If the stories are true, there was a day – long ago – when marketing with your gut and creating general, positive experiences was enough to draw customers into your lead gen flows. When product sheets and face-to-face meetings closed deals. When direct mail could hook a head of marketing or sales or IT.

True or not, we don’t live there anymore.

Instead, we find ourselves on the precipice of something pretty radical: a digital age so packed with competition and ad noise that, were we so inclined and resourced, we could broadcast our messages on all channels across all platforms at all hours of the day and never see a significant impact.


At this point in time – with ad blockers, spam laws, and “Do Not Call” lists existing as ubiquitous parts of the culture – it’s utterly irresponsible to ignore the fact that storytelling is the most infectious (and, obviously, impactful) tool any marketer has at his / her disposal.

But of course you already knew that.

Story-based marketing is – or, at least, should be – at the core of everything you do. It’s the strategy you use when concepting your campaigns and the thought-process you employ when designing your qualification funnel … you live it, and you breathe it, and you’re always looking for a way to make it work better.

But making content and telling stories across channels isn’t the easiest, and the new-found need for incredible levels of personalization (in strategies like account-based marketing) are probably creating some dissonances for you, like how do I cost-effectively produce and deliver personalized marketing? How do I market like that to scale?

Sure, you could invest in a lot of costly tools that will get you ever-so-slightly closer to creating and delivering those experiences, but there’s no need. You already have everything you need – your customer contact data – waiting in your CRM.

How To Use Contact Data For Marketing

Contact data is magic; or, rather, it feels like magic because it’s critically important, highly useful information that you didn’t have to do anything to get.

picture of your buyer

In it, you can discover 75% of everything you need to know to create targeted, impactful stories for your audience. Just think about it: if you analyzed the data of current customers in your CRM, you’d have their titles, companies, industries, and locations, all in about 30 minutes. And with that knowledge (and the assumptions you can make from them), you can draw perfect pictures of who you’re selling to on both a personal and industry level.

Here’s how you do it.

Export a customer list from your CRM and decide what kind of information you’re looking for (e.g., to identify decision maker roles, highly-engaged industries and/or geographical locations, to understand who your targets are on more personal levels). Then, sort.

Here are a few possibilities:

  • Sorting by Title: offers insight on the most common roles of your customers. Armed with this, you can make informed decisions about who your most valuable targets are and can begin extrapolating about their pain points, the kinds of premium content they’d be most likely to engage in, and can use it to build stories from preference and trend data identified by Google Analytics.
  • Sorting by Company: offers a breakdown of applicable industries, allows for the identification of ideal company types within those industries, and helps to highlight which businesses should be your customers (but aren’t yet).
  • Sorting by Common Roles + Common Industries: demonstrates where your messaging is the most impactful. By understanding this, you can make the necessary tweaks if you’re looking to reach into new industries, new customer bases, or both.
  • Sorting by Common Industries + Current Companies: shows the direction of your message. This allows you to dive deeper into the impact of your messaging, replicate results, and maximize gains on your highest performing channels.
  • Sorting by Common Industries + Missing Companies: allows you to develop channel- and business-based hypotheses about the exceptions to your successes. These hypotheses typically lead to channel, messaging, and targeting innovations.
  • Sorting by Title + Location: provides you with the first piece of the critical puzzle: who is my customer on a personal level? By understanding who your buyer is and where they are, you can make strong estimates about the kind of home your targets live in, whether they prefer urban/suburban environments, their approximate age ranges, etc.

Additionally, you’ll want to pay close attention to what you don’t see – which businesses in industries you dominate haven’t yet been sold on your product. This allows you to revisit your current lead gen strategy and tweak elements of your messaging for the piece of the industry that isn’t biting. After all, the right message to the right person … you know the story.

Shaping Customer Data into Stories

Once you have a solid understanding of the kind of story you need to tell (e.g., what’s happening in the industry, what language/topics would be most impactful for your target, what’s the problem, how does your product fix it, etc.), it’s time to get to work.

As I’ve argued before, all great sales/marketing stories follow the same formula: customer story + industry story = success.

And what this means, when you break it down, is that it’s your job to tell stories about a world that marries a target’s personal successes to larger business ones, that frames them (and not you) as a hero, that looks and sounds and feels like what they already willingly consume and that – oh, by the way – sells your product.

Whatever story arc ends up being the best fit for your targets and channels, be sure that you end up with something compelling and highly targeted. Something that connects to larger trends. Something that hits as hard in the gut as it does the bottom line.

It’s not hard. You just have to know where to aim, so you can take the right shot.

For more tips and tricks on how to cook up great content that will get your prospects to love your brand and want your product download, “The Perfect Recipe for Creating Killer Marketing Content.” You’ll learn how to create the perfect balance of of product values and buyer personas and ingredients for an effective content mix.