Knowing your Customer: The Highest-Yield Marketing Investment you can Make – with Danny Allen
Danny Allen is a BYU graduate with nearly 10 years of experience as a marketing specialist. Danny is the VP of Marketing at 97th Floor, a digital marketing agency based in Lehi, UT. Clients of 97th Floor include Salesforce, Symantec, and Pluralsight. Danny’s previous roles include the Director of Client Strategy and Digital Marketing Specialist at Foxtail Marketing. He is “obsessed with guiding businesses to profitability”, and we are excited to hear from Danny about Driving Demand!
“5% of content creates 90% of engagement online… We should focus on increasing this 5%. The only way to do that is to cut out percentages of the ‘meh’ content or the ‘fine’ content. You’ve got to reprioritize and focus on making your content of a higher quality and with a greater focus.”
- “The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well that the product or service fits him and sells itself”.
- Content needs to be focused on your consumers.
- You need to use your ICP – don’t just make a profile and then file it away.
- The customer experience is deeper than actions, it should include their feelings, actions, touchpoints, and next steps.
Hey everyone – I’m Danny Allen I’m the VP of Marketing at 97th Floor. 97th Floor is a digital marketing agency founded in Utah 18 years ago. We primarily work with large enterprises, well-funded startups, or companies that are looking for long, sustainable growth. We do it through advertising content, SEO, big, creative and design, you name it. And I’m excited to talk to you today about knowing your customer.
I really want to just start by thanking you. You’re spending a couple of minutes out of your day to listen to me and hear what I have to say – and I don’t take that lightly. So as we jump in, I’m excited to talk to you about customer and persona research and provide you with the motivation, processes and tools to make it happen.
In the last seven or eight years, I’ve worked with agencies, worked in agencies, and worked with a lot of lot of companies. I’ve talked to hundreds of marketers and seen hundreds of campaigns, both really, really successful ones and not so successful ones. And I believe that there’s a lot of variables as to why they were successful or not successful, but the one kind of current that runs through everything is whether or not they had a really good understanding of their customers. And I feel like this is the most important thing that impacts the quality or lack of quality of those campaigns, and most importantly, the ability for those campaigns to be successful. And so that’s why I’ve decided to talk to you about this this today.
This is literally the most important thing that marketers should be thinking about right now. So I want to start with a little, little story about Acorns. Acorns is an app that helps users do micro investing. So it takes pennies off of purchases and then puts it into investment opportunities. Right. And so if you did a little bit of research on who likes Acorns, who Acorns audience is, you’d find out some interesting things.
You’d find out that their top followers are people who also follow YouTube creators. You’d find people who also follow eBay and that love WordPress. You’d find that in their bios, the bios of these people who follow Acorns, they have phrases like “grow”, “handmade jewelry shop.” These people are DIY-ers. These are people who’ve built small businesses and they’re looking to gather a couple of cents here and there for their investing.
That’s kind of who these people are. And yet if you looked at Acorns content, you’d find content like this – about the S&P 500. You would find content about finding recruiters on LinkedIn. You find content about what the Coronavirus did to vacations. So this huge mismatch in like who Acorns followers are and then actually what the content is. If we were actually taking that information that we learned about Acorns users, we would create content like the “Ultimate Guide to Starting Your Business”, “Monetizing Your Hobbies”, “Seven Tips to Win on Etsy.” And we would find that there’s influencers like Kate Aunties Burger the number like number one planner salesperson on Etsy sold 1.8 million sales and since 2014, we’d find influencers like this that Acorns should be focusing on. And so it’s so easy to be like acorns and say, All right, we’re a finance company.
Let’s take topics like that and let’s run with that. And that’s the type of content that we’re going to create. But there’s a severe lack of understanding of who that end user is. Peter Drucker said that the aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well that the product or service fits him and sells itself.
Seth Godin said something kind of related Don’t find customers for your products, find products for your customers. And this has been these types of quotes have been a little bit hard for me because I’m a performance marketer. I’m not really a product marketer or a product manager or an inventor or a software developer. I don’t have products myself, right?And so I’m like, okay, well, if my product doesn’t fit my customer, that’s kind of not on me. But the truth is, is that every single marketer is a product manager, is a product marketer, because our products, our marketing products, our products are the content that we create. If we think about our content as a product, as a living, breathing thing, we’re going to treat it a little bit differently, and we need to be thinking about our own product, the thing that we give to our potential customers as such. So a couple little facts about content and about the products that marketing or marketers are putting out right now in the last 12 months, brands have produced three times more content. That’s that should be no surprise to anybody.
Like content is just constantly increasing all the time, right? Total engagement for that content is just kind of been flatlined, like nothing new. The same engagement. What is that engagement, though? It’s only 5% of the content that’s generated. Excuse me? Only 5% of the content created generated 90% of the engagement. So we’re seeing this massive influx of content all the time.
