The first thing all marketers should ask is, “What benefit does this have for our customer?” The answer must be informed by the right set of insights on customer needs and motivations. This can’t be a static, once-a-year research project. Audience insight is increasingly becoming a central and core function of a successful marketing organization.
Marketing automation solutions can help bridge the gap between analytics and content. The use of data to personalize the experience, and to guide the development of content so that it will resonate, is increasingly a core function of the segmentation engines of leading vendors like Salesforce Marketing Cloud, Adobe, Marketo and Oracle/Eloqua.
It’s one thing for other departments to benefit from the kinds of customer and market insights analyzed by marketing teams. It’s another for those teams – sales, HR, customer service, program and product – to be an integral part of the collection and use of those insights. Today’s socially and digitally engaged customer needs to be understood at a personal level, and so any team that gathers insights – formal or informal – needs to be an active part of the audience insights approach for your company.
Marketers can increasingly explore the opportunity to expand and better stratify knowledge about key audiences, particularly those with influence, to important circles. However, this should not be just a marketing function. Collaborating with other departments that serve customers, prospects and partners will make the input and the utility of audience insights stronger.
The following four areas outline some key collaboration starting points for creating a consistent and actionable base of knowledge for improving the effectiveness of all outreach, regardless of department or purpose. While these are activities typically associated with marketing, many other teams use them to various degrees. Collaboration will increase the value to the organization and improve the quality and impact of each approach.
Do a quick survey of your organization’s surveys. Are you asking the same qualifying questions in order to properly segment your entire database, or are different groups collecting only fragments of what you need? Your goals must be to understand the needs and interests of new prospects as well as complete a holistic view of your key audiences’ interests, motivations and needs.
Do you use qualitative data (e.g.: long-form interviews) to test and refine hypotheses and inform future messaging before you do quantitative (statistically projectable) research? The latter is expensive, and so making sure you have the right insights prior to investing is always smart. Ensuring that everyone – executives, sales, marketing, product, program managers and HR – is working from the same understanding and foundation of knowledge about your audience profile and behavior is essential to growth and the most efficient achievement of the mission.
Segmentation is an essential recognition that not all people act or feel alike. Take a look at your segmentation strategy and ensure that everyone understands why audiences behave or are motivated in different ways. The drivers behind those behaviors may be things that your brand influences, or they may be market factors that you need to hedge or amplify. Marketing, sales and product teams may bring different perspectives and ideas to this discussion, which will improve the segmentation strategy going forward. Smarter segmentation allows personalization of messaging, which makes communications more relevant and effective.
Highest Value Audience Members
Not all customers, participants or partners have the same value to the organization. Does everyone in the organization know which are indeed most valuable and how to find more people like them? Identifying the highest value people doesn’t mean that every other customer is neglected. It only means that messaging and outreach can be better tailored to engage those who will make the most difference to the success of the organization.
Personas are used by many marketing departments to refine and understand these most valuable audiences. Literally, a persona is a detailed description of a certain type of person who exemplifies the background, social status, gender, interests and motivations of the segment. Each persona is used to increase understanding among all employees on the needs and interests of each segment. That shared understanding is a core aspect of effective collaboration.
Marketing and other teams must define together what “highest value” means and ensure that all messaging and outreach is consistent with the needs of these important audiences. Only this approach will consistently and predictably increase the engagement, participation and revenue for products and programs. It will also lower the overall investment cost to nurture each participant’s action.
To engaged audiences and to prospects of all types, your organization is one organization, and they expect to be able to engage through all digital channels. Social marketing is a very visible and personal way to connect with people, and all those in your organization who are active on social networks or wish to promote activities through owned social accounts need to collaborate.
A consistent and knowledgeable voice is required, and support from various departments to ensure rapid response and engagement is essential. If your organization can’t support that level of commitment, then reconsider your social presence.
Conversations will happen with or without you, but participation comes with a level of responsibility to be present and engaged. Today, people are creating their own content about your brand and products, and even telling your story through a personal narrative that may or may not be based on the “official” brand messaging. Both marketing teams and other perspectives are necessary to guide and celebrate these personal stories, especially because they are often perceived by others as more reliable than what comes from the company itself.
Collaborating on these activities will provide exponential reach and impact. If you are not using your marketing automation application to connect the dots between analytics, content and customer engagement, then bring a few team members together to consider the options. There is an opportunity cost of ignoring the benefits. Operating in department silos is a financial risk. In the best case, you may be double investing in audience insights, messaging concepts, outreach campaigns and communications channels. In the worst case, you create dissonance and confusion in the market by not aligning these efforts.
How are you using automation software to improve your audience insights capabilities? What needs are your vendors not addressing today? Please comment below and add your thoughts.
*Homage page via Shutterstock.
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