An enterprising business person with something to sell in the 15th century knew what to do. A successful sale required satisfying the need or want of a prospect best suited to make a purchase. Every action undertaken then had to A. identify that prospect and B. bring the product or service for sale to their attention.

Because no one goes around publicly screaming what it is they want or need, identifying a potential lead’s intent requires careful observation of behavior. Intuitively we know that it is far easier to interpret the behavior of those we know than total strangers. Following a prospect around (the equivalent of data mining in today’s customer journey) is unfeasible for many different reasons that crop up at almost every level.

This leaves the building of a relationship between a business and its prospects as the only realistic, scalable path to interpreting intent. When every action is motivated by emotion every decision we make starts from something we have felt.

The good news is that when actions can be observed and analyzed, thoughts (and intent) cannot truly remain hidden.

The Challenge Of Data Capture

We live in the age of big data. We suffer, as a result, from too much data, rather than not enough. Its sheer volume tends to drive us towards picking easy metrics (such as near-meaningless Facebook likes) as “social proof” of the effectiveness of our marketing and branding efforts.

In truth, the data we can legally accumulate, is sufficient to provide a detailed picture of those we reach and reveal some of their intent, based upon perception, trust and a clearer understanding of who they are.

We’ve been there before. It was the accumulation of data and the need to organize it in a meaningful way that gave rise to semantic search and its “From Strings to Things” approach.

Similarly, in a world where marketing is getting easier in terms of how we can reach prospects but harder in our ability to truly connect and engage with them, the transition has to be “From Axons” where we’d market to our prospects using base-common-denominator tactics (i.e. fear, lowest price, scarcity) “To Actions” where we look at the totality of the behavior of those we engage with and seek to truly align their needs and wants with our products and services.

This personalized (and scalable) approach to marketing and branding is a challenge. It requires clarity in the identity of a brand or a company; precision in its outward messages to its audience, and trust on both sides of the customer interface. Companies that fail to create a culture of trust internally are unlikely to be able to do so externally through their advertising, content creation and marketing.

The Takeaways

Marketing (and selling) are as old as the hills. While search, social media, branding in the digital and offline world and social selling are new, the fundamentals are the same:

  • Identify your vision as a brand or company
  • Align that mission with your vision
  • Establish your values
  • Align your values with those of your prospects
  • Create relationships that deliver value, not points of contact where you can sell something
  • Evolve with your audience; don’t get caught up in your own needs and forget about theirs

All you need to do is work out how to make everything work in an age where the tools at our disposal allow us to do more than at any other time in our commercial history.