All the time. All the time. But only 5% is actually generating anything worthwhile. So there’s a huge, huge mismatch there. Just to illustrate a point, I’ll talk about Red Hat, huge, huge tech company. So big that a couple of years ago they were sold to IBM for $34 billion. Right. Huge. Right. If we look in AA traps, which is an SEO tool, you know, show us a little bit about like traffic trends and especially related to organic traffic.
If we look at Red Hat, we can see all their pages here. If you look at just these pages have zero traffic. There are over 11,000 pages on Red Hat’s website that have zero traffic going to them, 60% of all of their pages. It’s insane. If you add a little bit more here, you can see that another 31% of their pages or another 6000 pages are only yielding 4.1% of all of their traffic.
So combining this, we’re talking about 90% of all of their content receiving less than 5% of all of their traffic. This is just like a perfect illustration of that quote. Right. And if you’re red hat, you’re so big, you’re probably like, I don’t really care. Right. We’re so big. We have so much budget. We’re just going to in order to win, we’re just going to increase quantity, quantity, quantity, quantity, and until we’re we just have so, so much that is that is powerful, that is generating results, that kind of stuff. They’re not so much concerned about efficiency, but you and I probably can’t be. Here’s another quick fact 60 to 70% of B2B content created goes completely unused. It doesn’t even get published. Right. If Red Hat, Red Hat can probably do this, but you and I can’t.
We have some budgets to maintain. We have to maintain a certain level of efficiency. And we can’t just “out quantity” everybody else with our content. So what are those costs specifically, though? I think those are really important. What are the costs to this type of content production? Number one, like there’s a cost if we’re going to do it outsourced, right.
So if you were to outsource tonight, send for someone else. There’s a cost there. Right. And they’re research. But if you’re really, really, really good. But there’s going to take tools that’s going to take time. It’s going to you know, we’re going to have to write. There’s going to be internal approvals, right, from legal, product, marketing, publishing. All of that takes time.
There’s some cost there. There’s cost to every kind of content we create. And if you do it internal, it’s the same. You still have all those same costs. So you’re just trying to figure out what’s best for our company is the best to outsource to an expert in this, or is it best to own this ourselves? Those are some of those considerations.
Maybe the most important cost there was the cost of losing to your competitors if you’re not efficient with your content creation. Like what’s the opportunity cost to creating 90% of your content being garbage, not actually resulting anything? And what does that do to you versus your competitors on Google’s search pages, whether that’s in your ads with just the fight for the customer, that’s a cost that you’re paying, and really, these are all costs of not knowing your target customer. I’d say that the number one issue with all of that content that’s being created is a lack of understanding of who your customer is. And that’s why to me, this is literally the most important thing that you can be worrying about right now as a marketer. Again, 5% of all that content generates 90% of the engagement.
So what’s our goal here? We could grow like Red Hat and we could just say, all right. Instead of worrying about these percentages, let’s just double everything. Let’s just increase the quantity, and that way we no matter what, yes, we’ll have a bunch of garbage content. But maybe, you know, that 5% will always take care of us.
Right? Here’s my really scientific chart. Right. I think that a lot of us have some straight fire content – really, really high performing stuff. That’s the stuff that’s generating 90% of the results. I think some of us have some garbage, to be honest. Right. We’ve just got some terrible content. But the bulk of our content is just like it’s fine. It’s fine in that, like, maybe it covers the topic.
Maybe we’re in finance like acorns and it has to do with the S&P 500. But most of this content isn’t being seen by anyone and is not moving the needle at all. I suggest that instead of worrying about trying to just increase this pie bigger and bigger and bigger, let’s just get ten more blog posts a month or let’s just do whatever.
You know, I would suggest instead we should focus on increasing this 5%. The only way to do that is to cut out percentages of the ‘meh’ content or the ‘fine’ content. You’ve got to reprioritize and focus on making your content of a higher quality. And with a greater focus. I want to just share a couple of quick examples of how this how this actually works and how this actually drives demand.
Right. We always say, know your customer, know your customer, but how does this actually work in the wild? Right. So we have a client in machine learning and their target audience is machine learning engineers. We did a ton of customer research to try and understand these people. We’re not machine learning engineers by any means. And we found out that there’s a couple of important things.
Number one, they feel like nobody understands them. Number two, the market is becoming very, very saturated, at least the content market around machine learning. There’s just so, so many different applications of machine learning and there’s so much different types of pieces of content. So there’s this huge influx of like content and and noise about machine learning simultaneously. All the actual engineers feel like nobody really understands what they do.
