Tell me if any of these are true:
- You don't have a clue what your clients search for if they don't know who you are
- You don't know what your prospects' impressions of your competition might be
- You don't know what elements on your site are working and what are not
- You have not performed client interviews in the last 12 months to gauge their happiness level
- Your market research to date has been your own knowledge of the industry, your personal experience, or some online searches (Pro Tip - this is NOT market research - this is YOUR preconceived notions)
- You don't know the adjectives that people use to describe you or your product/service (Pro Tip #2 - this is NOT just keywords you hope to use, but how people actually describe you)
If any of these ring a bell, read on.
Why Most Marketing Strategies Don't Produce The Right Fruit
Let's say you're about to embark on a new website project, or perhaps you're getting ready to put together a marketing campaign because you need more people to talk to. Awesome! Where do you start?
For most people, they will do one of two things (and both of which are potential disasters). They will look through their previous marketing efforts and see what worked, examining very meticulously which methods returned the greatest impact. Most of the time, unless you're already using a marketing software like HubSpot, or perhaps some level of Google Analytics, this is based on 100% personal perception and not actual fact. That means you're looking for the best fruits in mediocre orchards which aren't going to amount to much. Instead, you should be spending your time planting the best possible seeds in the best possible soil that are in the perfect conditions for what you're hoping to grow down the road.
"We shared a bunch of stuff on Facebook when our product came out, bought some ads, and right around then we had an uptick in sales calls."
Oh really? You did? That's cute.
What you aren't seeing is the actual data tied to your efforts, bro. What did you share? when did you share it? How many pageviews did it generate? How many conversions on your site did you receive, so you can remarket to the those interested people?
The other thing people will typically try is something completely brand new that they read on a blog from some marketing 'guru' about how he's built a 7-figure business in 6 months, from scratch, and he'll let you in on a little secret he used to reach that success. SIDE NOTE - This dude lives in his mom's basement and eats ham and cheese sammiches.
The reason these two strategies typically fail, or at best, produce average fruit, is because they are not based on your clients' needs in any way, and are based on what you want to do. Exploring what you've done in the past actually is a crucial point in reviewing your marketing plan, but I can tell you right now if you did NOT perform market research or explore the user's experience of your (or your competition's) marketing efforts in the beginning, you're wasting your time.
The dude who lives with his mom and says that he used this single tactic to generate 100 million site visitors in a month and he wants to share it with you might actually have a fantastic strategy he's willing to share. Who knows!? However, what works for one person does not necessarily replicate for others.
Pickin up what I'm layin down?
Enter: The Voice Of Customer
We started requiring all of our clients that come through the door to work through the Foundry with us because it explores not only what you've been doing (and doing wrong), but what your customers are literally asking you for... and you're just not hearing them. We spend two weeks with our clients and our client's clients, as well as doing in-depth research on the industry and client needs.
This is called "Voice of Customer" research.
What does that mean?
The actual definition is:
"the in-depth process of capturing customer's expectations, preferences and aversions."
I love that definition because it hits all three of my favorite words when exploring customer research - and when you think about it, most companies ignore all three. "Expectations" are what your prospective clients/customers are expecting when they are seeking you. So, there's a general unspoken rule your clients have about what they should be experiencing when they are looking for a solution (You just have to find it). "Preferences" are the triggers that cause your particular client to be most likely to interact with you based off their positive or negative experience. "Aversions" really speaks for itself - what are the red flags that turns them off immediately?
Remember, they may not have a clue who you are at this point, either. So put yourself in their shoes...
Here's the Situation
Let's say you need to find an app to act as your team's project management system that syncs with all these other softwares your company already uses. There are tons of apps that do roughly 60-75% of what you need out there... but is there a solution that does 100% what you need?
First off, if the company isn't targeting the right keywords or the right adjectives, you won't find them at all, so that sucks. You do a quick search and find a possible fit. You click on the link, and the site is ugly (aversion). The messaging is weak and doesn't exactly answer your questions (expectation), so you're still trying to figure out if they are even a good fit. The only call to action is to get on the phone for a free consultation, but because you're a CEO or VP, you don't really want to talk to someone because you'd prefer to test out a free trial (preference). So what do you do? You leave the site.
Dueces, perfect client. Sorry we missed you. I hope you come back some day, but guess what? I'll have no clue because I wasn't able to capture your information (or your attention), anyway.
That company literally had the perfect client come willingly to their site, and they threw it away. Sadness.
Don't be like those guys.
What Should You Do Instead?
Boom. Excellent question. I thought you'd never ask!
The best thing you can do is actual Voice Of Customer (VOC) research. Find out the expectations, aversion, and preferences of your clients. Heck, you don't even have to call it that. We don't! But that's a great starting point. In order to do that, we recommend crafting a 6-week process that consists of 2 weeks of VOC research, and 2 weeks of campaign planning.
For our strategy, we perform client interviews, site polls, segmented list surveys, user testing, (we're experimenting with eye tracking, which is really awesome!), CEO/sales staff questionnaires, message mining, and heat map tracking, among other research methods. Now that's some intense buyer persona development, right there.
We then ask ourselves "out of all the information we just gathered, what are the biggest opportunities, red flags, or challenges that all this data has given us," and we turn that into the topic of our campaign. We spend roughly two weeks analyzing and synthesizing the information into messaging hierarchy and valuable components that need to be examined - both by us, and by your team. We're not just doing this so you have something you can use down the road; we're doing this so you can be aware of what your clients actually need from you.
We develop a 3-month campaign outline. We start with outlining a top of funnel (or awareness stage) offer. That is typically a white paper, free guide, ebook, free webinar, etc. This is the core from which your campaign is generated.
We then produce 24 blog outlines that promote the offer, so it's a seamless transition while reading. Those are keyword specific to what your clients are telling you and searching for, not just the buzzwords in the industry you're hoping to rank for.
From there we outline a social promotion of each post and give examples of how that should be laid out.
What does the outline consist of? We pick the title that is SEO-focused while still trying to grab attention. We then provide bullet points or a brief write-up in a few sentences of what this blog needs to be about, and what questions it needs to answer in order to be a success.
We then look to the conversion funnel and how workflow automation is used. We map out a game plan for you that shows how the if/then branches should be used, and what email-followup sequence should be utilized. This is because someone who opens 4 out of 5 emails and someone who hasn't opened any emails at all are in two completely different places. Therefore, they need to be approached and spoken to differently.
Lastly, we mockup in a wireframe format the design of 3 entry pages into your site, based off of the message hierarchy we pulled out of the Foundry research. Typically those are a homepage, a landing page of some kind, and a third page (about, features, or pricing are the most common).
Sounds busy right? We've got it down to a science - which is funny - because it really is. And as I'm writing this, the thought is going through my head of the other HubSpot partners that are reading this blog right now that will replicate the steps I just laid out above and repackage this as their own. To that, I say I'm flattered... and go ahead :) We'll keep revamping, and we'll keep sharing.
If you're interested in getting into the Foundry, check out our early access form. We include the Foundry in all of our projects that come through the office. However, we offer it as a stand-alone service once every quarter. Sign up for early access and you'll be the first notified.
(PS read up below if you're curious about migrating your website to HubSpot!)