of don't belong in right like if you're a b2b company selling software Why are you bothering people while they're on facebook trying to get away from linkedin?

You don't need to just just just leave him leave britney alone All right, brittany was on linkedin looking at stuff. Go ahead. Give her a relevant ad there, right? Sure, I get it. She was on your site. You want to remind her a little bit later Hey, remember when you were looking at us cool, not when she's on facebook looking at pictures of her niece and nephew Right, leave her alone.

Now, if you're a consumer product, and you're in someone's like personally, that's fine, right? But like the b2b stuff shouldn't be following people out of the b2b watering holes, in my opinion, that that's a little weird, because you're invading someone's space that they like to separate from work, you know what I mean?

So it's just because that makes you feel like you're getting followed. Right? And people 

[00:33:11] Liz Moorehead: I see you left us. Do you want to come 

[00:33:14] Max Cohen: Yeah, people don't like getting watched. And they definitely don't like getting followed. That is For sure, right? Because that's the worst way to watch somebody, right? Um, you know, so again, 


take these, make these comparisons to real life, right?

Much like, you know, we do when we talk about, like, you know, emailing people with the wrong stuff at the wrong time and comparing those to real life 

human conversations, right? Think about it the same way when you're trying to skirt the line of like, oh, is this personalization a little bit creepy? Right?

What would it be like if it was in real life? Just make that comparison. 

[00:33:46] Devyn Bellamy: I'm sorry. I really got to get this out before I lose this train of thought, but I'm wondering how effective a marketing campaign would be if you just went in the complete opposite direction, just super creepy, like complete with like an animated dude peeking out and be like, Hey, We know you came to our website and then just goes back away.

Like I I would absolutely love that. Yeah. A cybersecurity firm 

or a marketing 

firm. Hey, you want to be able to do this too? 

Come on, we 

have cookies. You know, I would watch that. 

[00:34:22] Max Cohen: Yeah, it's 

just like 

[00:34:23] Liz Moorehead: Somebody leaning in saying, 

[00:34:25] Devyn Bellamy: then if they 

[00:34:28] Liz Moorehead: how's your ramen? 

[00:34:29] Devyn Bellamy: first, there would be a. 

[00:34:31] Liz Moorehead: Someone leaning over and saying, how's that ramen? Is it the, is it as good as the three other times you've had 

it? This week for lunch?

Chad, Like, 

[00:34:39] George B. Thomas: Only Only if you're eating ramen. Here's the thing, though. I gotta go back to what Max was saying, because my brain started to giggle, because I was like, Okay, so what I would say to anybody watching this or anybody listening to this is if you take a moment and you look at your marketing and sales personalization strategy, and then you envision it as a real human being, and you would effectively want to take a baseball bat and hit it over the head.

Then stop it.

[00:35:09] Liz Moorehead: that's

[00:35:10] George B. Thomas: just, just stop it. I know, but if, if there was a creeper behind me, and I was like, trying to protect my family, and the only thing I had was a baseball bat?

[00:35:17] Liz Moorehead: Well, okay. So let's stay on this. Let's stay on this. Let's dig a little bit deeper. What are the most common mistakes, George, that you are seeing folks make with personalization, particularly inside the HubSpot platform?

[00:35:29] George B. Thomas: Yeah, and I think we've kind of, uh, talked about some of this, to be honest with you, like, And, but that's because it's just generally some of the same things that are happening. Um, first of all, there's not the foundation that they need to actually do it right. And because you asked me HubSpot specific.

Okay, I want if you're listening to this right now, I want you to go into your settings. I want you to go from settings to property management. I want you to go to from property management to properties, contact properties in search persona. And I want you to open up the persona tool and then email me. No, actually email max.

If the, no, I'm just kidding. Email me. If your persona property is empty, that's one. If you also go to that persona property and it doesn't have something that starts with, I'm a, In the beginning of what you're actually dictating would be filled into that description area again. I need you to email me 

if you then run over to HubSpot forms and go and see if the property persona is used in your forms tool.

And the answer to that is no. Again, you can email me because here's the deal. If you don't know who they are Fundamentally, then your data is wrong and skewed if you haven't asked second smart questions based on knowing who they are You don't know them well enough to actually try to do any of this Just because they downloaded your checklist and you got first name and email and now sudden you want to call them Bobby You That ain't, that ain't it.

