October 30 2017
My marketing process, for a very long time, was governed almost exclusively by a lot of things I read in books, a few things my professors said, and a handful of directions from my boss.
And for a time, this worked.
But the longer I worked in the marketing industry, the more digital marketing that I did, and especially, the more time I spent writing content and watching it whisk its merry way into the ether, never to be checked upon again, the more I started to think back to a particular professor of mine.
Now this guy was no marketer, but he was a big believer in the power of data. He was the kind of guy who made graphs for fun, who charted the trends of his student reviews in his free time, and he was onto something with his little data obsession.
It was something that stuck in my head, something that got louder and louder with each passing year.
It wasn’t too long ago that I finally realize how much my marketing (and the marketing of my clients) was suffering because of my complete lack of data.
Actually, I had plenty of data…
I just wasn’t using it.
The Marketing Process of a Brand Spankin’ New Marketer
When I was still a wet-behind-the-ears greenhorn in the wide world of digital marketing, it was all I could do to simply follow what I’d been taught. The basics still needed time to sink in. If I could simply remember where my headings and calls to action needed to go, I was doin’ pretty well.
As the years progressed and I got faster and more efficient, I started to ask questions.
“Hey, that blog post I wrote—how’s it doing?”
“That email we sent out… how did folks respond to it?”
“Can we do a survey, or maybe just dig into the data and see what’s going on here.”
As a marketer and as a writer, this was new territory for me. After all, my marketing process was fairly simple for a long time: write some stuff > edit the stuff > give the stuff to someone who knows what the heckfire is goin’ on around here.
But as the training wheels came off, I started to see the value of altering my still-nascent marketing process to take into account the literal flood of data in which I was swimming every single day.
A Marketer Who Ignores Data Is Like a Fish Who Ignores Water
30 years ago, data was a rare and precious resource.
These days, you’re pourin’ the stuff outta’ your shoes when you walk in the door.
Through a variety of tools, some free and some paid, I had always had access to some basic data, and with a little research and elbow grease, I was able to understand what the data meant, what they didn’t mean, and how to apply that to my day-to-day work.
The process of marketing anything, whether it be a multi-million-dollar flagship product or a barely-off-the-ground service (or anything in between), marketers almost always seem to employ the same basic sets of marketing strategies and marketing tactics that most businesses in the upper echelons of the marketing world have been using for years.
There’s little agility. There’s little change. Even though they have this data, they might only make slight changes to the way they’re already doing things…
They rarely change their entire marketing process.
(If you’re looking for more tips on how to really change your marketing process, check out the superhuman Sam Hurley’s article, 6 super-psychological triggers to maximize your customer retention.)
I Knew That Wouldn’t Fly for Me
Call me crazy, but I think it’s plain stupid to rely on tradition and “what we’ve always done” when trying to decide what to do today.
When I finally felt comfortable enough in my new marketing skin to make some decisions of my own, I started to really look into the metrics, to dig into the data, and to use that to change not simply how I approached a single marketing tactic or strategy, but rather, how my entire marketing process went down, from start to finish.
I’ve been a writer all my life, and the idea of changing any process was terrifying — it took me decades to perfect my writing process, but I slowly realized that marketing simply had to be approached differently.
This wasn’t about tweaks or twinges. This was about wholesale change. About razing it to the ground and starting from the ashes.
Here’s What It Looked Like in Practice
For a very long time, I was convinced that the centerpiece of all marketing needed to be the customer, the audience to whom we were writing.
To be fair, from a technical communication perspective, this is probably entirely correct.
I’ve met many marketers who believe the same thing.
I still believe this to some extent.
However, when I dug into the data, I started to change my thinking. I started to see that our marketing process really needed to change, and change in a big way.
We just couldn’t put the people in the center anymore — it had to be us, the brand, that drove everything.
Now I’m not going to bore you with numbers, but for a long time, I wrote exclusively to please our audience. We knew who our audience was (at that time, small business owners), we knew who we wanted our audience to be (big business owners), and we knew that our content needed to be rooted in this.
Or so we thought.
The data told a different story.
