We humans are intuitive creatures. Most of us would probably deny we have much psychic power, but we do occasionally find ourselves in "aha" moments in which we could swear someone was reading our mind.
Imagine the power a marketer would have if he or she knew exactly when and where you were thinking about buying that new golf club or subscribing to that service. As connected as we all are, it would be easy for them to reach out right then and help us make that decision with a little helpful info or a bit of a deal sweetener. That's the essence of context marketing. It's about knowing what to say and when to say it to help a potential buyer make a decision. It's about being in the right place at the right time with the right message. Easy, right? Not so much.
Getting to Know You
For some reason that song from the musical The King and I sticks in my head: "Getting to know you, getting to know all about you..." That's the most important step in context marketing, and it's a doozy. We marketers call it "persona development," but that's really not enough for context marketing. Why? Because when we establish a marketing persona, what we're really doing is putting individual prospects into a general category. For example, a CMO has certain traits we find useful in marketing—loves to read blogs, monitors social channels, understands budgets, etc. We appeal to that persona with our content marketing and demand generation campaigns. By creating a persona, however, we tend to lose the details of an individual prospect. We don't pay much attention to the actual conversations a CMO has or the timing of when they download our content and in what order. There are lots of things we could learn about each potential buyer, and use that information to greater effect. That's the challenge of context marketing.
The Right Place and Time
Figuring out where our prospects hang out is relatively easy. It's probably safe to say "birds of a feather flock together." It's a safe bet CMOs congregate in social networks and forums geared toward marketing. Similarly, they are likely to search certain keyword phrases like "demand generation," "lead nurturing" or "marketing automation." So we publish content in the likeliest places and optimize it for the right search phrases. We can improve our odds of reaching prospects with PPC ads, press releases, guest blog posts and email marketing. Nothing new here.
What else could we do? That's where BIG DATA and lead intelligence come in. Once a lead is captured, your marketing automation (MA) system starts tracking everything—what content and when, which channels, what comments and "likes"—all of that is potentially available for data mining. Most MA systems allow you to make sophisticated queries for list segmentation and workflows that get triggered by certain key events, like visiting your pricing page. In other words, you can set up context-driven communication to automatically reach out and touch your prospects when they exhibit a buyer-likely behavior. Or you can send a text to a sales rep and give them the opportunity to reach out in person. Either way, you have greatly increased the odds of consummating a sale by being there at the right time and place.
The Right Message
This is the biggest context marketing challenge. Knowing exactly what to say is a tough nut to crack. Why? Because the context itself is complicated. The exact path a prospect took to get to the trigger point is relevant, as is the prospect's past behavior and preferences. In other words, you need to be able to read his or her mind to know exactly what to say in that singular instance.
In a perfect marketing world, your MA system would know that I like to look for new technology solutions and ideas on Sunday morning between 9-11 AM, and my favorite sources for that information are A, B, and C. It knows that I typically ignore or filter emails that have the word "FREE" in the title and landing pages that have more than 300 words in the copy. It knows that I generally ignore PPC ads, except the ones for very specific keywords. It knows that I typically spend an average of 2.5 seconds on a home page, and I look at banners for 0.6 seconds. It also knows that I have read a list of blog posts with X, Y and Z topics and which ones were recently read. So, your marketing automation system is ready to reach out to me with just the right message at just the right time and just the right place. Nice. I'm sold, and I'm also impressed that you've been paying attention to me.
Why Should You Care?
Because this is the future of marketing and it's happening now. Personalization isn't easy. You can't just plug in a formula and pull the trigger. You need a detailed strategy for studying and learning from your visitors and leads through content marketing, marketing automation, social media monitoring, CRM integration and data mining. You need to dedicate people to the task of building buyer profiles and learning from your sales team to help understand buyer behaviors. Once all of that is in place, you need processes to alert the right people and respond with the right messages. The pay-off is potentially huge. Imagine conversion rates in the 90 percent range. Imagine the kind of customer loyalty that most of us have with the pioneers in context marketing, Amazon and Google. It can be done.
Photo credit: holaisabel
With over 30 years of business and marketing experience, John loves to blog about ideas and trends that challenge inbound marketers and sales and marketing executives. John has a unique way of blending truth with sarcasm and passion with wit. You can connect with John via Twitter, LinkedIn or follow John McTigue on Google Plus.