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The first rule of marketing is to know your audience. This goes well beyond defining the demographics of your target audience and into a deeper understanding of their behaviors. Winning strategies are guided by how well you know your customers and whether or not you can reach them in the right place at the right time – in a way they want to be reached.

As Dan Zarrella famously said, “Marketing without data is like driving with your eyes closed.” Thankfully for marketers, there is an abundance of resources and tools available to pry your eyes open and keep your hands on the wheel. Your customers are already on the road, they just might be headed in the wrong direction. So, instead of swerving and cutting them off, here are some tips to help guide them home.

Customer Personalization based on Personas

In the current marketing landscape, consumers are more empowered than ever before and expect experiences specifically designed to suit their needs. If you target “everyone,” you run the risk of appealing to no one. You can combat this risk by creating buyer personas.

Buyer personas help define specific audiences you want to reach. Audiences can be segmented by demographics such as age range, gender, location and occupation. But, a true assessment of their individual needs, pain points, triggers, behavior and decision criteria are the only way to reach them on a personal level. Narrowing your focus is what allows you to broaden your customer base.

A recent Google study with Bain & Company shows that the most successful brands are those who show up for their customers with a perfectly-timed message tailored to their needs. Only after you have solid personas can you judge whether or not your Story is aligned around a message that facilitates engagement.

The Conversation Behind the Data

What do you your customers think about you? How do they talk about you? How do they use your services? What is your customer’s view of your Story? You may think you have the answers to these questions, and your perception is probably fairly accurate, but only hard data will provide a single source of truth for stakeholders to forecast from and Marketing and Sales Ops to gain actionable insights from.

Leading brands like Adidas use the assistance of digital data to put their customers at the forefront of their marketing strategy. How exactly do they focus on potential buyers? With a unification of purpose and a focus on initiating conversations. Using customer-centric data to feature the consumer as the “hero” is what will give your data the most momentum and you, the most success. Chris Murphy, head of digital experience at Adidas, describes the vision, “If you want to be truly consumer-centric, you have to think digital first. And, in order to do that, you’ve got to be data-driven. What we’re hoping to do is provide the consumer with a more connected, personal, and relevant experience across the broader digital ecosystem.”

Right Time, Right Place

Building a database of targeted information should be your primary goal but knowing when and where to place your messages is just as important. So how do you find out the ideal way consumers want to receive your message? You guessed it, more data. Gathering information beyond typical “groupings” like age, occupation, or gender, will help you make these decisions.

According to the Bain study, the solution to nurturing your leads into taking action is using integrated data to uncover consumer insights. This means measuring which ads are most effective depending on where and how they appear. It means listening to feedback from potential supporters and previous buyers. Ultimately, data will help you understand the different groups of your target segmentations in the broader context of their ecosystems.

As I detailed in my book Marketing, Interrupted, personifying your marketing strategy is not simply an option anymore, it’s a customer expectation.

Action and Reaction

There is no shortage of data or ways to collect it. Between increasing customer touchpoints and CRM transactions, the more data you collect, the easier it will be to predict future marketing initiatives and adapt to change along the way. Improved conversation and technology resources initiate a cycle of data collection and increased opportunities that transformative marketers can use to predictively model future customer behaviors. The result? Higher performance and clarified buyer personas.

Along with this proliferation of data though, comes an even greater necessity for an alignment in Systems. Defining and aligning your business processes, measurement systems and organizational capabilities is the only way to drive scalable growth.

If you’re ready for more insights to transform how your customers perceive and interact with your brand – and you want tactical tips to accelerate growth – take a look at our Transformational Marketing ebook for a deeper dive into the Story, Strategy, Systems Methodology.