This morning was my personal favorite breakout thus far:  How to Supercharge Your Marketing Automation Using Audience Research and User Data.

In case you haven’t noticed yet, I’m Overit’s marketing automation specialist. :) Which means I get to work with a lot of our clients to find creative ways to help them streamline and automate their marketing and sales funnels, so they can spend more time on the things that require human interaction (because machines can’t do everything!).

This particular breakout was hosted by Element Three’s Dustin Clark – a funny man and phenomenal speaker who identifies as a “high C” in DISC profiling (basically meaning he’s VERY detail-oriented). It was definitely one of the more content-heavy sessions of the week, so buckle up and hold tight.

What you can expect to learn in the next however many words:

  • What information you should be learning, from whom, and where
  • What to do with this new information and where applying it is most useful
  • Where you can use these insights beyond just marketing automation platforms

Creating Paths to Reach Potential Customers

Modern marketing organizations don’t rely on one “ideal path” or “user journey” to reach customers anymore. And they shouldn’t. Consumers are often taking hundreds of “micro-interactions” in their exploration of a brand and its products or services.

Most of us create workflows, paths, and user journeys for the people who are already coming to our website and interacting with our brand, but how are we reaching the people who aren’t familiar with us? Who haven’t been won over yet?

Dustin shared a study Google did where they discovered five key searches that categorized users’ patterns during the car buying process. (Interesting side note: 71% of these searches were conducted on a mobile device).

The five key questions people were asking (which probably hold true in your biz, too) were:

  1. What’s the right product for me?
  2. What’s the best product in the marketplace?
  3. Can I afford it?
  4. Is it a good deal?
  5. Where can I buy it?

From this, we can derive questions for our own reflection and use:

  • What “moments” are your prospective customers searching for?
  • How can you find them?

To determine this, we need insights. We need a data-oriented action plan. Good news is, Mr. Clark outlined exactly what we need to do to create that plan.

Step 1:  Research Everything

Dustin, ever the C personality and ever the marketer, reminds us that research and data should drive everything we do. But beyond data, we should also be considering our gut reaction. Now, for those of us who are maybe more logical and data-oriented, that sounds out of place. However, there’s something to be said for looking beyond the data and feeling into the marketing to determine what’s really going on. Consider it the qualitative insights mixed with the quantitative data.

And Dustin says we can’t let the absence of all the data we want to find keep us from making a decision. The great thing about digital marketing is you can spot and fix mistakes quickly. While we want to be data-driven, we also want to be decision-oriented. There is no perfect plan, so let’s stop waiting around for it.

When we dig into the research, we want to focus on two distinct areas:  Audience Research and User Data.

At the heart of this step is audience research. Who are we marketing to? How are they behaving? Why is that?

Here are some of the things you want to look for in your research:

  • Contextual language cues
  • Topics of interest
  • Content type preferences (video, blogs, ebooks, social, etc.)
  • New opportunities
  • Questions YOU can answer

The key to good audience research is seeking to understand people first.

Your audience should be the basis of all your marketing decisions. A deep understanding of WHO you are marketing to will lead to much better marketing campaigns and results.

Here are some ways you can understand your audience a little better:

  • User interviews
    • Pay specific attention to the words they are using to talk about your business/product/service
  • Department interviews
  • Conferences
  • Occupational Outlook Handbook
    • Lets you look up the typical person in that organization, job title, etc.
    • Great for helping build a persona if you haven’t been able to do research on your own
  • Search
  • Social Profiles
  • Industry Forums
  • Clickstream Data
  • Content Research
  • Competitive Research

As marketers, we can do a lot better setting expectations. Most frustration is not about something being done wrong, but about unmet or misplaced expectations.

User data is mined from our actual data – not a third-party telling us who these people are, but data mined from our own softwares and platforms that gives us insight into how these customers are interacting with us.

Here are some of the places you want to look for user data:

  • Web Analytics
  • Web Forms
  • Automation Tools
  • CRM and Sales Databases
  • Webmaster Tools
  • Keyword Trackers
  • UX Tools
  • User Testing

Step 2:  Blueprint & Document

I love this step. It often goes missing in organizations, because we hardly have time to strategize, plan, and implement, let alone record everything we’ve done.

