How to (get to) know your potential customers and initiate a meaningful interaction

During Digital Marketing in 1 Day, Michael Dean, Senior Digital Strategist at SuccessFlow, Merik te Grotenhuis, Director and Business Owner of CG Research and Rogier Hosman, CMO of Youwe, talked about the art of identifying and knowing your customers. Will data lead the way to meaningful interactions? Will Artificial Intelligence replace personas? During the event, the panel discussed and talked about all these questions. Let’s find out what three real experts in the field of marketing, target group research and customer data have to say.

The market is changing a lot that is mainly because of the fact that new solutions and tooling are invented every day. One of those inventions is Artificial Intelligence, but what does this mean for marketers and their way of working? To give you more insight the panel answered on a few statements. 

Statement 1: If you use the right tooling, such as Artificial Intelligence or customer intent tools, you do not need to work with personas.

Michael Dean: “Personas need to be based on a real person, not a fictional person and that is often the case when you look at personas. When made correctly personas are very useful, because you need to know how to talk to and to target the right people. With a persona, you can do that. And if you look at Artificial Intelligence, then this is a tool you need to create your personas. It provides data to use in your persona. But only with the data from AI, you cannot make a persona and therefore you cannot reach your target audience properly. So, in my opinion, this statement is incorrect.”

Merik te Grotenhuis: "In this day and age the Frankenstein persona is something we see more often, this is a persona of a person that isn’t a real person anymore when you make a persona you need to keep a real person in mind and I think that is still very useful."

Statement 2: A strategy that works in one market will most likely also work in another one. 

Rogier Hosman: “It is important to always look at your center of excellence. A center of excellence is a team, a shared facility or an entity that provides leadership, best practices, research, support and/or training for a focus area. Due to its broad usage and vague legal precedent, a "center of excellence" in one context may have completely different characteristics from another. But if you have your center of excellence for one country than you can use that also for another country." 

Michael Dean: “In an ideal world you want to reach every market with a new strategy, but in most cases, there is no time for that and when you have a successful strategy you can first use that in other markets and then I would say that you need to test your strategy.” 

Merik te Grotenhuis: “But in a lot of cases you have to look at the law and national requirements, so that is something you need to test and research first.”

Statement 3: Scalable customization is possible thanks to new technology and customer data platforms. 

Michael Dean: “It is not important to buy all kinds of technology. But it is important to know how that tools work and how they work together and how you can store your data and not create data silos. To do that you need to create a roadmap and think about which tooling you need. Those tooling are expensive but most of the data you gather from them will provide a lot of leads for you. When you buy a tool such as a Marketing Automation tool and you only use it to send out e-mails, then yes, it is very expensive. But when you buy a tool and use it properly then you will get a lot for it in return.” 

Rogier Hosman: “What happens a lot is that the projects are so aligned within the budgets and capabilities you have for this year investment period that often it is forgotten to look to the upcoming years. Try to have a wider view than just now and this year but look at the future in 3 to 5 years and think about that when you buy and use your tooling. Think about your entire landscape and think about how you are going to process the data. Only then you can choose the right technologies. This will also prevent you from changing technologies every time. And this will help you grow.”

Statement 4: Between gut feeling and facts: insights based on conversations and empathy for your (potential) client are crucial. In an automated world, the numbers start to dictate marketing. When consumers are just seen as a ‘bunch of people potentially buying my product’ you miss the boat.

Michael Dean: “The biggest changes in marketing is the change in numbers, from likes to followers we now look at revenue in the sense of dollars. People are your most important asset, people do not follow companies anymore, but they follow people. That means that people also have interaction with people, this is one of the biggest trends if you look on LinkedIn right now." 

Merik te Grotenhuis: “It is really important to establish a relationship with your client then the money will generate, and revenue will follow. And if you look at the statement between gut feeling and facts there is also the conversation to find out who is your client, which is not your gut feeling, it is not the facts, but a combination of the two.”  

Rogier Hosman: “The day concludes that when you are planning to start with cross-border commerce the people are essential, their culture is essential, the language is essential, and your data is essential. You need to organize this right in all the different departments of your company. So how are you going to structure the right dialogue so you can structure your data and insights and combine it with the human knowledge which is there as well? And I think when you can combine the two you are furthermore effective than when you work in silos."