So lack of a foundation and lack of data structure is where a lot of people are just getting it wrong. The other side of this that I will say too, especially when we go on the experience side is they are not taking time to test this. Like, listen, when you go into, let's say the email tool and you're trying to test personalization or test smart content, you can go to preview and you can literally do a dropdown in the top left hand corner that gives you the humans to actually test it on.

The unfortunate thing is you would need to know what humans fit in what bucket did you actually created the personalization around to see that it's actually working right. So if you do have a great foundation, you just throw it out there and you don't actually test it to make sure it's working the way that it works because, well, it'll just be okay, like, because we have that default 


[00:38:17] Max Cohen: And George, I think you're bringing up like a really good point, like going back and mentioning like the, that persona dropdown filled in HubSpot, which I think is like one of the,

if you're talking about personalization 101, In HubSpot, that is really the best first thing you should do. Like, if you're trying to over engineer all these other wild personalization strategies and you haven't at least done that, like you're, you're probably over engineering it, right?

Like, you don't have to collect all the information in the world about someone to properly create a personalized experience for them. You just need a little bit of info. Right? You just need something that's not difficult to collect something that, you know, you don't have to like steal from a data harvesting service or, you know, buy from a data harvesting service, um, you know, and, and get without that person's consent, you don't need to ask them a billion for like questions on a form about, you know, what's your kids, you know, first kid's birthday and like, what's your job title and like all this like very specific stuff.

So you can create these hyper specific experiences. It's like that persona field where you can simply just have An easy drop down where someone doesn't feel like they're giving away a lot of sensitive information that just gets a general sense of like, wait, who is this person? Right? In general, like you, you know, the people that you attract in general, or at least, you know, the type of people you want to attract in general, and these, you know, sort of general buckets, they fall into just getting them to be able to select I am a blank, Right and say, okay.

I know this person's a marketer. I know this person's a salesperson I know this person works in support or is a gardener or is a whatever right if you can just ask that first surface level question of like What describes you in general not your fucking social security number, right? Just what describes you in general?

What's the gist of your vibe? What is the cut of your jib? Whatever it may be Just so I can make sure when I'm sending you content, I think it's at least a little bit relevant to who I think you are as a person, right? You don't need to, you know, go too crazy, right? But that is such a good first step to take and almost no one touches that persona field anymore and it breaks my heart. Yup.

[00:40:39] George B. Thomas: so here's the thing. I want to add one, a third piece on here. Cause I think it's a third piece that is, isn't they're all important, but like, Right? So I talked about any accurate or outdated or non existent data. I talked about failure to test because, by the way, when you do test, you can optimize and make it better over time.

But the third piece that I want us to think about when you're when you're listening this or watching this is, um, how are you actually diagnosing or understanding the context? Everybody wants to jump to the conversion in the conversation, but how are you even going to have a conversation if you don't understand the context of where they're at?

Like how, in what you're doing from an experience standpoint or a communication standpoint, are you paying attention to where they're at in the buyer's journey? Maybe what portion of the sales fund or flywheel they're in, what page they're on and what their actual expectations of a human would be at in that moment in time.

And so like, we, we just, we do this all from like an experience and communication standpoint, but don't think about the context in which all of this should be threading through. Because by the way, it'd be like, Somebody comes to my website page, and they're on the sushi, uh, page for some reason. I don't know why sushi.

Um, probably because I'm setting up a joke. Because, like, all of a sudden my, like, personalization goes like, I like pizza. And that feels 

[00:42:07] Liz Moorehead: it because you're on a roll? 

[00:42:08] George B. Thomas: Cause you're on, hey, sushi roll, boom, 

that was a very human things for you to say, Liz, good joke. But like, that's my point, like, it's, it's completely left field.

Cause there's no context to the conversation with the information that you actually have, or hopefully have, to like, do this thing. And I guess what I'm really saying by that, It's like, there are several places in HubSpot where I always say, like custom objects, for instance, this is a stop, slow down and strategize moment.

Right. And so when I think about, when I think of, 

I don't know what that 

[00:42:49] Devyn Bellamy: are a secret 

[00:42:51] George B. Thomas: I don't know. 

That was weird.

[00:42:53] Liz Moorehead: Spooky aliens.

