Personalization is converging how we interact with new and existing opportunity, is your business prepared to deliver top quality insights to your marketing team? We live in a world where we can easily measure most aspects of our customers and prospects interactions, in fact, most of them expect this from your company. The ability to measure your opportunities comes with some pretty big responsibilities (no Spiderman pun intended here); you now need to treat them personally and targeted, but as an organization, where do you start?
The key to driving success within your marketing organization today is to have complete awareness on how your opportunities are engaging with your brand and a way to define precisely how those opportunities need to be employed. Total awareness is not an easy task, and even less so when your organization does not have a definite plan or common framework that adapts to your business challenges and changes. I find it interesting to see the adoption of toolsets that, while are solid performers to get the data marketers need, lack the ability to act as a single source of truth or cannot integrate well with other frameworks to get a more holistic picture. Marketing Automation is a tool that fills this need and helps your business by providing you with those insights. If you’ve already purchased your Marketing Automation ‘machine’ then your onto the next step, if not you may want to research some of the leaders in this space:
- Oracle Marketing Cloud
- Adobe Marketing Cloud
- AudienceStream (this is not a true MA system, but if you have many disparate systems then this can help connect them all easily and affordably)
What I want to pay attention to for the remainder of this article are some of the more interesting marketing challenges I have seen in recent years. I’ve noticed that while our BI systems are getting smarter, faster and easier to use, those same systems systemically fail our marketers. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying BI teams deliver poor insights, rather, the great insights produced don’t typically address how marketers develop marketing materials and collateral – and that hurts our team.
Why is this so???
Well BI teams insights are often misaligned with marketing teams needs. The conversation goes something like this:
BI Team: “I have mounds of insight for you that you need to know about your opportunities. Chief of which is people with the title ‘Manager’, between the ages of ’25-65′, who come from Google using ‘this keyword’, and visit the site primarily on ‘Mondays’, have a conversion rate 6000% greater than the site average – you should target these people.”
Marketing Team: “That is amazing! Oookay… how?”
How indeed?… Deriving these kinds of insights usually points to some segmentation gone horribly wrong. We need to understand that segmentations are not a Persona, and Personas are not Behaviours. However, I can measure behaviours that can lead to building accurate personas which in turn results in segmentations that make it easy to create collateral. Easy!
GETTING SERIOUS ABOUT MARKETING PERSONALIZATION
So where do we need to start? Let’s begin by developing out a few core areas, process, technology and collateral. I’ll be brief with these three as they are not the three essential personalization dimensions.
Your process is what helps define the technologies you will acquire. This core area is by far the most important step because, without a robust conceptual process on how you want to build relationships with your opportunities, you will end up purchasing technology that doesn’t meet your needs or that does not play well together.
A few points about building a process. RELATIONSHIPS MATTER – this is key. Without good relationships, your buyers are more apt to go with the next company that asks them to purchase a comparable product/service than with yours. So get this right and when your customer is ready to make a decision and urged to buy, you’ll be top of mind.
Getting your technology mix correct is crucial, you need tools that are flexible to market the way you want now, and can quickly adapt to how you wish to market in the future. Trust me when I say this, you want to buy your SaaS solution, not build it. The costs to build something will quickly outstrip any benefits when you need to be flexible, and when your industry makes you ‘pivot’, you’ll be lost in the dust.
There are two main goals you should be aspiring for in your tech mix: 1) Action tools and 2) Measurement tools. I’ll dive deeper in this with a later post on what an ideal mix should look like, but for now just understand that you need tools that can take action based on measurements taken. Ideally, you want to aim for tools that help you get down on a 1-to-1 level with your opportunities.
After aligning your process and technology, your collateral should naturally(ish) flow. If this is your first venture into Marketing Automation, then you will need to create a baseline of content – not perfect content. Over time you will learn to optimize that collateral; use the 80/20 rule here, in that 80% of your content should come from 20% of your time, the remainder of that time should be used to optimize and re-engineer the messaging for optimal gains.
The 3 Essential Personalization Dimensions
So with that brief background, I think it is time to dive into the three essential personalization dimensions of Marketing Automation. Keep in mind that these three dimensions can apply to nearly any organization no matter what the industry – Technology, Retail, Furniture Companies, CPGs, and others.
The opportunity status is the most fundamental of areas to pay attention to; you already do it by default and it’s called your sales/marketing funnel. But really, why is it so important? The basic answer is that communications with your opportunities will depend on where they are along their buyer journey. In its most basic sense you have three core activities that form this journey on the acquisition side, and quite possibly many more on the retention side. Let’s focus on the acquisition side for this article:
You want to get this right out of the box; your data-driven insights depend on it. You want to aim to capture as many data points as possible and relate that back to one individual where/when and as often as possible.
Branding and Awareness – leading to de-anonymization
The goal of the branding and awareness stage is to brand like crazy and use different forums/activities to get your opportunity to identify themselves in such a way so that you can communicate with them again. This accounts for all the top of the funnel activities you might employ including:
- First Person Opportunities (Tradeshows, Malls, etc.)