So there’s this kind of disconnect. And we were able to create a series of ads in a larger campaign with content to really tap into this. So here’s some examples, right? And if you’re in machine learning engineering, like you think this is hilarious, like working with a machine learning, be like person and it’s a cat, right? I’m not a machine learning engineer, but these types of things like saying, hey, we’re going to put an ad here, but we thought we clear up the clutter with white space, the clutter with white space, see how we can clear the clutter out of your job, too.
Right. This is basically these are some memes almost right. But this was by them. This is by their their concerns. This is some of the best marketing they’ve ever seen. Yes. It’s it’s just kind of humorous. Yes. It’s kind of straight to the point. And you may say, oh, that’s that’s kind of like a one and done campaign that.
But the only way it works is if it truly works. If it if we understand those end users and it actually resonates with them talking about some results, these campaigns, these ads and this focus resulted in a huge increase in demos, huge decrease in cost per demos, and a really good sign of of whether these ads really worked – a huge, huge increase in click through rates.
This really grabbed their attention. And most importantly, these are the types of accounts that were generated through this type of campaign. So one example there here’s a second one with Tuft & Needle. Tuft & Needle is a big mattress company in mattresses in the pandemic, just shot up in terms of interest. Everyone was stuck at home and everybody wanted a new mattress, and then after that, though, the market shifted and we all kind of got back to a normal and those types of those types of ebbs and flows totally, you know, messed with Tuft & Needle and any type of company that was impacted that way. So to try and kind of take them and give them more exposure and exposure to the people that they really wanted, we looked at the competitive landscape, and most of these these campaigns from their competitors are all about kind of like sales and discounts. Understand like a personalization sleep quizzes, and then just some like some kind of fancy messaging around like “un junking your sleep” or whatever that means. Right? But none of them were really focused on the end user that was mostly focused on them and how to upgrade your mattress. Whereas, we found in our research that a lot of the people that care about Tuft & Needle and care about all the competitors, they’re facing difficulties, and specifically, we found one market of new parents. Some studies that new parents face up to six years of sleep deprivation. Right. So we dug deeper. We heard we saw that and we’re like, okay, “what does that mean?” We did a ton a ton of research. You can see here on the left and found a couple really important things that people who are concerned about sleep often have used the hashtags like “Mom Life”, “Motherhood”, “Parenting Tips.”
People who are using the words parenting also use the words about like sleep deprivation and things like that. There’s this correlation between these these groups, and there’s really nobody in the mattress space, a sleep space to talk about it. So we created something called the Sleep Ambassador Program. It’s a six week program where people can apply to become a sleep ambassador for Tuft & Needle.
They applied to get a ton of like free product and get in touch with some consultants to help them with their sleep, get their habits in check. And they even got paid to do it. So here’s some examples of families that applied and they got accepted. And I’m going to walk through a couple of things that came from this, right?
All of this being fueled from that, those findings about these users that they really lack sleep. So we created a landing page for them. We created a course for them using one of Tuft & Needle’s connected experts. We actually had them join up on sleep consultations. We created tons and tons of blogs and infographics, and micro graphics to teach them about sleep.
We generated press releases about the campaign. We obviously put this all over social media and the Sleep Ambassadors shared everything on social media as to how it was going and what they were learning along the way. Email marketing to to them. And then everyone within the Tuft & Needle Network, we did a lot of promotion. One funny thing is we actually put up job listings to become a sleep ambassador, right?
Come get paid to sleep. We tapped into influencers. We got a lot of earned media and traditional media and partnerships with other sleep kind of related companies like calm and aura. We had these ambassadors kind of telling their story as it went, and this generated 93 media hits and over half a billion impressions. So again, this is like all those things that we normally do, right?
Whether that be going after earned media or creating an email or social media. We didn’t invent anything new there, but it all starts with those little nuggets of information about your end user. So, we want to just kind of ask this question as we wrap it up here. So how do we truly understand our customers? Again, I think I’ve made the case that this is truly like one of the most important things you can do for your marketing is to actually take some some greater steps into that research, but how do you do it? I’m going to share a couple tools and ideas. One of these is Sparktoro, or if you use Sparktoro, give them like a free trial. Go see how this works. I typed in people who like search engine land and I found out that you can you can look in the bios of of like everyone’s Twitter bios, top hashtags.
They use the questions that they ask the other people that they follow, the podcasts that they listen to, the Reddit’s, the subreddits that they go to Spark zero is this wealth of knowledge about audiences that can fuel everything else you do. Another tool is one that we’ve actually made internally at our agency called Palomar, and we’ve been using it for a couple of years.