[00:42:54] Max Cohen: at a

[00:42:55] George B. Thomas: Yeah. So here, here's the thing when, when I'm, when I, uh, this is personalization is to every one of those places where I say, listen, you need to slow down. And you need to stop or stop 

and you need to strategize because there is a deeper level of thinking that needs to happen if it's going to be what we've said, meaning it's going to be this situation where it is not really felt like it's happening.

Or it is something that pushes the envelope to what they actually want, even though they didn't know 

they wanted it. 

[00:43:29] Liz Moorehead: I love that. 

Okay. Now I want us to dig a little bit more deeply. I know you guys have already started touching upon this, but George, 

Max, Devin, are there any other 

tips or tricks within HubSpot that you love to use when it comes to personalization, no matter how big or small? 

[00:43:46] Devyn Bellamy: sauce of 

[00:43:50] Liz Moorehead: Tell me more.

[00:43:57] Devyn Bellamy: could say your name. I could say the year you were born, or I could just speak in a way that I know resonates with you personally, because as a creepy stalker marketer, I know all about you. And you've just supplied so much data to Zuck, and I want to utilize that. 

Um, but with smart content, what you can do is you 

can just create unique content 

that's in

the same place that everyone else goes, but they're the only ones that 

[00:44:26] Max Cohen: Yeah, I was talking to someone the other day and, um, they'd asked me, they're like, what are your thoughts on like HubSpot CMS, right? And I was like, well, I'm not a web developer. I don't do a lot of work with other CMS platforms, so it's hard for me to speak to that angle. But what other CMS platform is also your CRM?

How many other people do that? Right. And like, to me. HubSpot CMS is great, not because of like the design tools or this or that. It's the fact that you got everything you need sitting right behind the hood to provide these really great experiences for you through smart content and stuff like that. And it's dead easy, right?

It's not some crazy integration you're building with some of their outside data source. It's not anything like wacky or crazy you're doing. You're literally just, you know, drag and drop and throw it together. And, you know, you're, you're using the information you have available to you. Right. Um, so, you know, I think that the smart content thing is such a huge thing to call out.

I think if we're talking about like, you know, my biggest tips around it, I think you also got to remember personalization doesn't necessarily have to mean. What is some unique information I gathered from this person because they input it on in a form. Um, you know, sometimes it's just using what you already know about that person to change the experience.

Right? Personalization could quite literally mean I'm ensuring that if someone's already talking to a sales rep Right? We're shutting off. We're making sure they don't go through like lead rotators that get them in touch with someone else. We're making sure that experience is personalized to the journey they've had with us so far, right?

Not necessarily unique information about them they've shared with us. Right? You know, so again, I think a lot of it comes back to the experience using what you know about that person that's even just contained within your own process and what you guys can control when you're setting up these different customer journeys and HubSpot and taking all that stuff into context and consideration when you're building these workflows, creating these campaigns, creating these CMS pages, whatever it may be, right?

You already have a lot of data just By the fact that someone came and filled out a form and they're in your CRM and people are talking to them from your company, right? Use all that to kind of personalize what the next steps of the journey look like, right? You don't need that hyper specific information to do all sorts, like personalization is not just that kind of stuff, right?

It could be a lot more.

[00:46:47] George B. Thomas: So I'm going to go, uh, one side grandiose and one side, very micro. Um, not everybody knows this until it comes out of my mouth and you actually listen or watch this, but I've been working really hard on a brand new website that is about to get launched to the world. And as I've been working on that website, I've been entertaining the idea of entire pages changing based on the fact that we would know what persona they are.

And I'm talking to the point of like the problems that they're facing, the things that they actually would need, um, down to the pricing of the actual, um, products. If I knew they were a small to medium sized business versus like a startup or enterprise organization, like, and again, it's the personalization that they don't know that it's actually being personalized because they can't see the seven or 17 other people that it's happening to.

But there are some really smart things just from a global website strategy that I can't wait to play around with and do moving forward. The very granular one that I love. If you are not doing smart subject lines in your email, based on the segments of people that you're actually talking to, then you need to look at adding in smart subject lines because the power of not, not hi, Bobby.

But if it's like your farmer list or like Max said your gardener list and you actually use gardener terminology and the way gardeners would speak versus it's your automotive list and now you're talking like a mechanic. That's real personalization using the language that they actually freaking use and would engage with.

That's personalization.

[00:48:26] Max Cohen: You'll really dig this newsletter.

[00:48:30] George B. Thomas: Oh, if you're a If you, 

[00:48:32] Liz Moorehead: Just for you. 

