In Seth Godin’s book, Permission Marketing: Turning Strangers into Friends and Friends into Customers there is a concept of the permission marketing ladder that defines the stages potential customers and clients move through. Godin describes these stages as:
There are many different books, marketing strategies and patterns, each with their own variant of the permission ladder and customer progression. The stages and recommended tactics for moving customers between each stage might vary depending on whether you are selling products, services, or information. Regardless of your industry or profession though the key takeaway is understanding the importance of being relevant at each and every stage.
In this world of content and social media marketing, it's becoming increasingly important to engage across multiple channels to multiple audiences. Yet, the paradox is that the technology and tactics that makes so much communication possible, is actually making it harder to reach people through all the noise. The importance of content marketing strategies is exponentially adding to the amount of information available. Still, the solution to the problem isn’t to stop marketing and generating content altogether. The key is to make your content and marketing more relevant.
In fact, one of the key points that Godin makes is that communication must provide the customer with an incentive for actually paying attention to you. Your messages must be “anticipated, personal, and relevant.” So that is the goal - but how do we actually achieve it?
Start With Defining Relevance
The first step is really understanding your target audience, =i digging in beyond just those needs that map 1:1 with your products and services. Sometimes it is hard to spend time focusing empathetically about your customers - it is so much easier to just tell them about how great you and your product are.
However, investing time to formally detail your audience, to know what they really care about, and to figure out how to communicate in a way that is meaningful to them is important. Especially so if you expect your audience to invest their time in what you are saying or offering. Realize, too, that “audience” goes beyond your potential or existing customers. Consider how you can become more relevant to meeting the needs of other people you communicate with. From professional colleagues, to industry referral sources, partners, and suppliers.
Here are some ways you can help improve your relevancy:
Value Proposition Canvas
The value proposition canvas is a great tool for mapping out the jobs, tasks, goals, along with the pains and gains experienced by your audience. Move beyond just those tasks related to your specific product or service, and really spend time thinking about the person in their entirety. I’ve worked with clients who were willing to spend some extensive time digging into their clients needs and concerns, and as as result created some really unique points of differentiation and more value-added services - some that didn’t even cost anything to add.
Take a Sample Size of One
Nothing beats one-on-one listening to someone who represents the audience you are trying to reach. Sometimes this occurs after we’ve done a value proposition canvas session. We meet with someone we can safely share our hypotheses with and get some feedback. Other times, it is helpful to start with some questions to start mapping out the canvas.
Obviously every person is different, and so you end up with a data sample size of one - so you may not want to launch an effort full scale without some more testing and research. However, I’ve also found that some of the people I have interviewed to gather data have in turn continued ask other people and reported more information back to me.
The key is to do more listening than talking. And one way to do that is to record your call or meeting (with permission.) That way you can really watch facial expressions, listen to tone, and spend less time taking notes.
One Question Surveys
If you have enough traffic sources, you can create surveys on your website, through email, social media, etc. that pose a single question instead of an extensive questionnaire. In fact using some of the amazingly granular targeting options, this is a quick way to get some information about a particular target audience. Of course, realize that you’ll need to make the question relevant to the audience to maximize your responses. Consider breaking up longer surveys into single questions that you can post and ask quickly.
There are many other methods and techniques, each more or less applicable to any industry or profession. But all of the patterns for improving and optimizing marketing results have one thing in common: they all start with understanding the needs of your audience. Invest the time in making your marketing relevant, and as with any investment what you get out of it will be in proportion to what you put in.