As the competition for consumers’ mindshare continues to intensify, attracting and converting new business requires more than a well-planned marketing nurture campaign; it requires human connection.
Your target audience is bombarded by content and offers across numerous channels — email, social media, direct mail and more. This information overload can cause confusion and frustration when a prospect is evaluating solutions to solve their business challenges. To rise above the noise, you need to first establish a meaningful connection and earn their trust.
Sure, implementing the foundational elements of the Demand Factory™ can give your business a notable lift in lead generation and conversion, but this approach is becoming table stakes for B2B marketers. Just sending out campaigns using marketing automation tools is no longer enough to drive significant results. As my colleagues have noted in recent articles about digital transformation and the customer journey, tools enable the strategy; they don’t define it.
Adding a famous new logo to your customer roster — and your website — is only possible when you are able to make human connections with your prospects as you nurture them through the funnel. What helps you do this? Data.
What data drives connection?
Let’s face it: we have more data than we know what to do with. Better put: our digital systems generate more data than we can use efficiently or effectively.
There are three main categories of data produced by your CRM and marketing automation systems:
- Profile data: This includes firmographic, demographic and contact data — the personal and company information that defines the lead. This data is collected by explicitly asking the prospect for information, usually via form fills. Company data might be enhanced or appended through third-party sources.
- Activity data: Activity data comprises prospect activity, sales and marketing activity, and activity that occurs at any other touchpoint, such as customer service, app usage and the like. It also includes process activity, such as movement between funnel stages. Often, this type of data is timestamped in various systems (such as web or marketing automation analytics tools), but you usually need to set up additional data structures to snapshot vital activities such as funnel stage movement.
- Reporting data: This is the metadata that accompanies profile and activity data to allow for granular and roll-up reporting. It includes information such as lead source, touch channel, touch offer and more. Activity data can be used to link an email click with the email name, but you have to map that name to other information such as campaign type or offer to enable aggregate, actionable reporting. Reporting data is often more reliable, and it can be easier to set up and maintain key reporting data structures and values instead.
These data types work together to help you make the jump from strategy to execution. And the finesse and expertise with which you set up your data structures to capture the right data — and how you then use that data — will determine the success of both your strategy and your tactics. As most marketing teams must operate faster and leaner these days, your processes must be efficient, well thought-out and effective.
It’s fashionable to capture as much data as possible, then use data science and machine learning to identify new patterns and insights. Doing so is a first step to understanding your customers and prospects at the human level. AI and machine learning can offer predictions about behavior, and you can fine-tune your sales and marketing outreach to capitalize on those predictions, and send highly targeted messaging and offers that nudge your prospects down through the funnel.
Key to this process is the ability to capture and standardize data from the three categories defined above.
Humanize your sales and marketing outreach
We like to say that the essence of the Demand Factory is “delivering the right message to the right person at the right time.” And when you get right down to it, it is that simple. The complexity comes as you’re attempting to interpret the data to identify what message to which person at what time. Let’s break it down:
- Formulate your strategy. As Sun Tzu once said, “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” Think about how many marketing emails you ignore on a daily basis. Marketing outreach can become noise — it’s ineffective and annoying, and can damage consumer sentiment about your brand. Without actionable insights about your target prospects, there’s no way to develop a tone and message that will resonate with them and get them to engage further. Analyze your data for those insights, then build a strategy for creating and sending meaningful marketing and sales messages that help strengthen a human connection.
- Map your data. After you’ve developed your strategy, it is time to map your data to that strategy. Too many times, I’ve seen great prospect segmentation wasted with lackluster messaging and offers — or excellent content sent to such a broad field that it resonated with no one. It would be easy to say that profile data maps to the who, activity data maps to the when, and reporting data maps to the results, but in reality, you have to blend these together. For example, when looking at a single prospect, profile data may identify a broad level of messaging by company size. Activity data may provide better insight into their role. And, reporting data may identify specific interests. When you have all three types of data, you can craft meaningful content and messaging that strengthen the human connection.
You might get it right the first time, but that’s not likely. An any process requires ongoing optimization as you receive and evaluate new data and make necessary changes. Data hygiene, completeness and normalization also play a huge role in effectiveness.
- Find the balance between what you have and what you want. If we had unlimited resources to craft messaging and develop processes, and the unlimited attention and cooperation of our prospects for data capture, life would be much simpler. Inevitably, however, we have to make tradeoffs between which data we can capture and what content we can create. When strategy and messaging have not been clearly defined, marketers must map their prospects to incomplete personas. That’s why establishing reporting data structures is so important when it comes to capturing the insights that matter as easily as possible. An iterative and agile approach to optimization is essential to make sure you identify, address and incrementally improve within these limitations.
Think connection, not conversion
It is easier today than ever to collect huge volumes of data and use one of the growing number of marketing technology tools available to attempt to nurture and convert leads. And with this approach, it’s easy to forget that your “leads” are actually human beings, hoping to make a connection with your brand. By collecting the right types of data and setting up processes and reporting that enable meaningful insights, you can humanize your sales and marketing outreach with content and messaging that create a meaningful and lasting impression.