Signals are tricky things. Misinterpreting or ignoring them can be quite costly. A misinterpreted or ignored traffic signal, for example, might earn you a costly collision.
If you’re a sales or marketing professional, mastering the science of signals is becoming crucially important. And the good news is that today’s available technology can help you ace signal science. It enables cutting-edge marketing approaches such as needs based micro-segmentation to improve virtually every aspect of your customer journey.
Are Your Prospects Still Ghostly Specters?
Not so long ago, the signals used for identifying and qualifying prospects were mostly limited to firmographics, a mashup of the words firm and demographics. But, at best, those firmographic signals were vague and unspecific. And the result was a prospect characterization that was equally vague and unspecific — more of a ghostly apparition than a crystal-clear rendering of an ideal prospect.
But those days are over.
Firmographics is no longer the best you can do; it’s now the least you can do. In this interconnected digital age, a proliferation of SaaS solutions and a host of associated technological advancements have changed the game. These tools have enabled a mega-shift in the process of identifying prospects, and effectively selling to them.
That’s why what you used to do (and might still be doing) no longer works, including:
- Scatter-shooting, shot-in-the-dark email campaigns
- Marketing budgets blown on creating directionless buzz across a broad array of platforms and channels
- Time and money blown in developing content that is simply too generic to strike a chord with your true prospects
Each of us is deluged with an overwhelming amount of content thrown at us every day. It’s like a cacophony of content that constantly surrounds us, like the never-ending dull roar of a waterfall. And that’s why content that isn’t precisely targeted is unlikely to ever reach the intended audience.
Big Data and the Dawn of the Interconnected Era
Every business has a digital footprint — and that includes every business on your prospect list. That hasn’t always been the case. Until very recently, it simply hasn’t been possible to obtain granular information about most prospects. You were limited to firmographics.
But with virtually every business now online, that granular information is now available. And technology is helping sales and marketing teams harvest those digital signals that can be used to define and find highly receptive prospects through real-time data and insights. Content can then be crafted that addresses unique problems and needs, that offers customized solutions and makes your marketing messages stand apart.
Signal science provides the methodology for making use of the thousands upon thousands of digital signals that are now available for your prospects. It makes it possible to leverage those digital signals in improving virtually every aspect of the sales cycle, including prospecting, targeting, messaging, and engagement.
Harnessing the Signal Science Approach to Sales and Marketing
Signal science sifts those digital signals, and arranges them in unique combinations that inform you about critically important prospect attributes. Putting signal science to work for your company should focus upon three key classes of digital signals:
- Digital Maturity Signals: These signals provide a great indication of whether a company is likely to be a high-quality prospect for the product or service you’re selling. Here are a couple of examples of using digital maturity signals:
- Search engine marketing, display ads campaigns, and active social media accounts can serve as excellent indicators of the spend and growth intent of businesses.
- Derive engagement signals from the social media activities that permit you to time and tailor your interactions and engagements with the targeted market. Identify the most-used social media platforms / channels that appeal most to your defined buyer persona (based on industry, role, location, and the products/solutions you want to sell), and then focus your marketing efforts through those platforms.
- Need Signals: These signals help you identify the specific needs that a business must address in the near term, and enable a needs analysis of a business. Match the business’s deficiencies relative to it’s category and local competition, and match against your solutions. (Falling behind the competition provides a compelling motivation to act!). Examples:
- Use technographic profiles to rank your prospects on tech maturity, and tailor your offering / campaigns. Focus on SMBs who don’t have the product(s) you sell (but need), and on SMBs using certain SaaS / technology products for which you offer complementary solutions (Salesforce customers, for example).
- If you sell website design and development products, it can be helpful to look for companies that lack a mobile-friendly or responsive website (or both), but spend on SEM (for which the target audience is mostly on mobile devices).
- Budget Signals: It’s frustrating to spend lots of time cultivating a prospect that simply can’t afford your product. Avoid that wasted time and effort by using budget signals to assess a company’s current spending (an example of micro-segmentation). Examples can include:
- Businesses that have invested in an email-automation stack / marketing-automation stack are likely candidates with the need and budget for continuous content development.
- Businesses that have recently purchased recruitment software provide a sure signal that they are on the path to growth. Growing businesses are more likely to invest in sales and marketing automation tools to support their growth.
- Businesses that are spending any amount on Google Adwords or Bing Ads, but lack commerce tools such as scheduling and payments on their websites.
Signal Science is for the Smart and Progressive. Firmographics is for the Has-Beens and Wannabes.
Maximizing the benefits of signal science is crucial for every company that wishes to be able to compete in this modern age — or, to put it simply, every company. Because we have undeniably arrived in the new era of smart segmentation; there is no going back.
Staying alert for the technologies, strategies, and organizational thinking that will help your company excel is not just a wise approach, it is rapidly becoming a competitive necessity. Leveraging the benefits of signal science, such as micro-segmentation and needs analysis, will result in improved targeting, better leads, and precise messaging. The result will be more meaningful conversations, more closed sales, and higher customer retention rates — the ultimate goals of all sales and marketing professionals.
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