This is the first of many upcoming blog posts from Steve Rankel, who joined our team last summer as COO. Steve is a 30-year veteran of marketing and sales, and an expert at decoding why customers buy, and transforming buying insights into actionable content strategy and content.
No matter your political persuasion, I think we can agree that recent events are contributing to increasing degrees of uncertainty and distraction for almost everyone.
As I write this, management teams, marketers, and agencies around the world are huddled in conference rooms asking the same question: "Okay, so what do we do now? How does this affect our content marketing strategy? What new content decisions do we need to make to more effectively market to our target audience – and ensure this new reality doesn't affect this year’s metrics?”
And while those are good questions – there is one fundamental problem: they’re being asked of the wrong person.
That’s because there is no buyer, buyer representative, or buying insight in those meetings.
If you're not asking this question of a buyer – someone whose MBO’s, reputation, 2017 bonus, and maybe job depends on the right choices about the kind of solutions you sell – then you're going to get a bunch of opinions.
Making stuff up in a conference room, on a whiteboard, with smart people, as brilliant as it is, is just an educated guess.
Which is a common trap we see when content marketers "invent" their own fictional buyer persona.
A VP we interviewed recently explained a significant CapEx request he put in front of his CFO. The CFO said, “OK, I’ll approve this with your name on it. But if it doesn’t work, it’s your tombstone.”
What do you think that VP will share if you ask him? Opinions? Guesses? No. He’ll share war stories. Scars. Wounds. Emotions. REAL STUFF.
The world has become more confusing, complex, and distracting -- for you and your buyers – to bet anything as important as your revenue, content strategy, sales training, maybe even your career, on a GUESS.
So you & I as marketers have several options:
- Involve your smartest people to invent a new content strategy on a whiteboard
- Keep guessing, but do it harder, and more earnestly
- Hold more meetings with your agency, to ask their opinion
- Meet with your analyst or research firm, to get their opinion
- Gather focus groups, and record their opinions
- Work your salesforce harder
- Generate MORE content in MORE formats – in the hopes that something sticks
OR we can go out into the market – interview buyers – and build actionable buyer personas that will reveal a content strategy and content marketing plan that matters to THEM.
(NOTE: I’m NOT talking about interviewing customers. They have a relationship with you. They have already aligned themselves with your firm. They think more like you than prospects do. You need to understand the buyers who HAVEN’T BOUGHT FROM YOU).
DECISION TIME: What will you do now? Will you increase the risks you face by relying on guesswork? Will you follow approaches like "Use a template to create a semi-fictional character representing your buyer," and create content based on that?
Or, will you ask REAL BUYERS to tell you the truth about how they're now approaching these decisions in 2017?
Go directly to the horses' mouth. Your 2017 will be better for it.