I have bad news for all my fellow marketers out there. Our high school math teacher was right, we will use this stuff someday. What am I talking about? Marketers today are doing more math than we ever thought we would. Take the following formula.
(Data –> Persona) + Content(Persona + Stage) = Success
Now, this isn’t a formula you likely saw in your school textbook. But, for marketers, this formula is becoming a key part of their march towards success. Let’s break it down a bit.
How long have we been talking about big data? Well, big data is here, and it’s up to us to find more ways to use it to our advantage – without being creepy, of course. The data we can collect on potential buyers and existing customers today is astounding. Cookies track our movements on websites, URL parameters track the paths we take – the origination points, and buyers are also willing to “give up” their own personal data, if the tradeoff is worth it (more on that in a minute). But it’s how we use the data that helps us become better marketers. It all should start with a strategic data plan. Strategic enough to answer at least these questions:
Without a strategic data plan, it will be very difficult to a) define your buyer and b) identify them in the sea of people interacting with your company.
If you haven’t gone through a buyer persona exercise, you are not getting the most out of your marketing efforts. Harsh statement, but nothing could be truer. At a recent conference I attended, a representative of a leading marketing research firm stated that less than 8% of B2B companies have buyer personas. That set me back a bit. Only 8%? That leaves roughly 92% of the B2B companies out there that simply don’t have a firm grasp on the identity of their buyers. Oh, they may have segmentations (based on title or role), but without having gone through a buyer persona exercise, it is very difficult to know the behaviors or the psyche of their buyer – what makes them buy, how do they buy, who helps them buy?
In the formula above, we show that data yields persona. Without data, you won’t get to first base with your buyer persona exercise. It is often the main obstacle to getting them done. Taking the time to analyze the existing data you have on your buyers will help you back into the data you need to collect to fully develop your personas. One begets the other, but both are reliant on the other.
Ahh, content. We never have enough, do we? Content is ultimately a bartering tool. We can offer content to our buyers, to help them become more informed about a topic or develop a solution for a particular challenge. But, in return, we want something for that content. That want is data. Data is today’s currency, something a buyer can exchange for the content we are offering. But the content has to be valuable to the buyer. This is where the exponential value of Persona + Stage becomes key. It’s really the confirmation that there is alignment of the content to the buyer persona and their buying stage. For example, an executive decision maker is not likely to have the time to read a 20-page technical whitepaper. They may, however, take you up on an offer of a slide show, highlighting the key executive takeaways from that whitepaper. Similarly, a buyer who is at a later stage in their process is likely comparing your product or service with your competitors. Now is the time to get them some case studies or comparative analysis (something from an independent source is best). This will help them make a better decision and could “steer” them your way, given the help you just offered.
Oh, and one other thing about content. Don’t give it all away! I have seen far too many companies turn out great content and then simply give it away. They just make it available on their websites through a simple downloadable link. Take an inventory of your content and identify which pieces are high value and warrant being behind a gate (require a form fill to access). Use the investment you’ve made into that content to gather the data you need. And there’s an interesting paradox here. The more data you gather about your buyers, the better your content will be. You will have a far better understanding of what content your buyers want versus content you think your buyers need.
There are a lot of things we as marketers have to do to be successful today – and as all of you know, I could go on about these topics for days on end. But using the formula above as a basis for your marketing journey will help you achieve key milestones along the way, that will continue to drive your success.