- Digital Media (Paid Search, Display, Social Media, Content Marketing, etc.)
- Traditional media outlets (Newspaper, TV, Billboards, etc.)
- Other (Contests, etc.)
Relationship Building – leading towards conversion
Relationship building activities are middle of the funnel activities that all too many companies neglect. The ideal mix of activities will build loyalty and followership in a respectful way while ‘listening’ for the right combination of signals trigger stronger messaging. Some activities associated with this stage are:
- Email Marketing
- Hyper-Targeted Digital Media (don’t waste dollars if you do not have to)
- First Person (Call Center, Account Manager, etc.)
- Direct Engagement (webinars, tradeshows, conferences, etc.)
- Other (contents, surveys, apps, etc.)
Lastly, when someone is ready to convert, and you’ve spent the time to build a proper relationship, your company will most likely be at the top of the list when the opportunity is looking at purchasing your service or goods. You may not always win the opportunity, but by being on the final list, you will win more opportunities more often. Some activities associated with this include:
- First Person (Account Manager, Call Centre, etc.)
- Conversion Rate Optimization (applies equally to Digital assets as it does for your sales team)
- Sales, Discounts and Incentives
In your funnel, you may have more steps than these three, but the above contains the basic idea of how you can build your Funnel Strategy. Don’t forget that each of these ‘steps’ is also a ‘gate’ and will allow for some pretty impressive velocity reporting with a well set up Marketing Automation system.
Segmentation and Personas
I love segmentations and personas; they represent among the very best ways we can target and build collateral to build better relationships with our opportunities. Here again, I insist on the 80/20 rule – Spend 20% of your time to develop a ‘good enough’ segmentation or persona, then use the other 80% of the time to iterate and optimize… you’ll be much further ahead than if you seek the perfect or near perfect solution out of the gate.
Segmentations represent an old-school approach to solving a problem. There is nothing inherently wrong with segmentations, but the challenge is they are not usually built well for modern marketing teams to perform modern marketing strategies and tactics. What I mean is that segmentations are smart groupings, using available corresponding data that seem to influence the desired outcome. The problem is that they are expensive to create and maintain, and often don’t play well with a great many marketing funnels, they even seek to dictate what products/services interest your segments… more importantly, segmentations have trouble identifying what to do when your opportunity is not ready to move forward (not filling in the context where some 95%+ of your opportunities are usually sitting).
I like personas because they help address the ‘how’ factor of marketing… ‘How should I apply this data?’ It is important to note that personas are often drawn from segmentations, but can be created from more speculative information like marketers intuition. Personas, however, still suffer from a lack of complimentary data used to validate the accuracy, no matter what the statistics predict… I’m not talking about outcome data as that is usually quite accurate, rather all the intermediary touchpoint data that helps to refine a persona along the lines of a good sales/marketing funnel.
Still, personas are a great starting place for more actionable insights and provide the foundation for the deepest insights we can currently collect (I mean, next to telepathy of course). If you are going to create personas, I encourage you to create, for each persona, an area based on your funnel stage to help you better market to a particular persona at a particular funnel stage (even if you have to create a separate sheet for each persona/stage).
Behavioural personas are the here and now in 2016. In the simplest terms, we can take the behaviours of an individual across almost the entirety of your marketing mix (online, offline, face2face, apps, VR, etc.) and use that to come up with a real-time personalized experience. Much of the content a marketer will setup for this experience will have to be based on persona sheets, but it’s the behavioural information that feeds the persona sheets and is essential to predicting how to treat your opportunity and when to personalize that experience.
This becomes an incredibly powerful solution when your aim is to optimize how to:
- Attract opportunity;
- Build a relationship with an opportunity; and
- Convert an opportunity.
I’ll be sure to dig deeper into behavioural personas in a later post
Lastly, we look at products of interest. Product interest is a relatively easy thing if you have gone through the steps above, but crucial to understanding what to show your opportunity. Without knowing what your opportunity is interested in, you often won’t be sending the right messages or will be forced to have 3-4 messages in an unfocused fashion with the hopes that they engage with something or anything you might show them.
I am sure you can see the inherent flaw in the immediately above strategy. If you don’t measure which product/service your opportunity is interested in, you will be forced to generalize and risk having an unfocused relationship.
Another way to view this is, what if you don’t have a product that interests your opportunity, do you just give up and throw in the towel? No, you should have complementary non-financial products in which your opportunities want to involve themselves. Non-financial products help to build a long-term relationship until that opportunity is ready to buy your financial products.
After going through this long post, you might be asking yourself why the Opportunity Status, Behavioural Personas, and the Product Interest dimensions are so important? I have seen, and believe, that marketers create collateral best when they have a clear understanding of where the opportunity is living at the moment. With no guessing and clearly optimizing for the function of where these three dimensions converge, opportunities will thrive and so will your business.
This blog post is a pre-lude to my next article where I will discuss the advantages of a repeatable framework that is reasonably accessible to mid-sized companies (100+) but is geared for the enterprise. I call it the ‘Tower Model’.