Pandemic or Not, Do the Right Things Right (Part 1): Know Your Audience

“Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.”

– Peter Drucker


As a marketer, you know that there lots of shiny objects that come across our desks every day (and I’m not referring to tchotchkes…although that’s a stigma we do have, right?). For us, those shiny objects can be a distraction from our goal – delivering value and driving growth.

On top of those normal distractions, we are in the middle of a pandemic that has forced us to think about how we continue to deliver that value and drive that growth – with more distractions, fewer resources, limited reach and unpredictable customer behavior. To be successful, we must focus on doing the right things right and not over-rotate on the short-term strategy at the expense of our longer-term vision and goals.

Doing the Right Things Right

While there are a lot of ways to identify what’s right, I’ll take the perspective of a B2B demand and growth marketer, where the four things to do right are related to the audience, channel, format and frequency.

  • Know Your Audience: What do you know – really know – about your audience?  I’m not talking about just job title, department, and company size alone; I’m talking about what makes them tick. It’s the full persona that gives you the insights you need to effectively reach your audience, and it includes the demographic stuff, but it also includes the psychographic stuff – things like; Are they risk-averse? Do they have career growth goals? Are they striving for something that’s not related to their role or the products/services they buy? The neuroscience behind a buyer’s behavior is quite interesting and can really help open doors in your interaction with them.

Doing the right thing right: Use personas with neuroscience insights

  • Double-Down on The Right Channels: It’s wonderful when you get offered “incremental budget” when business is good and you can reinvest in those things that are making the biggest waves for you. But, when things aren’t going so well (or there’s uncertainty looming), us marketers have a tendency to limit our approach in selecting marketing channels to those that are “free” (i.e., our own web site or social channels), when what we should be doing is continuing to doubling-down on those channels that are producing results for us. Which means, you need to take a long, hard look at the performance across our active channels – free or not – and reinvest in the ones that will produce lopsided results for us in times where you may not have the luxury of incremental budget to get you through.

You do this by looking at your tactics and channels differently, dare I say not in an “integrated” way, but in a way that isolates each tactic and channel in a way you can view the parts (instead of the whole) and recognize where the high-performers are. It’s like when artists view their paintings through a mirror, which flips the painting and forces them to look at individual parts of the image, instead of the painting as a whole. It’s also why copy editors used to read documents backward, word by word, to easily recognize spelling errors – well, at least before spellcheck was a thing.

Doing the right thing right:  Scrutinize your channels to create lopsided results

  • Deliver Content in the Format They Prefer: In times where there’s a force that creates unexpected change to our environments, like a natural disaster, a pandemic, or other major event, it changes human behavior. When the basic concept of communication is the sending and receiving of messages, it’s even more critical during the challenging times to understand how these behavioral changes are reflected in how our audience is receiving our content. For example, recent data for programs my team has been running shows increased engagement with content on weekend days. Knowing this helps the team determine the best content formats for reading on devices used on the weekend, versus during the workweek.

Additionally, as distractions increase, content formats that are more easily consumable, like visual graphics and video, could prove to be more effective at driving initial engagement. At the root of all of this, though, is data and analytics that help identify the trends and make adjustments that drive better results – even when the environment and your audience behaviors are changing.

Doing the right thing right:  Use data and analytics to determine content formats

  • Optimize the Frequency of Communication: Finding the sweet spot between “I don’t have enough information” to “please stop bombarding me with content” is a critical part of any communications strategy. However, it can become attractive to marketers to dial up the marketing when we think we have a captive audience…say, when a large number of our audience is working from home and has the opportunity to multi-task on conference calls more than what is possible in physical meeting rooms. This is when “doing the right things right” is more important than ever, and where ensuring a welcoming frequency of communications to your audience will be the difference between higher engagement or unsubscribes.

One great way to tackle this is to use engagement analytics from your marketing automation platform, web site, ad servers, social media platforms and others to understand how engagement across those platforms leads to action in the form of a sales opportunity or a closed sales deal – then compare engagements within the buying group against the Marketing Rule of 7, which states that it takes an average of seven interactions with your brand before a purchase is made. By looking across platforms and understanding individual contact engagement within your target audience, you can determine the ‘sweet spot’ to create value for your audience without driving them to the unsubscribe list.

Doing the right thing right: Stay in the frequency ‘sweet spot’ for your audience

So, while there are plenty of shiny objects showing up on our marketing desks these days, it’s more important to stay the course and rely on the fundamentals of your marketing and communication strategy to drive growth in a changing and challenging environment. Learning from your successes, and doing the right things right, is the clear path to making the most of the opportunity facing you today.

Be on the lookout for part two of this blog, as I will cover the audience journey and identify the critical aspects that need to be done right. Until then, go do the right things right for your audience, drive that initial engagement and prepare to venture down the path to a successful audience journey next.

Ryan O’Neil
Paid Media & Nurture Marketing
Global Digital Marketing

With more than 20 years of experience marketing enterprise software, technology, and cloud services, Ryan takes a progressive and provocative approach to using marketing strategies and tactics to drive business outcomes. He currently leads teams responsible for the global strategy and execution of paid media and nurture programs for a multi-billion dollar cloud software company.