Marketing Intelligence: 3 ways to better serve your customers (and your bottom line)

customer pollsYour potential customers are ignoring the work you’ve invested thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours into as you’re reading this sentence. That’s why we spend so much time on the MarketingExperiments blog talking about optimization. Because the less people ignore us, the more we can contribute to that ever fragile bottom-line.

But in order to stop being ignored, we have to get to know who we’re talking to. In the end, it’s all about sparking conversations and developing relationships with real people.

Knowing who those people are (and what they truly need) is harder than it seems. How can you gain this valuable marketing intelligence about your potential customers?

Let me tell you a story…

A few weeks ago, I attended the Optimization Summit in Atlanta. During my experience there, I found myself among the exact people who read this blog and my writing…you.

So when I was there, listening to some of you tell me about your work, I had a bit of a revelation: in one sense, you are basically my customers. Except instead of money, you pay me in attention and time and I have to deliver with great content.

I also realized that I was in an extraordinary situation that most marketers only dream of…

The more I got to know some of you and what you were struggling with, the better I could do my job. And here I was, talking (and partying) with the people who it’s my job to serve.

So while the training sessions, case studies, and content of the Summit was great, the most valuable part for me was talking to you.

But not everyone has the opportunity to gather in a room with hundreds of their core customers and simply talk to them.

So what’s a marketer to do?

Well lucky for you, I just attended an Optimization Summit (did I mention that?) where I learned a lot about that very topic.

Drawing from the content at the Summit, here’s 3 ways to get to know your customers:

1. Get to know customers through your analytics

Founder and President of Site Logic, Matt Bailey’s keynote address, “Analytics for fun and profit,” was essentially about mining your analytics for data about your customers.

According to Matt, your analytics tell stories about your customers. To uncover those stories you need to build context.  Without context, data is simply data. It’s useless.

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For example, say you get 10,000 visitors a month to your site from organic search. That’s awesome! Or wait a minute, that stinks, how can we improve it? See, without context, all you have is a useless number.

Ask yourself questions about the data to give it context. Questions like “What is my best source of qualified visitors?” or “Which segment of my visitors convert at the highest rate?” all help you extract that data from your analytics.

If your most qualified visitors are coming from organic search, for instance, you can then ask “Why?”

You’d be surprised how much you can learn about your customers using that process.

2. Get to know your customers through your content

In another session, Marcus Sheridan of River Pools and Spas spoke about how writing content was the game changer for his little pool business.

For Marcus, writing content enabled him to directly address his customer’s questions. In fact, customer questions were the inspiration for his content. He advises marketers just starting out with content to write down the 50 questions they get asked most frequently. Those are your first 50 blog posts right there. Yes, that includes price.

Through that, he was able to get huge amounts of organic search traffic and eventually sell more pools.

Of course writing all that content taught him a lot about his customers. Using his analytics, he was able to tell which content resonated best with his customers. And as a result he was able not only to write more relevant content, but also serve people better.

For example, he learned that 30 pages of content was the tipping point to make a sale. In other words, if he could get people to read 30 pages of relevant content, they were 80% more likely to close. So instead of going out on pool consultations, where he was basically barraged with questions, he sent the content first to answer all of their questions. And then, once he arrived at the home, it was a true sales call since he already answered their questions and proved his company’s expertise with his content.

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3. Get to know your customers through testing

The pre-Summit Landing Page Optimization Workshop was very first session at the Summit, taught by Dr. Flint McGlaughlin, Managing Director, MECLABS, and set the tone for the entire event.

One of the things Flint said over and over in that workshop was “The goal of a test is not to get a lift. The goal of a test is to get a learning.”

Optimizing and testing landing pages is one of the best ways you can get to know your customers. Of course the temptation with Landing Page Optimization is to focus on getting a lift. Any losses are usually considered failures by many marketers.

But those failures are key learning opportunities. They help us understand the human beings behind the numbers. Good tests remind us that we’re dealing with real people who have real problems that we can really help to solve.

So, with a good test you’re not really trying to improve conversion, you’re trying to learn something. Perhaps it’s as simple as which color button customers respond better to? Or maybe it’s as complex as which value proposition most compels our customers to action? Whatever you’re doing, make sure you’re getting a lesson out of each test.

And don’t stop there, get together with your team (or if you’re testing alone, gather all your tests), every month, quarter, year, etc., and think about the bigger picture. It’s kind of like an episode of CSI. You have to piece together all these clues to determine what your customers are telling you.

Because not everyone gets to sip a Heineken while rotating atop Atlanta and picking the brains of all of his customers. 🙂

What are some of your ideas for getting to know your customers online? Let me know about them in the comments…

Related Resources:

Landing Page Optimization Workshop: Join Flint in New York

What Quality of Customer Experience Do You Provide?

Optimization Summit: Tests with poor results can improve your marketing

Evidence-based Marketing: Marketers should channel their inner math wiz…not cheerleader

Photo attribution: dailyfortnight

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