CRM and personalized content
Personalized content is more than addressing someone by name. In fact, that's not really what it's about at all. Pete doesn't care if you call him by name; he does care whether you have an understanding of what information he needs. He wants relevant content, geared to his personal preferences; content that's going to help him along. That's personalized content.
Modern technology is making it easier and easier to provide people with tailored service. CRM systems and marketing automation capture people's preferences, so that your newsletter or e-mailing can be adapted accordingly. You could even show every visitor a different home page on the same website. As long as you know what that visitor would like to see. Retargeting is another form of personalized content. Visitors are shown tailored ads based on their browsing habits.
So you can send a single newsletter to all of your customers, but customer A will only see the parts about content strategy, while customer B will also see messages about mobile marketing. Based on his web surfing behavior, a visitor on a camping supply store's site who's been searching the web for tents could be shown offers for tents right away, rather than the latest-model mobile home.
There are various ways to determine what prospects' and customers' preferences might be and what sort of information they might need. CRM statistics provide a lot of basic information. For example, depending on the product or service you provide, it could be sensible to make a distinction between men and women. But you could also consider the difference in information needs between workers, executives, and senior management. An HR officer has a different view on the added value of, e.g., new software, compared to someone from the ICT department. Ideally, all of this (basic) knowledge regarding your customers has already been stored in your CRM system.
With the help of a CRM system, you can go a lot further in fine-tuning every customer's profile. There's a range of tools to help you with that, and marketing automation is one of those means that is increasingly used in conjunction with CRM. Marketing automation software enables organizations to gain insight into customers' and prospects' online behavior. Do note that as an organization, it is important to be clear and honest about the information you collect and the purposes for which you collect it. Your customers' privacy is a precious commodity which you will want to safeguard at all times.
A somewhat less advanced method, but one that is no less effective in ensuring personalized content, is simply to ask customers about their interests and store their answers in your CRM system. When people sign up for a newsletter, they could tick the topics they're interested in. This method is used by many organizations to gear their online marketing to the personal information needs of the target group.
Technological possibilities remain unrealized
The great advantage of personalized content, of course, is that people get what they've asked for. That should lead to a lower drop-off rate, loyal customers, and higher conversion. There are technological possibilities aplenty, but as shown in a recent publication by eMarketer, the majority of marketers have yet to deploy them in practice. So there's a wide world of options to explore in this domain.