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Cloud Talk

Andre Yee

Building Better Buyer Profiles is Vital for Your Business

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If you're selling anything - software, services, widgets - you are likely marketing online. If so, you are undoubtedly invested in web analytics - measuring the effectiveness of your marketing programs in terms of page views, unique visitors and click-through rates.

Unfortunately, you might focusing on the wrong thing if you're interested in driving top line growth for your business. It's not that web analytics isn't necessary - it's just insufficient.

The big challenge for businesses everywhere is less about traditional web analytics and more about how to build better profiles of your buyers.

Over the past few years, it's quietly become a Really Big Thing. Consider the following -

Let's face it - "only God knows more about you than Google". Think about how Google can gather information from their various properties/services to construct a shockingly accurate view of your profile - what you search for (Google Search), what you view online (YouTube), the paths you travel (Google Maps), your private communications to friends and family (Gmail).

The first step toward building this integrated profile began several years ago with the launch of Gmail beta (2004). At the time, Gmail's revolutionary features like unlimited storage and lightning fast email search captured most of the hype at release. While at the time, some questioned Gmail's ad model and expressed privacy concerns, few realized that Gmail's strategic coup was really around identity capture. The Gmail account provided the common user identity, unifying the tracking of all the Google related services you might use. With a unified identity, constructing the buyer profile suddenly became a lot easier.

Not withstanding Facebook's current challenges related to the relevancy of their ads, cracking the code on buyer identity is the primary way that social media channels will be monetized in the future. Consider that the world's largest social media channel (over 600 million users and counting) has visibility to your content and interactions within their network. However, instead of simply building profiles from interaction within their network, a year ago, Facebook extended the now ubiquitous like button for the rest of the Web through the Open Graph Protocol.

That simple move extended Facebook's ability to observe behaviors and preferences outside of their network - all toward the goal of building a better buyer profile. Here's an example of its significance: While your Facebook connections may reveal that you as a parent of high school teens...the fact that you liked the WSJ's Tiger Mom article may shed light on your Type-A ambitions for them. That just might make you a prime candidate for a slew of SAT prep products and educational services. Targeted ads, anyone?

Linkedin, Jigsaw, Zoominfo, et al
There is an ecosystem of companies that make a living offering insight into the business-oriented buyer (as opposed to end-consumer). Instead of simply seeing these as contact lists, this information is begging to be leveraged for building buyer profiles. Linkedin is chief among these offerings with their business community social network. Data sourcing services like Jigsaw, Zoominfo and the like, make a thriving enterprise of mining profiles of business users.

There are numerous sources of data on potential buyers but the question is - how do you take advantage of this slew of data in a meaningful way (read: drive revenue)?

Here are three essential steps -

1. Think Buyer Profiles, Not Web Analytics

I've said enough about this but understand that this is a fundamental shift in mentality - new world (buyer profiles) vs old school (web analytics - clickthrough rates/visitors).

2. Unify Buyer Identities and Profiles Under a Single Platform.

You need an application platform that can unify these identities (email, social media handles, etc...) and integrate both explicit information (title, demographics) as well as implicit information (behaviors, preferences) on the buyers from a multitude of sources. And the platform had better scale - we're talking about a LOT of data.

3. Instrument, Monitor and Benchmark the Buying Cycle

Instrument your buying cycle - do the data capture on average durations on each phase, conversion rates, overall cycle times, etc..

Monitor progress - tools and reports that can give you insight into the integrated sales and marketing funnel

Benchmark - measure yourself against past performance or better yet, track how you're doing against best-in-class in your category.

The point is that building better buyer profiles isn't just a game for the big boys like Facebook, it's a game smaller enterprises can, and arguably, must play. So get in the game!

Andre Yee blogs about cloud computing, SaaS, Web 2.0 and other emerging technologies that matter to businesses.

Andre Yee

Andre Yee is an entrepreneur and technologist with nearly 20 years of experience in the business of technology.

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