The Challenge That Changed Our Marketing Plan

Jul 12, 2017 Shawn Herring

Create, Leadership, Marketing

All of us know the customer journey has changed significantly over the past 5-10 years. However, I don’t think our marketing plans have changed to match. I recently took on a challenge that made me look at my own marketing plan from a different perspective. Needless to say, it was eye opening… looking at spreadsheets, PowerPoints, and personas could never do it justice.
THE CHALLENGE: Live intentionally as a customer. Watch as a marketer.
To start the process, I had to train myself to intentionally watch my actions for buying signals. It was not as easy as I thought. Surprising to me, I gave buying signals all over the place for all kinds of products and services. Competitive intelligence software, replacement parts for a gas grill, paid activation options for targeting marketers, pediatric orthodontists in Indianapolis, a digital marketing summit in North Carolina, running shoes… well, the list goes on.
Here are a few key learnings from this exercise:

From the CUSTOMER perspective

NO BOUNDARIES – I was constantly crossing into and out of the personal and professional realms. I wasn’t thinking about the professional version of me and the personal version of me… I was just thinking about what was important at that point in time. This is nothing new (P2P, H2H, etc.) but you have to truly experience it, not just think about it.
WHERE TO START – When I dove into a particular area of interest, I would take the same approach for personal as well as professional interests. I would get as much information as possible as quickly as possible about the topic, not the product. Generally, this came from a source that I trusted for being helpful and agnostic to product. Most of us would consider Google as this source.
GIVING SIGNALS – Similar to my approach on researching topics, I gave buying signals for personal as well as professional interests. I triangulated around three core information sources:

  • I would look for those that ranked highest and had the most information on the topic. Generally, I would find a few ways to make my keyword search a little more “fine-tuned” than my research. Ideally, I would be able to find an unbiased source of information that provides the “best of” type of content. G2Crowd is an example I always check out when it comes to software.
  • I would go directly to the brand’s website to get even more information on the features and benefits of the product or service. I looked for videos first. I looked for images second. I read copy if I had to.
  • I used social and reviews to dig a little deeper and check on what others had to say and how these brands would react. Especially when it comes to customer service.

From the MARKETER perspective

  • The decision to buy is not always a linear path. It’s more of a choose your own adventure. There are different experiences that can change the trajectory of the customer’s path to purchase. Are we positioning our products and services at those pivot points?
  • No matter how much we want to “own” the customer journey, we never will. The customer owns it… we just get invited to participate if we are good at what we do. Are we doing what we should be to get invited by the customer?
  • Our company doesn’t own the brand – customers, partners, vendors, and employees own the brand. Our own opinion of the brand has much less of an impact than it used to. We have to continually show what our brand represents. Does our company deliver action that exemplifies the brand experience?
  • Current and potential customers are constantly giving off buying signals… and probably don’t even know it. Where are they happening? Can we see them? How can we leverage it in the right way(s)?
  • We are no longer just competing with direct competitors. We are competing with anything that involves attention – personally or professionally. Is our content really up for the challenge?

This seems very, very overwhelming at first glance. Doing “more” is not the answer. There is not enough “more” to go around. So instead of thinking about the breadth involved, it becomes clear that depth is the only way forward.
Although focus and prioritization are well known as keys to successful marketing, doing an exercise like this helps to ground that notion into something much more tangible, therefore much more actionable. If you are a marketer, I would highly recommend you try this and then step back and look at your marketing plan. You might be surprised at what you see.

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