Why context should be a marketer’s best friend
With a focus on the quantitative, many marketers are overlooking the secret sauce that brings the numbers to life.
Imagine this: You get to work bright and early one morning, before anyone else arrives. On your desk is a note from the CEO. It reads: “Arrange an event, 50 people, 7pm tonight. Don’t mention to anyone else.”
After a moment of blind panic, questions abound. What sort of event? Why is it taking place? What’s the occasion? What sort of venue? What kind of dress code?
Taken literally, of course, it’s easy. Dinner at a restaurant. Or a party. Or hire a tent and serve cocktails. They all meet the brief, after all. But would it deliver what the CEO wanted? Probably not.
Without context, the room for interpretation as to why is enormous. And your interpretation would be different from every other person who received the same instruction. Admittedly, it’s an unlikely scenario, but context is something that’s critical for all marketers to truly understand success and failure – and to plan future activity.
But so often it’s overlooked.
Why context is king
Unfortunately, many marketers operate in a similar fashion every day. With data freely available - in some cases too much - decisions are made on the quantitative information we have at our fingertips, without anything more than a brief consideration as to ‘why’.
The quantitative gives us definitives; it takes us all the way to the end. It’s easily measurable and easily interpreted, and easy to report. However, the numbers only tell us the what.
And for marketing to be more effective, more efficient and to treat customers as individuals, it’s the why that is critical.
Where to look for context
Context can come in many forms.
It could be details about your customer’s character or personality. It could be a momentous event in someone’s life or a trivial development. It could be a quirk of fate, an opinion. It could be other issues that are going on in the world, or in your customer’s personal or professional life. The context binds together many pieces of information that may or may not seem related, and provides reason, rationale and insight.
Qualitative research is hugely important to provide the context in B2C and B2B environments – surveys, questionnaires with free-form answer boxes and qualitative interviews, as well as a deep understanding of the issues within an industry and any politics at play.
To be truly effective, marketers need to understand the contextual buyer journeys that occurs for both B2B and B2C consumers. What else is going on in their world? What else can provide you with information and insight to understand why people do certain things?
Context – it’s a human need
As individuals in our own day-to-day lives, the vast, vast majority of us enjoy feeling understood. Why do we go back and see the same doctor each time we have a medical issue? Because they understand our context.
The same thing goes for our customers. They want to be treated as individuals; they want a level of understanding – and appreciation – that goes beyond the numbers. They want their experience with you to be hyper-relevant. So the onus is on you to dig deep and unearth the little things that are going to make a big difference.
It works both ways
To do your job well, you need to gather and interpret context to make the numbers meaningful. When you report internally, you need to provide that context too.
Why are sales down? Why have sales of this product gone up? Why’s our cost-per-acquisition fluctuating so much? By developing and conveying the context, you are demonstrating a deep understanding of the business, the sector and your customers. And that’s what’s needed to do a remarkable job.
After all, the last thing you’d want your CEO to do is to look at your marketing expenses, outgoings and salaries without the context of what you’d brought back into the business, and the other positive impact you’d had.
Anyway, enough of that. Back to organizing this event ...
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