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HomeRants > Talk like a human being. > Customize--then personalize. > Create custom content for each  group.


How to customize:

Look behind the curtain

Write for the group

Organize for the group

Keep making new content for each niche

Think objects, not documents

Personalization goes beyond customization

Create custom content for each group

Each niche group deserves some content that's customized just for them, along with your more general content.

Distinction: Personalizing allows an individual to get exactly what he or she wants, whether or not that matches the content delivered to his or her group.

Customizing goes a long way toward satisfying most people, but personalizing makes people consider the site their own.

Look behind the curtain

To write customized content that can then be personalized, you have to look behind the curtain, to find out:

  • What information the profile contains
  • What business rules or inferences the software is going to use
  • What categories of information the site already uses.

For each piece of information in the profile--each nugget of personality--you need to figure out how you could create new material or adapt existing material, to show that you have "heard" the group, or the person. Which categories of information are going to vary from group to group, and which ones will stay more or less the same, for all groups?

Much of this thinking requires dividing the audience into very small groups, micromarkets, or niches. For instance, if you recognize that your most valuable visitors fall into five different niches, then you should create specific content for each one.

Perhaps one group wants to see specs right away, and another group prefers broader strokes, with large benefits, and graphs.

For each group, you can use business rules, or inferences drawn from the person's behavior, to put the information they want first, and move the other material to a See Also, or linklist in the sidebar.


Who am I writing for, and, incidentally, who am I? (Full chapter from Hot Text, in PDF, 566K, or about 10 minutes at 56k)



Write for the group

  • Echo their terms
  • Address their issues
  • Include examples and case studies from their world
  • Use their jargon, but explain anyone else's jargon
  • Show that you feel their pain (talk about common problems they face)

 Organize for the group

The group has a mental model, a common way of relating topics to each other.  Follow this model, as much as possible, when creating menus and link lists.

  • Put content they think is important at the top of the menu
  • Subordinate topics they consider minor (secondary menus)
  • Arrange menu items in a sequence that the group would consider logical
  • Demote content they do not care about.
  • Refuse access to proprietary or confidential information that they are not permitted to see.

Caution: In some circumstances, you may also prevent one group from seeing what another reads, such as confidential pricing terms, development reports, or in-progress manuals.

Generally you want to make all content available to everyone, because you may not have pegged each person correctly, and if you were to limit that person's access to other information, you might lose a customer. 

Keep making new content for each niche

Yes,  you have to keep coming up with new stuff for each niche.

Tactic: Take customer support people to lunch, and find out what the latest problems are, by audience group. Help solve these problems within a day or so by posting new content, addressed directly at those groups. Examples:

  • Revising labels in the forms they use
  • Adding a new topic to their own list of Frequently Asked Questions
  • Rewriting a key paragraph at the top of the group welcome page.

Think objects, not documents

In this environment, you are often creating new objects, not whole documents. In fact, you are probably going to be using an elaborate tagging system, with XML, to indicate which niches (identified via their profiles, perhaps) each chunk is suitable for.

You might have an attribute such as Audience, and an agreed-upon list of audiences, so when you create a new text chunk, you say, "Well, this is for the suburban mom, only."

The more you can tailor your text to a particular group, the more the members feel your content is relevant.

Personalization goes beyond customization

Once you offer customized content to each niche audience, you can add personalization such as:

  • Allowing individuals to pick the content they like best
  • Offering personal tips directly to them based on their recent clicks
  • Setting up a one-to-one chat or e-mail conversation with individual visitors.

In fact, the best way to talk personally to one individual is by chat and e-mail. You show you have really read the person's last message, and are responding to that particular person's unique (they think) situation. From customization to personalization, the path leads through you, personally.

Next: Build a unified profile






















How can you write to a group that includes a guy with a Lego truck on his hat?



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The Communication Circle

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