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Personas, Profiles, Relevance, Personalization, And Targeting–Stop Wasting Your Time

by David Brock on July 27th, 2016
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I tend to look to the approaches sales and marketing experts and automation suppliers as representative of preferred and best practices in sales and marketing.  After all, they are the experts in driving effective, efficient, and impactful engagement with prospects and customers.

It seems one would be well served by understanding what these people do as “best practices” in representing their own products and services, then adapting them to our own approaches to prospecting, engaging, and connecting with our customers.

I do have to admit some confusion.  Too often, the expert approaches they use in trying to engage their customers, would argue against the utilization of their products and services.

For example, why would I buy a marketing automation system or analytic tools that enable me to tailor the communications I have with prospects and customers.  These tools enable me to personalize messages, timing and approaches based on my past engagement, interests, persona, and profile.  These tools have complex scoring algorithms enabling us improve the relevance, timing, and targeting of our messages.

Yet, based on the marketing and sales messaging I get from these companies, the only conclusion one could come to is that personas, profiles, relevance, personalization and targeting are a complete waste of time, money, and resources!  After all, if they increased interest, response rates, conversion and engagement, doesn’t it stand to reason these companies would do these things in their own outreach?

But since they don’t, one must come to the conclusion those approaches are totally meaningless.

Based on the volume of untargeted messages I get on marketing automation tools, lead gen, demand gen, content marketing, sales automation and any of the thousands of tools in this space, it appears the most effective technique is SPAM!

Because I download a single white paper or research document from a site, I am forever on their mailing lists for every webinar, event, new product release, eBook.  At least one reached out to me after a year saying, “We notice you aren’t opening our messages….”  Normally, I wouldn’t have seen it, but happened to be scanning my Junk Mail folder.

In the last 24 hours, I’ve been asked by 3 companies to interview their CEOs about their wonderful new products and learn about their product strategies.  They’ve come from PR firms where I’ve been asked to be removed from their mailing lists.  I guess they think it applies to the lists they generate for one client, not all their clients or all their associates.

Within the last 24 hours a consulting company reached out, “We know it’s difficult to grow the global presence of your technology products…..”  I know the CEO and the people very well, they know we don’t sell technology products.

The de facto standard scoring algorithm for high volume high velocity sales teams is “call every white paper download within minutes of the download….”

Content is king!  Relevant content, at least by the behaviors of the majority of companies reaching out to me, isn’t so important.

More important than content is volume.

And to stand out in all the noise, rather than refining and focusing your messaging and targeting, the strategy is the reverse, it’s to escalate the volume of content.

As Mark Schaefer describes it, we and our customers live in a world of Content Shock.  Each of us has a fixed amount of time and capacity to absorb content.  Yet more and more sales and marketing teams are competing for that fixed amount of time.

We are in an accelerating death spiral where too many believe the way to get more mind share is to generate more volume.  But the math is simple, more messaging competing for a fixed amount of time, get less and less and less attention!

We introduce new channels to try and capture attention, moving from emails and phone calls, blogs, to linkedin and facebook,  to twitter and instagram, to snapchat and others.  And everyone follows, so new channels become overloaded and the targets of those channels are overwhelmed and shutting down.

When are we going to recognize what we are inflicting on ourselves and our customers?

When are we going to recognize that volume and velocity have their limits?

When are we going to start practicing what many of these marketing and sales automation vendors preach.

Less actually is better.  Relevance catches people’s attention.  The right message to the right person at the right time does produce responses and interest.  Knowing who “I am” and tailoring the message to what I’m interested in works.

But I suppose it’s too hard.  Afterall, it’s easier to send another few million emails and make thousands of calls—-even though the results are declining.  Afterall, technology does allow us to create crap at the speed of light.

And I suppose the lessons for those people sitting outside the marketing and sales automation space, wondering what they should do to capture interest, mindshare and attention.  Since these experts in customer engagement and content believe only in volume and velocity, since they demonstrate that personas, targeting, personalization, relevance are meaningless, then don’t waste your time or money on their tools.  Clearly they aren’t practicing what they preach.

The irony of all of this is just too sad!

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3 Comments
  1. Really like this post David. Lots of good food for thought marketers (and sales reps) who need to cut through the clutter and reach prospects who are inundated with promotional messages. Many turn to quantity of promotions instead of focusing on quality and unfortunately, this makes prospects less like to listen and engage. It’s too bad marketing automation sometimes exacerbates instead of solving this problem.

    • Great comment Christopher. A slightly different perspective–it’s not the tool, it’s how the tool is used. Marketing automation offers the promise of improved targeting, relevance, engagement, quality. It’s just that rather than doing this, people focus on volume velocity. Unfortunately, every good tool also can be used very poorly, creating horrible results.

  2. I agree with you, Dave.

    Most of the scoring & creation of personas that I have looked at are not grounded in any empirics at all.

    So, they don’t work. People are using them. So, give up & stop making useless work.

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