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Stop over-complicating your customer information

I’ve spent a lot of time recently working with smart marketers that are unfortunately making marketing a lot more complicated than it needs to be. I’ve seen incredibly difficult “best practices” around marketing techniques, the most important ones being the buyer’s journey and the persona. For some reason, we’ve decided that these two ways of understanding customers are completely separate, complicated, and require immense training to do properly. They don’t–and the way we approach them is so complex that it scares people away from simple and effective techniques that are more approachable to more people.

The Persona can be though of as what we know about customers that doesn’t change very often–who they are, how they think, their style, and their passion. These things are relatively stable about people, in that they don’t change for years or decades.

The Buyers Journey is much more fluid. It discusses what we know about customers right now–situational things such as what they are thinking, what their purpose is right now in what they are doing, and how they are coming into contact with us. These things can change multiple times in the same day.

You don’t need lots of training to get started. I don’t mean to denigrate professionals in creating personas and buyer’s journeys–I am sure they do a great job. I am just trying to get people who find these techniques intimidating to give something simpler a try. We need to make it easy to get started so that they experience enough success that they can be willing to do things the “best practices” way.

So, if you are intimidated by all the mumbo-jumbo around these concepts, try asking yourself the following questions–better yet, see if you have any data about your customers that can help answer these questions:

  • Who is contacting us? The answer should describe a kind of person, such as a 35-year-old mom.
  • Why are they contacting us? The answer should describe some kind of passion, such as someone who’s devoted to her children.
  • How are they contacting us? The answer should describe a capability, such as visiting our website.
  • What are they contacting us about? The answer should describe a purpose, such as treating a child’s cold.
  • When are they contacting us? The answer should be a time, such as after the child has gone to bed.
  • Where are they contacting us from? The answer should be a place, such as in the living room of her home.

If you try to use your data to answer these questions, you’ll start dealing with personas in their buyer’s journeys in a natural way. You’ll start writing for specific people with specific problems that you can help them with. And if you haven’t done much of that before, or you’ve created complex personas and buyer’s journeys that everyone ignored, that would be a big step forward that can actually make your marketing better.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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