The key to commercial success, whether digitally or traditionally, is to find the right customer at the right time in the right place and present them the right content. Another more common way to think of it is solving for who, what, where and when. This has become a whole lot easier in the digital age with access to big data to inform us and provide guiding insights across a customer’s journey. The social media landscape offers a virtual goldmine of customer intelligence. Data processing centers can be established to identify and segment distinctive buyer personas, provide intelligence on their behaviors, pinpoint relevant content and target optimal channels for optimal customer engagement. The predictive and prescriptive insights gained can power a sustainable winning process and position your commercial teams for success.

Finding the right customer

Persona development and monitoring is an accelerating digital practice becoming widely recognized and valuable to better understand the various customer segments in your marketplace. Your customers are not the same and you need to recognize who they are, their differences and preferences. Creating personas using attributes, characteristics and interests is a necessary step to effectively segment and identify the right customers. A tremendous amount of data is available to analyze through social networking channels that can continually educate and inform you about your buyers. Knowing who the decision makers and influencers are among your customer contacts will allow you to cover all the bases and build long lasting and productive relationships. Learning their evolving interests and preferences will provide key insights into when and how to effectively engage with them. In a recent conversation with Apparao Karri, Co-Founder of Cintell, a company providing a full range of persona solutions, he stated “Identifying various personas within the Buying Center for your product, and marketing to each one of them differently based on their preferences, will create a substantial competitive advantage and will make the deals flow through the sales pipeline much faster.”

A sustainable persona platform and process is a critical first step to deepen customer understanding and serve as a guide for your content strategy and placement. The key next step in your persona strategy is matching and appending your contact list to your different persona profiles. Maintaining current and complete contact records is a considerable challenge for companies, but an absolutely critical exercise. You can also use your personas to find and add new contacts to your customer relationship management (CRM) system. As a testament to the value of customer insights and contact data, Cintell recently formed a partnership with FullContact, the leading identity resolution platform delivering consumer and professional insights, empowering businesses to be awesome with the people who matter most.

Finding the right time

Hand in hand with knowing the right customer is knowing the right time to engage with them. The objective and approach are similar to the recent trend towards account-based marketing and predictive analytics. Using big data analysis as intelligence for monitoring the customer journey and identifying predictive behavioral indicators at each stage will provide your sales teams a significant advantage. Whereas account-based marketing generally begins with a targeted account list, you can cast a wider net by establishing data centers using your personas and precise filtering to track online buying behaviors to incorporate predictive signals into your approach. Research indicates that buyer are somewhere around 70% of the way through their journey before having contact with a sales rep. Targeting sales activity from a series of alerts powered by key financial data, news, and events can be used to predict future buying activity by your customers in the early stages of their journey. Triggers based on correlating online behavior and social network activity to closed won and lost deals in your marketplace is another way to predict key moments earlier in the buyer journey. Monitoring those behaviors in future cycles can provide an additional dimension to prioritize accounts. Combining both data and behavioral indicators provides a comprehensive view, which allows you to consistently score your customer listing and prioritize your accounts and find the right time to engage your customer. Karri’s view is “Applying latest machine learning and artificial intelligence techniques to customer data (external & internal) will help extract the necessary insights to facilitate highly personalized, relevant & timely engagement.”

Sharing the right content

In 1996 Bill Gates declared “Content Is King!” This statement is even truer today, more than two decades later. The chase for relevant content has never been more important and challenging. The key here is relevancy. A cohesive and comprehensive content marketing strategy is the foundation of every successful marketing strategy. An audit of your current content inventory is a great place to start. From there you can identify gaps and fill your virtual shelves. With newfound insights from customer personas and stage in the buyer’s journey, you can identify content that can align with multiple customer profiles with changing interests and needs over a wide timeline. In a recent interview, Todd Berkowitz – Research VP at Gartner, recently told CMSWire. “There is heavy usage of data, heavy use of analytics and an element of best practice sees prescriptive analytics as the wave of the future.” “Prescriptive analytics is the final evolutionary stage of analytics and is starting to emerge from data science labs and into the real world at the moment.” Another important consideration is how much content you create versus how much you curate through others. A comprehensive content marketing program blending both organic and curated methods into your process is critical to success. A good rule of thumb is a 60/40 split in favor of creation. Your content also needs to address all stages of the customer’s journey and appeal to different buyer personas. You will be surprised at how much content is already available inside your organization;it likely just needs updating and formatting. Beyond that look to partner with knowledge-based institutions to create something exclusive or curate from other sources. Explore content aggregators to provide articles and research on key topics of interest. Follow thought leaders in targeted industries and topics on social networks. It’s a tall task, but there are some very good options available to obtain the right content.

Finding the right place

The right place is as much about being found as it is finding someone. Armed with your persona, contact insights and buying journey intelligence, targeted content can be intelligently positioned to optimize engagement. Social networks work well in the first 70% of the journey we referred to earlier. Social selling is a great way to promote your expertise and thought leadership as customers explore and research buying options. Employee and customer advocacy programs are also best served through the social networks. Audience response to promote and reinforce your brand should be a key objective of your social selling strategy. To help their clients drive social selling initiatives, Cintell has recently launched a new customer intelligence offering for company contacts. Using the power of the FullContact data engines, Cintell developed a deep profile to intensify and amplify your contact records providing valuable 360-degree insights for individual’s and corresponding employer’s social media activity and interests. Beyond social selling, email is still a highly effective marketing channel. Combining your predictive and prescriptive insights with a comprehensive, cataloged content platform can power targeted campaigns to dramatically increase your engagements. Further, be sure to position all your created content to be easily accessed from your website. Linking your content and getting new users to your site should always be a key digital marketing goal. Paid and organic search can also be better optimized from the customer and content insights gained through this approach. Lastly, content placement in select newsletters, online advertising and sponsorships should also be considered to improve your chances of being found.

Summary

There has never been a better time to focus energy and resources to drive commercial excellence in your business. Karri wrapped up by saying, “This new opportunity to get more precise and targeted with customers means that marketers have to act like scientists. Creating hypothesis based on initial data and assumptions, running experiments, learning from the results, refining the hypothesis and repeating. It is a continuous and iterative process.” Big data, buyer personas, relevant content and a strong digital presence are all necessary components for your marketing and sales teams to strengthen and grow customer relationships. Identifying, interacting and engaging with the right customer, at the right time, with the right messaging in the right place will optimize your commercial activities to win and keep winning in your marketplace.