What do these jobs have in common: mobile app developer, social media manager, Uber driver, cloud computing specialist, drone operator? Did you guess it? None of these jobs existed 10 years ago.
Marketing isn’t new, but most of what we do in marketing didn’t exist 10 years ago, either. Traditionally, the whole marketing mix, for the most part, fell into four big buckets: advertising, PR, direct response and events. Measurement was sloppy and imperfect. The most measurable component was direct response or database marketing. All in all, it’s not that hard to figure out.
But look at how the landscape has changed. Today there’s online and offline advertising, search engine marketing, search engine optimization, social media, content sites, influencer marketing, mobile app marketing, your own website and, of course, PR, direct response and online and offline events. And that’s just scratching the surface.
Add to that the challenges of measurement, analytics and optimization for all of this, with literally thousands of martech tools to “help.” To illustrate, here’s just a section of the Marketing Technology Landscape map by Scott Brinker, showing the 5,000 martech tools available today — up from just 150 in 2011.
With all of these marketing levers to push, pull, measure and optimize, how do you decide what to do?
Fortunately, there’s a way to bring some sanity to this picture. The secret is to take a deep breath, step away from the marketing puzzle and answer three key questions about your customers: What’s your key customer’s persona? What’s their journey? And what’s the most cost-effective way to engage them along the way?
Create a customer persona.
Creating a customer persona doesn’t have to be overly complex. It’s true, some organizations spend thousands of dollars doing in-depth studies to create detailed, statistically validated customer personas. That’s OK. But you don’t have to over-engineer this. For most companies, getting “close enough” is just fine.
How do you do it? Identify some of your best existing customers — the ones you wish you had more of. Then, identify the key decision makers — the ones who supported or drove the decision to purchase from or hire you. Now, presumably, there are people in your company who have close relationships with these people, most likely in sales or service. Identify them.
Next, map out the things you want to include in the persona — things like background, demographics, goals/motivations, challenges, common objections, biggest fears, hobbies and interests. The people in your company who are closest to your key decision makers probably already know many of these things. Ask for their input and let them know that you’d like their help reaching out to these key decision makers to learn more.
Go ahead and fill in as much information as you can be sure of for each of your key decision makers. If there are gaps, that’s OK. Filling them in is part of the process.
Map your customer journey from a marketing and media perspective.
While you’re gathering information about the personal characteristics of key customers, you should ask about their customer journey. Once again, your own sales teams will have some of this information but probably not all. Map the stages and touch points. When and how did they discover they had a need? How did they go about determining what sort of solution they needed? How did they create a short list of vendors? How did they evaluate competitors? How did they make the decision to buy?
If you’re tracking your marketing efforts with one of those martech tools, you’ll be able to pull some information about how they discovered your content and interacted with you before they got to your website or sales team. The most important question for you to answer is: Where did they go and what information did they consume at each step along the way?
Now’s the time to reach out to those key decision makers and ask them to help you fill in the gaps. Do this in partnership with those folks who know your key decision makers best. Buy them lunch. Buy them dinner. Be respectful of everyone’s time, but you ought to be able to reach out to your best customers for this kind of input.
What’s the best way to engage?
If you’ve done your work filling in those personas and customer journey maps (by the way, let’s be clear: this is not a complete view of customer journey mapping), you should have a much simpler constellation of stars in your marketing universe now.
What social media channels are looking most important now? What online/offline media? Analysts and influencers? Events? SEM and SEO? Now, think about your own budget and capabilities. You don’t have to do everything. It’s OK not to be on every social channel or at every event. Identify the media channels and tactics that get you the most bang for the buck and that you can reasonably manage.
If you take the time to think about your customers first, understand the key questions they were looking to answer as they made their way through their purchase process, and where they looked to find those answers, you can stop worrying about what everyone else is doing and make your own plan. It’s OK for it to be limited and experimental at first. You can expand over time as you sell more. Building a map that’s based on your own customers’ experiences can help you market smarter and maybe even get a little more sleep at night.