How personal is your marketing?
If conversation is the new campaign – then it follows that the most compelling conversation is personal in nature. After all – isn’t that why we engage and converse, to chat about things that are of interest to us –not just the other party?
Personas and profiles are all the rage in content marketing and more. We spend significant effort to define the personas of our buyers – grouping and categorizing based on title, area of responsibility, role in the buying cycle and such.
Yet somehow I don’t see those personas as the path to personal conversations when it comes to B2B marketing and sales. Don’t get me wrong – I think personas are a first great step in getting to know our buyers. They simply don’t get us up close and personal.
Why don’t I think personas go far enough?
We focus on the quantitative facts when we create personas. That’s totally understandable. After all – the IT executives have different problems they face than the Network Manager. Unfortunately – our buyers do not solely live for the “important” facts we apply to them. Our buyers bring their own perspectives and beliefs, formed over years of experiences. Those beliefs have as much to do, if not more, with creating the buyer’s personal behaviors – sometimes much more than their facts.
We still go for the masses when we market to our diverse personas. Once again –there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. After all – many of us sell to volumes of customers. So at some point – we need to converse with the masses to get the volume of sales we need. My point is – we have a better chance of winning the business when we get more personal with our buyers. That’s where I think we fall short. We start with the masses, then herd them through a “pipeline”, en masse. We group them based on their stage in our cycle – that’s not personal either. We send follow ups en masse based on an individuals response that puts them in a large group. I’m still looking for personal conversations at this point too. Sooner or later – if we want to engage our buyer – we have to get down to their personal relevant need.
We approach our buyers as groups within a buying cycle. That’s a big mistake in my opinion. You see, buyer behaviors within the buying cycle have changed dramatically in the past 5 years. Our buyers no longer need us as their source of information They do 79% of their buying preparation without us involved. They move thru the cycle without us and they move at their own pace. Then, they invite us to their party when they decide to converse about what’s relevant to them. By the time they invite us – they want us to get personal. Even as we’re most likely still trying to force them into our buying cycle groups.
The Power of Personal
Many of my associates argue that we can’t get any more personal given the volume of prospects big businesses much manage through a selling cycle. I think that’s gravity talking.
Just as our buyer’s are digitally empowered by the internet and social media – so are we! The challenge is, we keep thinking about marketing as if it were yesterday ‘s news. We view social media and the internet as a better way to do direct mail and demand generation. Our buyers shifted their buying behaviors – it’s time we shifted too.
Here are three ideas on how to shift your social media thinking to get personal with your buyers.
Empower Conversations. Social media empowers marketers to converse mano et mano with our buyers. So why aren’t we? The top excuse is that our marketing people aren’t capable of having a conversation. Then train them! Training budgets for marketing and sales have declined over the past five years – even as automation and technology budgets have skyrocketed. What’s wrong with that picture in a market that’s moving to interactive conversations and engagement?
Because we are now capable of delivering more content to more prospects across more channels – we are gearing up to do just that. The way we’ve always done it. The result? Our prospects are sick of being spammed with Me Me Me marketing. Promote to a buyer and they are moving on – to the vendors who have conversations with them about what is most relevant. In my opinion, we can’t afford NOT to train our people and engage in personal conversations that engage our buyers. In the next few years I believe buyers will demand personal conversations – the vendors who get personal and focused on the buyers will be the winners in the market.
Build Community. I believe that communities are one of the best ways to get up close and personal with your buyers. They are also one of the most underutilized aspects of social media and our digital world. Oh sure, there are huge communities on Facebook, Tweetchats and more. That’s not what I mean.
I’m talking about a real community – where your buyers, prospects and employees engage continuously in discussions that are relevant to your audience. Mano et Mano. Imagine a community where your customers are sharing their experiences, how they solved a problem and more with a prospect – and then the prospect shares that information with another and another. A community where an employee offers advice to a community member – then watches that member pass along that expertise to ten other community members. Now THAT’S viral. There are so many ways to build communities that empower personal and relevant discussions. But we can’t do that if we guide the community based on our beliefs. We have to let the community get personal!
Dive Deeper. Do you really believe that all CIOs in each industry are facing the same challenges? I doubt it. Perhaps all network managers are facing the same technical challenges… I might buy that.
My point is – with the shift in the buying cycle – marketing has to move farther into the sales cycle if we are going to compel the prospect to give our sales rep a date. Remember, buyers invite us to the party now, we do not capture them.
Social media gives us the chance to chat with individuals, to learn personal aspects of each buyer that impact their buying decisions. Great sales reps have known this for years – get to know the details about your buyer. Well –it’s time marketing did the same. And while we’re at it – how about using all that automation software to track the preference of prospects – and then using their individual movements across your website, social media and more to create a much deeper persona –going beyond just the facts to include personal behaviors that offer glimpses into the needs of your prospect? What good is all this SFA, CRM and more if we aren’t using it to get personal and up close – rather than continue with the herd mentality?
Getting personal isn’t easy. I know that. But just because it’s hard, just because we have to completely shift our thinking to get there doesn’t mean we can’t do it!
If we want to engage and connect with our audiences –we better darned well get personal!
How are you getting more personal? I’d love to hear your stories!!!