Not too long ago, marketing was just about creating flashy content, drawing a bunch of attention and hoping some of the people you hooked would become your future customers. It was a numbers game. We often relied on buyers who knew they needed — for example — a washing machine, and would go directly to the sales outlet to make a purchase within their price range. We were one of a few choices, and all we had to do was dress it up for the camera.
Fast forward to now.
The Educated Buyer
People still generally know what they want, but they also know that you're not the only game in town. Maybe they want a washing machine that reminds them when to take their laundry out, or recommends settings for the best wash. Maybe there are 50 other companies selling washing machines, and your sales team is taking too long to get back to them.
Information about products, prices and quality doesn't need to come from a conversation anymore, instead buyers can go straight to the source — or more likely, to several sources. Enter the Internet. As technology changes, the buying process changes with it. Buyers don't need to wait patiently to speak to a sales rep before deciding to make their purchase, in fact, 65% of the time, they've already made that decision by the time they talk to sales.
The good news is buyers aren’t the only ones that can leverage technology to make more informed decisions. Technology is the light at the end of the tunnel for marketers struggling to find, use and organize this much data when creating their campaigns. It funnels names, titles and companies into neatly organized groups that can then be individually marketed to. But what’s truly powerful is that it also collects implicit data, such as which products they spend the most time researching, which articles they share with their friends, and which topics they are interested in learning more about. All of this data can be used to dynamically personalize the marketing and sales approach. It's an oxymoron: assembly line personalization. It works because at its heart, the way to reach modern consumers is through personalizing your message; it’s what buyers have learned to want, and even expect. For the ones that know a little, for the ones that know a lot, for clients, for prospects, for top-of-funnel and bottom-of- funnel, for conversions, for all of them. It's this personalization that gives marketers a little leeway to determine the flow of how customers educate themselves about products.
Data Is The Key
The key to achieving this personalization is data. Personalization is a powerful tool; it’s not just telling buyers that you have the product they need, it’s telling them that you have the product they want. To do that, you need to find out who they are. That’s where data comes in. The single buyer becomes clients, prospects and regions. Translating “Is this region a potential growth market?” into a series of form fills can be daunting, but these kind of insights can have a quantifiable effect on your business.
We know that buyers are increasingly well educated on products and services, but as marketers, technology has allowed us to be increasingly well educated on our buyers — there’s been a shift in both perspectives. Marketing is no longer a one-way dialogue. Instead, it’s become a conversation, based on the exchange of information. As marketers, we haven’t lost our power to influence savvy buyers. We just have to change the way that we approach them.
Shannon Duffy is VP of Marketing at Pardot, B2B marketing automation by Salesforce. She has held many marketing leadership positions since 2003, including Director of Marketing at SourceForge, Senior Director of Marketing for Data.com and head of product marketing communications for direct response products at Facebook.