It’s just it’s just rolling out and sort of like a beta access type of thing. So if you’re interested in learning about this tool, hit up this is this QR code and I can kind of get you access to that. But basically what Palomar does is it takes the top ten results of Google. And when someone’s typing in something like “how does physical therapy work?” We actually look at all of the semantically related terms that are found on all of the top ten results of Google. And Google is getting so good at understanding what people want that it actually like looking at what Google is surfacing at the top is a study of the people who are searching so we can find out by typing in how does physical therapy work.
We can see all of the semantically related terms that have to do with that, and that gives us a really rounded out kind of understanding of what this topic means and the types of things that users are looking for on search. So you can take these things and you can build personas. Now, personas are usually these things where it’s like, okay, we created them, or an agency came in and helped us create them and it’s like, Cool, we have them.
They’re PDFs that sit somewhere in some folder. We may look at them every once in a while, and that’s because most of them have just kind of some basic information. And if it was a lot more meaningful, then I think we would refer back to it and we would also add to it. I mean, here’s the typical stuff you see like age, gender, education, demographics, that kind of stuff.
Maybe a bio about Debbie Hall who’s in the realtor space. Right? But with the type of tools that I just shared with you in a little bit deeper, kind of looking at a deeper, you’ll find some things like nuggets like this where Debbie to her as a realtor, nothing matters more than her closing rate and or size of commission.
So when we’re talking about content, we need to write in what she really, really cares about. We can find that. We can also see that she’s part of this National Women’s Council of Realtors. She cares about real estate trends. She reads Real Realtor magazine. These types of things can’t be found by just a quick kind of Google search, and usually they can’t be found even by just sourcing it internally.
I mean, that’s an important piece, listening to your own employees and type that type of stuff. But like digging deeper into the tools that you have available to you will help you create personas that really mean something. We actually built a whole workshop around how to create these types of personas, so hit up that QR code and it’ll sign you up for a quick like five email workshop and you’ll be able to download our template and see exactly how we generate these types of personas.
Next, we want to look at customer journey maps. So customer journey maps are what take a persona – which is kind of like this static document – and make it into an execution plan. And a basic level. It’s like looking at your personas and saying, okay, every part of the funnel, where would we reach them? What are the touch points we would get them with?
But you can go far deeper. So we’ve just turned the funnel sideways awareness consideration decision and we start asking questions like, what is the persona feeling at this stage? What is the persona doing at this stage? And then how would we how would we get to them? What are the touchpoints? Right? So building this out for like a Tuft & Needle, for example, you know, maybe in the awareness stage they’re asking themselves, how can I keep my life going with a brand new child?
How do I find a good balance of parenting and work they as they move forward in consideration, right? What are the effects of not sleeping? And then further, how important is a mattress to a good sleep? We see this kind of journey of how their feelings change as they go down the funnel and thus what actions they should be taking and which touchpoints we can hit them with. Make sure that every every persona you have has its own customer journey map.
Lastly, I just want to hit something that’s probably the most important thing. These types of efforts, if left alone, they don’t do anything for you. Like probably the persona documents that are sitting in some folder somewhere right now, they won’t do anything for you. And so you’ve actually got to create a culture of like continual customer research. There’s so many ways to do this.
I mean, just to give you an example, on my own team to try and help us better understand marketers, we’re doing weekly phone interviews with marketers. Maybe they’re our clients. Maybe there are people who don’t even know us and we’re just asking them questions about us. It’s a way to kind of grow that muscle and make sure that we’re constantly have our ear to the ground.
Right. One of our clients had a really cool idea. They took those personas, they printed mountain posters and put them on a wall in their office, and they’ve got sticky notes where they actually every time they learn something new, they take a sticky note, write it down, put it up there on that persona, and then they do a review of it every once in a while.
Maybe this is scheduling a phone call or a meeting with the head of your customer service or your customer service reps. There’s so, so many ways to create a culture and to keep it going to where you’re constantly gathering, gathering, gathering. And if you don’t do that again, these things will go static and we’ll start to just worry about creating content for content sake.
As I wrap up, I always ask students the questions. Marketing students. I work with students quite often. I also ask this of professionals – “Why did you want to go into marketing in the first place?” And it’s hilarious. About 90% of them always come back to one thing. They’re like, I really care about the psychology of the thing, basically, I really care about the human of the thing. But what happens as we get into our careers, we start getting into platforms, we start learning all sorts of new skills, and oftentimes that passion for that, that end user wanes a little bit, or at least it gets cluttered up with a lot of other things we got to do.
We don’t have time to be constantly doing customer research, but by doing these very small things consistently, I’m confident that your performance for all of your campaigns will get better. So again, just to close – the aim, marketing is to know and understand the customer so well. The product a.k.a all the work marketing work, your work you’re doing fits them and it sells itself.
If you have any questions for me, hit me up on LinkedIn or if you missed any of those QR codes, hit me up. I’d love to talk about this further or answer any questions. Thanks so much for your time. Take care.