“I’m placing you under arrest for the future murder of Sarah Marks and Donald Dublin that was to take place today, April 22 at 0800 and four minutes.” This is a classic line from the 2002 Tom Cruise movie ‘Minority Report’, dramatising a future world where technology could predict everything.
It even applied to marketing, where billboards could identify people walking by and serve up relevant adverts to them. Although the police might like the technology for crime prevention, the rest of us would shun such commercial intrusion.
Like most science fiction it is mostly wrong, but advances in technology are improving the way you can market products. It is an exciting opportunity, particularly for Kiwi firms exporting technology products all around the world.
Realising this opportunity requires making the company website the hub of your marketing activity, where you provide potential customers with useful information rather than marketing ‘fiction’ that helps them in their buying process. Then you can use a bunch of clever tools to make this process more efficient.
Technology number one is visitor intelligence. There are tools that can tell you where your website visitors come from, right down to what organisation they belong to (if that company is big enough to have its own internet domain).
For Kiwi firms targeting larger companies in Australia or the US, this is very useful as you can get a daily picture of what firms are looking at your website. If you had just done a tradeshow, you could see who from the firms you talked to were interested enough to follow up?
While that is interesting, the next step in their journey is being able to identify individual visitors to your website and track their behaviour. Once they have registered (i.e. given their name and contact details in exchange for something useful), you can build a profile of how often they are visiting and what they are looking at.
It is fascinating to see people’s journey this way. Contrary to the text books, the sales process isn’t linear, and it can take many interactions spread across inconsistent time periods, for a prospect to finally raise their hand for a sales interaction.
Technology enables you to not simply be an interested observer of this process. You can put in place an automated process to ‘nurture’ these visitors towards a goal you might have for them e.g. a consultation with one of your sales people.
When a visitor downloads some content from your website in exchange for their contact details, instead of immediately haranguing them with a sales call, a better approach is to gradually nudge them to a decision with a series of emails.
As you get more information about how your potential customers are using your website, you can get more sophisticated about it.
Once you have a good picture of who is visiting your website and what they are doing on it, you can start “scoring” that journey. For example, you might be able to work out that a visitor who looks at a case study and then a pricing page are the closest to buying and should be given a call by the sales team.
What technology do you need in place to do this clever marketing stuff? There are three categories of systems that are useful, and many variations thereof. The ideal is that you have a content management system (CMS) for your website, marketing automation tools and customer relationship management (CRM) software.
A commonly available CMS enables you to keep your website current with information relevant to visitors, without you needing to be a web expert. And to keep adding that content so more and more people visit.
For most firms it pays to not be beholden to your website developer for anything but major updates.
Marketing automation software is a newer area of technology. These tools help automate the process of attracting visitors (through channels like social media), converting them (using a landing page on your website) and nurturing them (using automated flows of emails like those outlined above).
Lastly, having some sort of CRM (customer database) in place, and automatically linked to your marketing automation software, is powerful. That means as soon as a visitor meets a certain criteria they are in your sales system ready for someone to contact, and you can track the progress of that relationship through to sale and beyond.
The beauty of all these tools is the information. You can track so much data, getting a much clearer picture of who is visiting you, where they came from, what they are consuming and what motivates them to act.
Using this approach can make your marketing more about science and less about fiction. Instead of hyping up your products and hoping, you can focus repeatable, measurable programmes that help people buy your innovations.