318947873_12028f1b66_mWhen a marketer begins his or her work, the mission seems clear enough. “Promote this product or service. Create sales.” In principle, this seems easy enough. In order to promote a product or service, you can focus on features and/or benefits. The approaches are slightly different. Promoting a product’s features means you can emphasize what you feel are the best facets of the item you’re promoting. Talking about benefits can mean describing how the product or service will solve problems or make the lives of your customers easier.

After promoting your products and services for awhile, you want to start talking about why your company is a great company. You may want to talk about why your approach is different and better than that of your competitors. You want to make sure people visit your website, read your blogs, download your white papers, and attend your webinars. You want to be the thought leader in your industry. You want to be the company people think of when they think of your types of products or services.

There is a question you may not have pondered for awhile amidst all of this content marketing you’re doing. It’s an important one, however. The question is, “Who are your customers?” Do they want to read a white paper? Do they care about your blog posts? Even if they want to read your content, do they have time? What is an average day like for your customers? Do they even have access to computers most of the time?

If you are not focusing on this series of questions, your marketing can become, quite simply, a waste of time and money. What if your customers prefer scheduling time for face-to-face meetings, for example? Perhaps they like to talk to people in-person so that they can see facial expressions and hear vocal intonation. These things are still important in the business world, whether we like to admit it or not. Perhaps your customers prefer this methodology but instead they are bombarded with your daily e-newsletter about how your products can make their lives easier. This is not how they want to be approached. This may not even be the information they’re looking for from you. Your “content” will soon start falling on deaf ears. Your efforts, time, and money will produce no returns.

These days, marketers are falling in love with data. If you run a company Facebook page, for example, you can find out all kinds of things. What percentage of your visitors are men? What’s the average age of people visiting your page? If you use Google Analytics to monitor your website and/or your blog, you can find out from where in the world your web traffic comes. You can find out whether a person visited your site on an iPhone or on a desktop computer, and you can even find out what browser they were using.

These questions do not TRULY answer the most important question, however. Facebook demographics only tell you who has “liked” your page. That could be your friends and family, people who may never intend to buy from you. The same is even more true for website analytics. Your traffic may tell you that people in the Midwestern portion of the US visit your site a lot. So what? In the end, most of the data that becomes available when you engage in marketing tactics is more a performance indicator for that metric only. You may not even know how many of those visits actually were customers or prospects.

Marketers need to make sure that new marketing tactics do not become more attractive than connecting with and understanding the customer. Even the shiniest new online tool will not help if the customers are not there to get the message. It is easy to find out who your customers are, perhaps easier than it was in the past. A simple survey asking how your customers want to receive information from you can yield excellent and perhaps surprising results. Your sales force may have insights that the marketing team should consider.

Every once in awhile, get back to the basics. Is your marketing targeting your customers, or is it just focused on singing your company’s praises? One is far more effective than the other.

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