The first step in effective marketing is listening, research and a solid understanding of your buyers.
A few years ago I found Tony Zambito online and we became instant friends despite the fact that we have never spoken live or met in person.
And so today, I would like to bring in Tony’s perspective to our Future of Marketing series. We have already covered related topics such as the customer experience, focusing on your customer’s brand, listening and agile marketing.
You can follow Tony @TonyZambito, on Linkedin, Google+ and soon on TonyZambito.com
Tell Us About Yourself
I am best known for founding the concept of buyer personas specifically for marketing and sales. In 2002, I took a chance. I asked – why not buyer personas? What if marketing and sales can benefit from the use of personas and persona research as had product and software design?
That year, I pioneered the concept of buyer personas and a buyer research methodology designed to inform marketing and sales strategies. I had a strong belief by researching and understanding buyers at a deeper level – it was possible to improve decision-making in marketing and sales. I was privileged to work, as Chief Consulting Officer, with Alan Cooper – the founder of personas and user personas – and the brilliant interaction designers who pioneered the original concept of personas.
Prior, I served in a variety of roles including Vice President of Customer Management, Vice President of Sales, and Vice President of Marketing. Today, I am focused on evolving the concepts of buyer personas, buyer insight, and a new capability I call Buyer Foresight™ to help marketing make better informed decisions.
What are the greatest challenges in marketing?
I am going to answer this question through the prism of conducting numerous on-site qualitative interviews with buyers over the past few years. Marketing is in the throes of a buyer revolution and caught flat-footed on what to do about it. New technologies have awakened a sleeping giant who for decades had a longing to control more of the buyer-seller relationship. The simple fact is – now they can.
On a macro level, marketing is challenged in understanding how to cope with the “consumerization” of all things. This has caused monumental shifts in buyer behaviors. And will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. As a result, I am seeing plenty of unhealthy “guessing” going on in marketing departments today. By “guessing” I mean what amounts to hit or miss attempts to reach and connect with buyers. I see a variety of demand generation, lead generation, and content marketing tactical efforts implemented not rooted in sound buyer behavior understanding.
At the micro level buyers desire improved means from marketing to help them make better decisions – without being sold-to in old conventional ways. Expectations are rising on the part of buyers due to consumerization in business. Buyers desire instant accessibility to information and insight. In addition, buyers are evolving their demands to co-create their own solutions as a byproduct of their new empowerment. This is presenting enormous challenges for marketing to adapt when stuck in a product marketing mindset. Where processes are linear and there is little room to co-create.
What I hear from buyers is this actual quote – “don’t force fit me into your view of how I buy.” Which means marketing is challenged to rethink views of commonly held beliefs about buying stages and the buyer’s journey associated with product marketing as well as sales. My qualitative research with buyers tells me this. Buyers are moving at a faster pace away from linear buying processes and stages faster than marketing is able to keep up.
How Does Marketing Overcome These Challenges
To overcome challenges, marketing has to reset the table on how they come to understand buyers. Marketing, and much of corporate America, is stuck in hindsight. Much of what is being labeled insight is really hindsight – it is rooted in the past. The belief data analysis alone can provide all the answers are still a very strong part of business DNA.
We are dealing with the biggest shifts in buyer behaviors in the last 100 years. To understand it, we need to balance quantitative with qualitative understanding. The same resources being afforded to Big Data need to be equally given to qualitative buyer behavior research. Corporations need to make adequate investment in the expertise required.
The expertise I am referring to borrows heavily from the social sciences. Marketing needs to bridge well with the social science professions in order to develop an understanding of how behaviors and cultures are transforming. Just as there has been a call for journalistic expertise for content marketing, there needs to be an equal call for social science expertise to merge with business. The aim is to take the “guesswork” out of marketing and apply real understanding on how to connect with buyers.
What Is Your Prediction for the Future of Marketing?
I have been giving plenty of thought to this question during the past year. Marketing will need to transform into the role of being “oracles” for business. This will require developing skills and capacities to foster foresight internally as well as with buyers.
What do I mean by this? I believe why we are so enamored with the story of Steve Jobs and Apple is because of the genius of foresight. Apple invested in understanding both consumer and buyer behaviors. This investment gave them the foresight capacity to innovate the Apple iPhone and iPad. As we all know, these devices have radically changed our ideas of connectivity and interaction. What Apple marketing did well specifically is paint a world which allowed consumers and buyers to develop their own foresight on how their lives can be changed.
I believe the future of marketing lies in helping their own organizations as well as buyers see a new world of possibilities. Much has been predicted about how marketing will become more like publishing and journalism entities due to the rise of content marketing. This is a short-sighted tactical view in my opinion. This view needs to be balanced with a strategic vision of acquiring new talents associated with buyer behavioral research. Such a balance will create the future capacity for marketing to earn a bigger seat at the table – by delivering strategic foresight and at the same time paint new worlds for buyers to envision.
Now it’s your turn: Let me know what you think in the comments below. And please follow along on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+ or Subscribe to the B2B Marketing Insider Blog for regular updates.