Everyone needs to be marketing on Facebook. Email marketing is the best bang for your buck. TikTok is the next big thing when it comes to reaching younger customers. These are examples of the kind of marketing advice you’ll see thrown around online (and maybe even in your own conference rooms).
The problem with that kind of advice is that it’s too universal. Every company and every customer is different, and you can’t just assume that whatever works for the companies you read about will work for you too. Your marketing decisions, from which channels you use to how you advertise to how you assess your KPIs, need to be based on data — not your gut.
The Importance of Data-Driven Decisions
The most obvious answer for why your marketing strategy needs to be based on hard data is simple: your hunches might be wrong. This is especially true when you’re just starting out. Startups might have an educated guess as to who their customers will be, but it’s just that: a guess.
And don’t think that you’re out of the woods just because you’re a well-established business. There are plenty of circumstances where you might be wading into uncharted waters:
- Opening a new branch — if the demographics of a new area are different, your buyer personas might change too.
- Launching a new product — you might assume that the same people who use your current product might want the new one, but that’s not always true. Apple’s Mac Pro and iPad are not designed for the same users.
- Rebranding — when Old Spice changed their marketing drastically about ten years ago, they were targeting a younger demographic rather than the youth of the 40s and 50s. They had to make a lot of guesses about how to reach today’s youth before launching that campaign.
In any case, if you’re striking out of your comfort zone, you’ll need to do the legwork to figure out what your new campaigns should look like.
You Need Buyer Personas
If you’ve followed our blog at all, you know that we love buyer personas, and this situation is a perfect example of why. A buyer persona is a fictionalized ideal version of your perfect customer, and it can be extremely helpful in determining how you’re going to market to people in real life. A buyer persona takes into account things like:
- Income level
- Job title
- Marital status
- Parental status
- Which social media channels they use
- Which magazines they read
- Which TV shows they watch
- What time they’re online in the morning
- Whether they check email on their phone or their work computer
… and so on and so on. There’s really no limit to the number of criteria you can add to a buyer persona, as long as you think that each one gives you some actionable information about your customers.
From there, you can tailor your marketing to fit the exact profile of your customers and prospects. If you’re marketing to millennials, for example, you can probably skip TV ads — millennials don’t watch TV. If you’re targeting teens and tweens, you can ignore Facebook, whose popularity has plummeted among today’s youth in lieu of Snapchat, TikTok, and other, newer social networks. Every piece of your buyer persona should inform a decision about how you set up your marketing plan.
The Buyer’s Journey
Planning your marketing isn’t just about who is buying your product — it’s about how they’re making that decision. The steps that a given person takes, starting when they’ve never heard of your product and ending when they’ve made a purchase, are called the buyer’s journey.
When you build out your personas, you’ll probably want to establish some hypothetical buyer’s journeys as well. What might that look like?
- How do people usually find out about you? Through your website, social channels, or existing customers?
- Once they’ve found out about you, how do they educate themselves on their options? Do they do their research on blogs? Do they ask your existing customers about their experiences? Do they download whitepapers?
- When they’re ready to make a decision, what are their main criteria for deciding between you and your competition? Not everyone puts price above all — some people are more interested in customer service or compatibility with their existing workflows.
Figuring out not just who’s buying from you, but how they make decisions, is a crucial part of getting your marketing right.
The last step is to admit that everything we just talked about above might change, and it might change quicker than you think. Email marketing wasn’t popular until the mid-1990s, and it got another boost when faster bandwidth and better devices allowed marketers to include images. The explosion in popularity of smartphones in the late 2000s and early 2010s opened up a whole new avenue of marketing options, and companies had to adapt.
You might lay out what you think is your typical customer’s persona and journey, only to find out in a year that the way they interact with your product has totally changed. By keeping track of the performance of various channels and the data on where you get your customers, you can keep your personas current and relevant. No marketer is a miracle-worker, and you can’t just magically pull out the perfect campaign from thin air. But if you do your homework, prepare beforehand, and keep an eye on your analytics, you’ll see results.