Mining and applying consumer insights in mass quantities is easier than ever before. Thanks to the rise of big data, the brands which succeed in the years to come will be those who truly embrace analytics. If you’re wondering whether taking a dive into metrics-driven marketing is truly necessary, consider the fact that many visible brands are already using consumer insights to improve the customer experience. Take Amazon’s recommendations engine – consumers shopping with the eCommerce giant online have come to expect personalized recommendations, which are created from their browsing and purchase history. While you don’t need to invest in a similarly advanced content system, you should take full advantage of the insights available to you through Google analytics, HubSpot, Marketo, or an alternative metrics platform.
As Ann Marie Kerwin of Adage points out, the explosion of big data is closely tied to customer happiness, which has never mattered more. Our age of high customer satisfaction is a phenomenon “fueled by mobile apps and the customer-first attitude born of the recession.” Your company needs to leverage analytics as a tool for learning more about your market, and apply these insights in real-time in order to better fulfill their content marketing needs.
Why Data Matters to Buyer Personas
Image credit: Vlado/freedigitalphotos.net
Successful marketing is usually much closer to science than you might think. Adopting many of the principles of the scientific method, which include designing experiments to remove bias and human error, and carefully testing your theories, can be the difference between content targeting gone horribly awry, and a truly personalized prospect experience. Even if you interview 20 customers for your buyer persona profiles, this might not yield enough data to provide a sufficiently accurate final product. Perhaps while your interviewees were SMB CEOs, your prospects are more often CFOs at mid-sized companies. Marketers only know what they know, and the limited data set yielded by even extensive customer interviewing might not be enough information to correctly target your content. Targeting the wrong buyer persona may even be less effective than failing to target in the first place.
In a recent, controversial piece for Content Marketing Institute, search expert Jey Pandian postulated that interviewing was an inherently flawed method. Why? Because data interpretation and interviewing often yield a portrait which contains holes, and these gaps of insight are typically filled with guess work. While Pandian support more precise buyer persona profiling based on analytics, there’s no need to scrap the work you’ve done to date. Instead, your buyer persona profiles should be viewed as a living document, and you should continually update your knowledge of your ideal customer using information gleaned from analytics. Regularly analyzing the following areas can allow you to optimize your content and SEO strategy for your real-life website visitors:
1. Organic Search Data
The vast majority of SEO-minded content creators examine the keywords driving search to their website often, but few take the time to really look at the larger picture. Most major platforms allow you to export up to five years of keyword data. Pandian recommends looking past each individual keyword to determine the larger patterns, which emerge from the intent of the phrase. Apply these insights to your buyer personas in the following manner:
Determine how your content marketing fills a need: While a spreadsheet filled with key phrases like “Norfolk drywall buyer’s guide” or “best drywall in Norfolk” could initially seem disparate, you’ll eventually begin to see the types of content which are driving search. Do your visitors from Google tend to be looking for tip sheets, or tutorials on how to find the best vendor? Are there a pattern of requests for specific types of content (i.e. drywall eBook or drywall video)?
Learn how these insights fit into your sales cycle: A crucial component of effective buyer persona profiling is knowing how long it takes your ideal customers to research before purchasing, and the types of content required for them to ultimately choose your brand. You may think that your average customer has a low level of savviness, and takes 3 months of research, but the organic search results could surprise you. If requests trend towards traditionally bottom-of-the-sales funnel content, like tip sheets and case studies, or technical questions are driving a high volume of search, you may need to adjust your perception of your customers and raise the difficulty level of your content marketing.
Gauge pain points and priorities: Unless your company has few competitors, the majority of organic search traffic to your website is probably driven by long tail keywords, like “best cupcake shop in Detroit,” which consist of at least three words. Searching for patterns among the adjectives used in key phrases can reveal fascinating insights on the factors which matter to your buyer personas. Does the term “cheap” or “affordable” appear often? Are your visitors searching for “fast” results? Discovering the factors which are driving search traffic can allow you to adjust your buyer persona profiles’ pain points and priorities.
2. Visitor Geography
For geo-targeted brands, visitor geography is something of a litmus test to determine how effectively you’ve targeted to date. For international brands, this measure is less important to your bottom line, but can still reveal insights on where your readers are coming from.
If you’re a local or semi-local brand struggling to attract the right prospects, we recommend Moz’s tutorial on geo-targeted SEO. The practice of local SEO can be incredibly challenging, but optimizing to capture the right segment of your market is infinitely more valuable than driving traffic from unqualified visitors.
3. Closed-Loop Analytics
Several decades ago, one of the biggest challenges facing marketers was the need to compile enough consumer insights, which was often achieved through a combination of focus groups, research firms, and customer service. The tables have shifted, and today’s marketers are faced with the need to effectively comb through an abundance of data to find the insights which actually matter.
Closed loop analytics is the process of sifting through search and social insights to separate out the contacts which actually become customers. While 45% of your traffic may come from LinkedIn, you could find that 90% of visitors who go on to make a purchase find your site through search. HubSpot can integrate with your CRM, so you can easily access a database of insights on client behavior. If you are integrating closed-loop analytics, examine the following factors to determine whether your buyer personas are accurate:
Product Research: While customer interviews may indicate that your ideal customer performs research on search, you could discover that social media networks are more often the platform where you are discovered by future customers. Alternatively, you could discover that Twitter leads rarely convert into customers, while LinkedIn contacts tend to be the most qualified. Every insight you can gain about the platforms tied to customers can be utilized to enrich your buyer personas.
Campaigns: While your Twitter marketing eBook may have been a goldmine for lead generation, was it actually a source of qualified leads? By determining the content topics and formats that drove the most customers, you can pivot your content marketing strategy to create more material that emulates these power players.
Points of Touch: Traditional marketing and sales thought dictates that a company needs to “touch” a prospect 7 times before they’re ready to make a purchase. While studies support this theory, the number of contacts required can vary significantly according to industry. By determining how many times you typically interacted with prospects who became customers, you can adjust your newsletter content and lead nurturing campaigns accordingly.
Demographics or Firmographics: Facts and figures about your customers’ age, geographic location can be a powerful tool for targeting your content marketing. While these factors may not reveal as much insight as pain points and priorities, demographics can assist in gaining a deeper understanding of your ideal customer. By utilizing your information on customers through closed loop analytics, you can continually refine your buyer persona profiles to become a more accurate depiction of your market.
Great marketers invest in vibrant buyer persona profiles which are based on insights from their company’s real-life customers. The marketers who are poised to dominate their competition in the next decade are those who understand the critical relationship between big data and customer satisfaction. By tracking the behavior of website visitors, and sifting through your metrics to take a closer look at the closed-loop analytics of your customer base, you can gain far more insight than with customer interviews.
To build a truly outstanding buyer persona profile, understand that it’s a living document that could change significantly month-to-month. Rely on customer interviews to gain subjective insights on factors like brand perception and perceived barriers to purchase, but embrace the fact that metrics have the power to show the bigger picture.
Have you taken the time to revise your buyer persona profiles with marketing analytics? How do you continually improve your portraits of ideal customers?
header image credit: photoraidz/freedigitalphotos.net