Using Context to Achieve Marketing Excellence

03.01.19 // Angela Earl

As marketers, we are all aiming to create personalized campaigns. But often the wealth of data and tools at our disposal—along with the array of campaigns and programs we are attempting to manage—make this goal seem harder to reach than it really is.

True marketing excellence comes from a prune and simplify approach, and it comes from an awareness of the context of your message. If you are struggling to get your audience to engage, context might be the missing link in your marketing efforts. The good news is that getting started is easier than you think.

1. Becoming a Marketer Who Listens

Context is in the details. It’s the details others notice when they sit down with you for a cup of coffee—what you’re doing and how you’re feeling, what’s different about you today versus yesterday, and even anticipating what will be different about you tomorrow.

Marketing programs focus too often on the static description of context. Detailed personas and lengthy profiles of our buyers, at a moment of time or through a particular lens. Unfortunately these drawn-out examples have made us unable to react in the moment when our buyers are trying to tell us something.

And, they are telling us something. With today’s technology, we have access to so much information about our buyer, including where they are and inferences about their needs or wants. But in spite of all this data, too many marketers are still trying to direct and lead, as opposed to listening and being lead.

2. Delivering a Relevant Message 

A surprising amount of marketers haven’t quite arrived yet with context, but most are heading in the right direction. The arrival of big data is now being married with a marketing technology landscape that enables teams to absorb and leverage the data with speed that was never before possible.

Since I’m very present online and there are a lot of sites that have my data, I’ll use myself as an example to demonstrate how context could be used or ignored in-the-moment to create very different experiences. 

I’ve taken the time to build out a very complete LinkedIn profile. Not only does their app have my entire employment history wrapped up into one tidy place, updated regularly by me, they also have the ability to see where I’m sharing from and what types of information I’m sharing from those locations. Yet when I log in from the road, the data I see is just the same as it would be from my home in Portland.

In contrast, look at apps like Meet-Up, Living Social or any one of the restaurant index apps. They use the context of my location to adjust the suggestions and make my experience on their app personal. Consider how your use of LinkedIn would change if they suggested connecting with people or companies based on where you were or what you were sharing. I believe that simple change could shift them from a passive “connect and engage with content” site to a true networking facilitator.

It would be great to see companies like LinkedIn begin to use that context to deliver more relevant suggestions—rather than offering the same list of ten people I can connect with, unaware or without acknowledgement of my context.

3. The Power of One: Be Contextually Relevant with One Datapoint

If you aren’t as fortunate as LinkedIn to have that much data on your audience, you can still discover their context. It doesn’t take a huge resource of data to be effective. Big data is here to stay, but you can begin to be contextually relevant with a single data point.

In the B2B space, access to location is easy through IP addresses. While not perfect, you can adjust your message based on the location of your buyers. What can you deliver to a buyer in Boston that is different than another buyer in Seattle? Think about local events, recent news, or specific compliance regulations. 

Maybe location doesn’t change your solution much. In a global business world, many of us struggle with the same efficiency challenges no matter where we are. Another data point that can be easy to get and use is the device your audience is using. If the majority of your audience interacts on a mobile device, you can assume they are engaging at times where their attention may be very condensed and vulnerable to distraction. Ensure your content is concise, so it can be absorbed in pieces and easily bookmarked.

Data points such as these will allow you to be more targeted, more relevant, and reach an expanding amount of people. One of our own peers using context well is MarketingSherpa—whose content spans podcasts, short blogs and longer studies—giving their audience options to engage how they want, when they want. They’ve figured out how to reach you whether you’re on a plane for four hours or waiting between meetings.

Listening to your audience to really hear what they are sharing is half the battle. The other half is using what they are telling you to shape their experience and provide options. Let’s commit to seeking out context, getting to know our audience and delivering content so relevant they want to engage.