[00:48:33] George B. Thomas: heh, heh. I was trying to figure out who those guys that are like, uh, do the like burial plots. Cause I thought that's who you were marketing to. Is that you would really dig this,

[00:48:47] Max Cohen: Oh, I was, well, yeah. I was going to the Gardener 

[00:48:49] Liz Moorehead: Okay. Moving on, because that was awful. That was 

[00:48:53] Max Cohen: want. Yeah.

[00:48:54] George B. Thomas: yeah.

[00:48:55] Devyn Bellamy: indigestion 

[00:48:56] Liz Moorehead: wildly


[00:48:58] George B. Thomas: so two of us are hungry and Devin has indigestion. Good way to end the podcast. Liz, what, what's, what's 

[00:49:04] Max Cohen: Anyway. 

[00:49:05] Liz Moorehead: Yep. So here's what I want to ask you guys. 

If, as we wrap up today's conversation, in what ways would you encourage inbounders to think about personalization differently in 2024, particularly if there's anything that's changed about personalization in the past few years?

[00:49:21] George B. Thomas: I'll keep it 

simple. Um, always imagine your personalization, whether it's experiential or communication as the seasoning or the condiment to the actual thing that you're creating. It should be the spiciness that just takes it to the next level. Not the whole meal. 

[00:49:38] Devyn Bellamy: don't do it. Don't overdo it. Just like, I mean, basically repeating what George said. Um, it's to add flavor. It is not the substance. Don't, please don't be creepy. Please don't be overly specific. Please don't send the followup email after they visited your pricing page, telling them that either they or someone from 

their company visited the pricing page, you can, there's more things you 

can do with that information. 

Then just let 

people know that you have all this, uh, information, 

[00:50:09] Liz Moorehead: and acid are, are good to brighten a meal. They are not the whole meal.

[00:50:14] Max Cohen: yeah, I'm just 

gonna say, uh, stop making your SDRs look like d s in their, you know, reach out emails with super irrelevant failed attempts at, you know, personalization. Uh, just, you know, try to, try to 

[00:50:28] Liz Moorehead: coming from a personal place of hurt, Max?

[00:50:30] Max Cohen: No, no, I've just seen too many, you know, poor sales reps just doing their job because they thought some hotshot sales, uh, ops person set them up some sick personalization templates and they're just firing off a billion in a day.

And then, you know, getting mean messages in their inbox or, you know, worse ending up being a LinkedIn post that everyone's, you know, hitting the laugh emoji at right. Just don't set them up for failure.

[00:50:54] George B. Thomas: Oof.

[00:50:55] Max Cohen: Don't set them up for 

[00:50:56] Liz Moorehead: Yeah, that's the worst. Uh, mine, mine is this. And this may sound a little bit fluffy, it may sound a little bit hokey, but if you're at this stage of the game doing inbound. And you are not taking time with every piece of content you create, or every page that you make. And just leaving personalization tools out of it, just thinking about the humans you're trying to serve, and genuinely trying to create a better experience, where you're thinking about who they are, why they're there in that exact moment, and what it is that they need from you in their terms.

Like, if you're not already doing that work, the personalization isn't gonna matter. The personalization, like, Hi Kevin! Would you still like this very irrelevant thing? Like, it's not gonna do anything for you. Um,

[00:51:45] Max Cohen: I didn't know he had such a good Kermit the Frog impression.

[00:51:49] George B. Thomas: Mm. 

[00:51:49] Liz Moorehead: you. Thank you. 

[00:51:51] Max Cohen: Hi, Kevin, can I interest you in this e book? On that note, potatoes.

[00:51:57] George B. Thomas: No. 

[00:51:58] Liz Moorehead: potatoes. Welcome to the paradoxes and potatoes of personalization.

[00:52:02] George B. Thomas: Speaking of which. Speaking of which, ladies and gentlemen. In a vibrant market. A marketer with zeal sold his paradoxical potatoes an unusual appeal. He tailored his approach knew every face offering potatoes that fit each customer's taste. Mr. Smith's do Timmy's crispy fries, Mr. Baker's baked goods all paradoxically wise, perfect yet unexpected.

He'd proudly state his potatoes were a hit truly. First rate, this taken underscores a clever notion in marketing paradoxes, story motion, understanding your audience with a unique spin can turn ordinary products into a win.

[00:50:36] George B. Thomas: Screw it.