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There is an old adage that is often repeated by business owners – “I know half of my advertising is working. I just don’t know which half.” CEOs have been repeating this expression for over 100 years without much disagreement. But I would disagree with one aspect of the statement – that the percentage that of most company’s marketing investments that are not working is far greater than 50%. It’s closer to 80%, 90% or 95%. And this is not because marketing organizations are disastrously inefficient. Companies simply do not have enough data about their prospective buyers to improve their results.

Every marketing organization has a set of prospective buyers and influencers that they are trying to reach. The challenge is that they don’t know how to reach them. And so the marketing department goes through a trial-and-error process with many different messages in many different formats over many different channels at many different times. Below are examples of the challenges marketing organizations face when attempting to reach their prospective buyers:

Wrong Channel

  • Cold-called and left a voicemail, when the target only responds to emails.
  • Sent an InMail via LinkedIn, when the target rarely logs in. Instead they prefer engagement on Twitter.
  • Sent a direct mail package to their office, when they usually work from home.

Wrong Message

  • Pushed a message about the Internet of Things, when the target really cares more about Big Data.
  • Talked about cost savings, when the target is really focused on growth.
  • Asked about global challenges, when the target only has responsibility for North America.

Wrong Format

  • Sent a 20-page text-heavy white paper, when the target would rather read a 10-page info-graphical ebook.
  • Sent a 4-page product brochure, when the target would rather watch a 90-second explainer video.
  • Sent a 3-paragraph business benefits email message, when the target would have a preferred a two-line humorous note.

Wrong Time

  • Attempted contact on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, when the best time to reach out is typically Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
  • Started discussions in January for new projects, when the fiscal year starts in July.
  • Called between 9am and 5pm when the target is in meetings and the executive assistant answers the phone, versus before 9am and after 5pm.

Wrong Approach

  • Sent a Gartner report, when the target relies more heavily on IDC.
  • Advertised in CIO Magazine, when the target reads InformationWeek.
  • Got introduced by Oracle, when the target is moving to SAP.

Sometimes the company doing the marketing gets lucky and marketing gets a response on the first try. But more often than not, the target prospect does not respond until after 5, 10 or more than 50 attempts. All of these are wasted investments. The ideal marketing model would deliver person the right message in the right format over the right channel at the right time, generating engagement on the first try. But to accomplish this feat, marketing departments need a massive amount of data about each individual’s communication style, learning preferences and social media behaviors.

So the big question is – Does the technology available to marketer’s today allow us to collect all of this information? Applications such as Marketo, Eloqua, Hubspot, Clearslide, Fileboard, YesWare and ToutApp are enabling marketers to collect more and more data about prospective buyers communication preferences and behavioral patterns. You can detect who views what and when – from marketing collateral and white papers to web pages and videos. However, the data that can be collected in an unobtrusive manner is insufficient to realize the vision outlined above. More thoughts in a future post.

Steve Keifer

Steve Keifer has led marketing and product management teams at seven different SaaS and cloud providers ranging from venture-backed, early-stage startups to multi-billion, publicly traded companies - including several that experienced hypergrowth, filed IPOs, and reached unicorn status. In Bantrr, Steve shares many of the best practices and lessons learned from building and scaling marketing organizations. Topics include new category creation, brand development, and demand generation.


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