When I started picking apart our audience, who they actually were, who we were actually attracting, as opposed to who we wanted to attract, I found that, basically, we weren’t really attracting either audience.
Instead, we were attracting other marketers.
This Revelation Incited a Revolution
Now, why would this small-but-critical piece of data change the way we approached our marketing process at all, let alone entirely?
Because every piece of content we generated, every blog post we wrote, every email we pushed out the door, every free tool or guide we designed, every social media ad we posted, every PPC campaign we ran, freakin’ all of it was designed to draw in the business owner (or a mid-level manager type), to get them to pay us a bunch of money to build them a website, write them some content, design them a logo, or what have you.
And can you guess what the goal of each of those pieces of content was?
If you guessed “To get them to contact you,” you would be correct.
Now it wasn’t quite like that across the board — I was smart enough in my first year of marketing to push things out the door that simply directed our intended targets to look at other pieces of content, but for the most part, it was contact, contact, contact.
Funny thing about that… when we dug into the data, the content and marketing campaigns we created that were designed to get the kind of leads we wanted, those rarely brought in quality leads.
But the pieces of content we created that were popular with this audience of marketers were simply our most popular pieces period.
The content we created was designed to appeal to business owners and manager types, but apparently we sucked at this type of design for a while, because all we were actually attracting were fleets of marketers.
And they weren’t buying our services.
However, they were willing to buy our knowledge.
We Started Selling Marketing Tools, and to Our Surprise, They Were Immediately Popular
We shouldn’t have been surprised — the data had been screaming at us the whole time that this would work.
And as we began building up that side of the business, I had to ask myself a simple question:
Why was the content that we intended for one audience drawing in another?
Had we made a mistake?
Were we that blind?
The truth is, though I was still very new at this, my boss was not, and she oversaw everything, so it couldn’t have been a mistake.
So what the heckfire was the deal?
The more I thought about it, the more I compared different types of content, marketing tactics, marketing strategies, and our success with them all, the more I saw a pattern.
The pattern was this: The content and marketing that was most successful was the stuff that we had the most fun with, the stuff that was so deeply us you could paint a mental picture in your head of the whole team just based on the content alone.
The stuff that put our brand far, far ahead of the audience in terms of importance was the stuff that had the most impact.
A revelation, and yet not so much.
Just as your personal brand needs to be awesome if you ever want to achieve success, so too must your business brand blow people out of the water — mediocre pandering to your perceived crowd wins you nothing but crappy clients and crappier headaches.
Just Be Yourself
We are told to pander, pander, pander to our audience, to give the damn customers whatever they damn want, to always think of their needs and work for them.
But the truth is, customers have a million options at their disposal.
And just like in the dating world, the ones who are most desirable, who have the most options, they only truly desire the ones who are unique, who are themselves, who are real.
The ones who could care less one way or the other, who are unique and vibrant and have lives of their own.
That was my revelation: We were most attractive when being uniquely ourselves, and it didn’t matter who we were attracting that way, we just needed to make sure that those people were the audience we thought about, and not the people we wanted so badly to work with…
Those people rarely worked out the way we wanted them to anyway.
When We Prioritized the Brand Over the Audience, Our Marketing Process Shifted
Literally everything we did after this revelation changed. Every call to action changed. The types of content and marketing we created changed. Our website changed. Even our social media ads changed.
Instead of pushing, pushing, pushing to get them on the phone or to buy a $20K marketing package, we were helping them learn more from us in the way we wanted to teach it.
All our content and marketing became focused on helping that audience, which is really at the core of who and what we are. We started our business to help business owners succeed, to help the little guy with the big idea get out there in the wide world and make something of themselves, to show them how to spread the word about the awesome things they do.
We are most passionate when we are helping folks like that.
We are the most ourselves when helping folks like that.
And, it turns out, we are most interesting when we are in that groove.
And thus, our entire marketing process shifted, all based solely on what the metrics were telling us.
The best part is that it went against conventional wisdom, it flew in the face of what we’d all learned over the years.
But the data did not lie.
So we followed them to success.
Want to learn some of the content marketing strategies that we employ today? Click here to read my article on 5 commanding content marketing strategies that you can put to work immediately.