But have you ever had a new hire come in and question everything you were doing? Or they haven’t been able to find a resource? Or they couldn’t figure out if things were working or how it all worked together?

If so, you’re not alone. I mean, I can’t make those questions up. It happens all the time.

When you’re creating a plan for your marketing activities, you want to write it all down. Map it out. Make sure you and your team know where all of the activities are happening, from promotion to conversion. This might include flow charts, text documents, and strategy docs.

Here’s a short list of things you’ll want to make sure you have in your blueprint:

  • Promotional Ads
  • Promotional Emails
  • Social Posts
  • Landing Pages
  • Supporting Content (videos, downloadable content)
  • Offers and Deals
  • Remarketing Ads
  • Thank You Emails
  • Re-Engagement Emails
  • Automation Workflows
  • Email Templates and Sales Sequences

Then you’ll want to make sure you note where each of these things lives in correlation with the rest, how they’re being used, how they’re being tracked and measured, and how you plan to report on results and tweak your marketing strategy based on your findings.

Easy, right?

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Credit: GIPHY

Step 3:  Set Up & Implement

After it’s all researched and mapped out, you have to execute. Remember – there is no perfect plan! We are doing our best to make an informed decision, map it out, build it out, then we can refine and tweak as we go. You might remember from yesterday’s session with Rachel Leist the idea that failure is necessary. Failure = Data and Data = Learning.

Mr. Clark makes an important note here that I’ll share with you:  When you’re setting up different aspects of your funnel, think about the ONE single thing you need that thing to do. If you can’t get it down to one job, it’s too complex. Your ad doesn’t need to sell the product. It needs to point to the landing page. And so on.

Remember how earlier we talked about WHAT information we want to gather and then HOW it can be used?

Let’s revisit those different types of audience research and look at where and how they can be applied.

  • User Interviews – Persona Development, Product Development, Web Content
  • Department Interviews – Persona Development, Product Development, Web Content
  • Conferences – Persona Development, Product Development, Web Content
  • Occupational Outlook Handbook – Persona Development (gut checks and reflections)
  • Search – Persona Development, Web Content, Traffic Generation
  • Social Profiles – Persona Research, Web Content, Traffic Generation
  • Industry Forums – Persona Development, Traffic Generation, Advertising
  • Clickstream Data – Traffic Generation, Advertising
  • Content Research – Persona Research, Web Content
  • Competitive Research – Persona Research, Web Content, Traffic Generation, Advertising
  • Web Analytics – UX Optimization, Conversion Rate Optimization, Traffic Generation, Automation
  • Web Forms – UX Optimization, Conversion Rate Optimization, Automation, Offers
  • Automation Tools – UX Optimization, Conversion Rate Optimization, Automation, Offers
  • CRM and Sales Databases – Automation, Offers
  • Webmaster Tools – UX Optimization, Conversion Rate Optimization, Traffic Generation
  • Keyword Trackers – UX Optimization, Conversion Rate Optimization, Traffic Generation, Web Content
  • UX Tools – UX Optimization, Conversion Rate Optimization
  • User Testing – UX Optimization, Conversion Rate Optimization, Web Content

Clearly a pretty extensive list, but you might find more to add to it!

(COMPLETE SIDE NOTE / PRO TIP FROM DUSTIN: Go to the Q&A of conferences, make note of the questions, and develop content around it.)

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Credit: GIPHY

Step 4:  Run. Review. React. Report.

Already. Everything’s in place. It’s been researched, planned, mapped, and launched. Now what?

It’s time to run with your plan and react to opportunities – good and bad – as they come up. Test what you can. And always, ALWAYS report on the results of the campaign. (Dustin’s words, but they coulda been mine!).

And there you have it. How to Supercharge Your Automation Using Audience Research and User Data. Was it everything you hoped it would be? (It was for me!)

A final take away from Dustin’s talk:  Supercharging your automation is about knowing where things are, what’s performing, and what to adjust.

It’s really that simple.

Got questions? Leave ‘em in the comments!

Were you at Inbound? Connect with me on LinkedIn.