I recently came across a Forrester paper entitled “Contextualization” which I was able to download from Baynote.com. This piece by Ron Rogowski, Stephen Powers and Anjali Yakkundi is a concise and eye-opening statement about the true power of marketing, analytics and context of buyer experience. If you’ve ever struggled to stay focused on the moving parts necessary to achieve customer conversion and loyalty, I would readily suggest this report as your daily mantra for 2013.
As with all successful marketing, the report starts with the importance of having an audience persona – a definition of common characteristics, views, beliefs and patterns that will allow marketing to most closely align messages to the interests of the intended audience. While the persona has become a best practice of marketing, so many times I’ve been frustrated by people determined to short-change this research and investment. The desire to cut corners upfront is simply wasteful down line and can cause the entire endeavor to fail. I believe that this is a universal response from long-time leaders, “I know our customers and what they want.” But, it couldn’t be farther from reality. How many executives can say where their customers reside online, what they’re looking at and what they’re participating in?
Ecommerce and Social Media have changed the face of data collected and how it’s being used to generate more accurate personas than ever before. And, as shown in this report and my 2011 post, Big brands use their clout to collect and leverage information, the leaders of some large companies really get it.
Ramifications of the Have’s and Have Not’s
Imagine for a moment the ramifications for companies based on whether they’ve invested in customer contextualization, or not. The companies who have attempted to collect and harness data to better define their audience are better positioned with insights for product development to meet changing demands. They also have an advantage when purchasing media for conversion, as these companies are able to targeting media channels based on their customers’ profiles. They’re able to draw correlations that are meaningful to their audience – sports, hobbies, charitable activities, lifestyle – all aspects that can create an edge in differentiation simply by adjusting your marketing message with subtle nuances that shout, “We know you and this is for you.” More than the obvious advantage to direct sales, however, is the value of the data as a separate revenue channel or as a catalyst to winning/earning additional revenue. Big data gets chopped up and repurposed over and over again.
So, what is left for companies that have not invested in understanding their audience? They’re running on the gut instincts of their executives and the trends of existing buyers. Existing buyer trends is a single metric, and the cause and effect of that metric is open to interpretation. For example:
- Is there a better offer from competitors?
- Has a new product made this one obsolete?
- Is there a better quality product?
- Is there a right-sized package from competitors?
- Is the design of another product more compelling?
- Is the competitors’ offering being pushed through different media channels?
- Is the competitors’ advertising so compelling that it has gone viral?
- Has the competitor partnered in such a way that it captured the attention of the audience with adjacent content?
- Are customers meeting with obstacles in the ordering process?
- Are there contracts or terms that pose an obstacle to commitment?
- Is the visual design not in keeping with the preferences of the audience?
- Is the language of the offer not addressing the benefits?
- Have environmental factors made the product obsolete?
This type of research should not occur as the product or company is gasping for its last breath! Rather, it should be a continuous investment to perpetuate customer relationships and customer loyalty.
The convergence of data is coming faster than you think
By now you’ve noticed online dashboards being offered to monitor your marketing activities, and lend powerful insights to the behaviors of your competitors. From heatmap sites like CrazyEgg to social media dashboards such as Hootsuite to online reputation management software, marketers are using these tools to piece together their brand picture and that of their competitors. While larger many companies have had teams to build custom dashboards internally, smaller companies have had to put together makeshift solutions. It’s only a matter of time before these specialized entities converge to supply a greater, more data-rich picture. This can be seen with the emergence of Social CRM tools, such as Nimble.com, for sales and marketing to really access the online behaviors of their target audience, and the reasonably priced iSpionage.com that allows you to see competitor keywords, PPC, and SEO investments.
I encourage meaningful investment in customer mapping in order to devise the best engagement strategy that you can. Your efforts will be critical to the ongoing success of your product or company. The investment in advertising demonstrates the scale of social reach and potential, as depicted in this infographic from Baynote.com.