“In God we trust. All others must bring data.” – W. Edwards Deming
Business success relies on data these days, and it’s no wonder: By 2020, there will be around 40 trillion gigabytes of data, according to an IDC study.
Fortune 500 companies use data to drive every aspect of business from operations to marketing, but for many brands – especially those without Fortune 500 budgets – data is still a bit nebulous. Deciding how to capture the right data and how to draw intelligent insights that can then be used to make smarter business decisions? It sounds great, but in all honesty, it’s more than a little overwhelming.
Still, data is a powerful tool that can bring every campaign full circle, and impact results across every stage along your customer’s journey. Service companies, in particular, can benefit from using data to help them surface powerful analytics that drive business results. That’s industry speak for more traffic, more leads, more customers, and more sales.
Service-based businesses are not like product-based companies – it’s even more critical that your customer experience is memorable – and second to none. Why? Because your customers have more questions, dissatisfied customers can’t simply return a product, and in most cases the path to purchase is much longer.
From brand awareness through loyalty, service-based businesses can use data to grow at scale. Here’s how.
Chapter One: Build Awareness and Trust
Sharing relevant, high-quality content will help to build trust and cement your reputation as a thought leader. In the awareness stage, the right data can help you understand:
- What questions your audience is asking
- Their greatest pain points
- How your target audience feels about your industry, your competitors, and your brand
- What holes exist in the industry that you might be able to fill
- What misconceptions you might have about your audience
Over 95% of business leaders still make decisions using intuition. Chances are you know your audience pretty well. But if you lead with data, you can confirm or correct those instincts.
Example: A new client in the software industry was interested in creating a content campaign for a specific market that could effectively change their audience’s perceptions. They believed that sales, specifically lead generation – had a negative connotation among their target audience. During a brainstorm session, we pulled up the Sprout Social listening dashboard on a laptop and keyed in “lead gen” (along with semantic associations) and their specific location. What we discovered was…The exact opposite. That led our team to dig deeper. As it turned out, lead gen wasn’t an issue, but lead nurturing was. In this case, we were able to use data to correct what the client believed to be true.
Key Takeaway: When we lead with data vs. instinct, we’re more efficient, our creative is stronger, and our campaigns are more successful.
Actionable tips: Measure impressions, research popular hashtags and understand keywords and phrases around your industry. This allows you to create content that answers your audience’s questions and provides possible solutions to common challenges.
“If we have data, let’s look at data. If all we have are opinions, let’s go with mine.” – Jim Barksdale, former Netscape CEO
Chapter Two: Encourage Consideration
For service-based companies, consideration is a critical component in your customers’ path to purchase. In order to provide potential customers with the information that will help them make a purchase decision, you’ll need to understand what they’re looking for. Our hero, data, can make this step much easier for you and create a better experience for your customers. At the consideration phase, data can help you understand:
- What information prospects need in order to make a purchase decision
- Whom they ask for recommendations
- When and where they ask for recommendations
- Which brands are most frequently recommended and why
- How important reviews are to your audience
- Why a service company receives a bad review
- At what stage along their journey prospects reach out
- What qualities are most important – whether that’s price, services, reputation, speed, or something else
Waiting until you have the perfect campaign is like waiting to have kids until you think you’ve saved enough money – it won’t happen. That’s precisely why Fortune 500 brands use tactics like a/b testing, pilot programs and incubator projects; these give them the ability to go to market now, and data allows them to perfect as they go.
Example: We have a local small business client in the home services industry. They have an A+ rating from the BBB and have won countless service awards. The problem was that they struggled to get new customers to consider their brand when comparing service providers. They just weren’t well known enough beyond a very small geographic area. We used data to discover which competitors were being considered and why and we learned what qualities were most important to potential customers (in this case, trust and great reviews stood out most). This allowed us to create a long-term campaign that rolled out in stages. We focused on responding to every review – good and bad, sharing helpful content that answered questions and concerns, and partnering with trusted local brands to offer bi-monthly giveaways.
Key Takeaway: Data can show you where to focus your marketing efforts and come up with creative ways to improve results.
Actionable tips: Measure free trials, click-thrus to product details and pricing, and video views. Eavesdrop on social requests for recommendations to find out which companies are frequently recommended and why. Respond to every review – good or bad – in a courteous, professional manner, and don’t be afraid to test! Test different messages, promotions and offers to find out what your audience responds to most.
“Where there’s data smoke, there’s business fire.” — Thomas Redman
Chapter Three: Drive Higher Purchases
For most companies, the holy grail is simple: sell more! These days, consumers want to work with companies they trust. And that means your marketing efforts can’t begin at the purchase stage (they shouldn’t end here either, but that’s a different chapter). You’ll need to start back in chapter one, by generating awareness and building relationships that lead to trust and consideration. By the time our prospects reach this stage of the buyer journey, we’ve learned a lot about them – insights that we can use to drive sales, such as:
- What qualities are most important to them
- How long they research options before making a purchase
- The messaging and calls to action that drive the greatest engagement
- The offers that are most compelling
Example: Remember our small business client example in chapter two? In year two, we continued to build trust through helpful content and engagements but added paid media and new calls to action to the mix to work toward a new goal: increase service calls by 25%. We did that, and more. In fact, we filled up their service call calendar so quickly that they doubled their number of field techs and equipment within 3 months.
Key Takeaway: Play the long game! The growth our client realized in year two wasn’t just because of the new tactics we added. Year two was stronger because of the trust we’d built in year one.
Actionable tips: Pay attention to metrics like number of mentions, reviews, and recommendations. Use retargeting to get in front of prospects who’ve not made a purchase.
“Numbers have an important story to tell. They rely on you to give them a voice.” – Stephen Few
Chapter Four: Get Serious About Growth
Small companies struggle to grow at scale, and for service-based businesses this can be even more difficult. Doubling your customer base might sound great, but it also requires doubling your staff and increasing the resources and tools at your disposal – all of which cost money and take away from your bottom line.
If you’re serious about growth, you’ll need to get serious about tracking:
- New markets and customer demographics to consider
- Potential products or services to add to your core offerings
- Data that can turn single projects into annual retainers
- Data that can turn bandwidth work into strategic partnerships
Service-based businesses rely on a certain number of ongoing projects. A lawncare service with a dozen clients on retainer can use data to add strategic projects to that ongoing work. Who handles their landscaping? Could it use some updating? Could shrubs use trimming or gutters need cleaning?
By the same token, they can use data to turn single projects into retainer clients. Who handles that client’s ongoing maintenance? What events might they have coming up that require more frequent upkeep? How might weather changes impact their needs?
These insights can teach your clients something they don’t already know – a key strategy for turning bandwidth projects into strategic partnerships.
Example: One of our restaurant clients was interested in expanding into a new market (Nashville). We engaged social listening tools to listen in on conversations around breakfast and brunch restaurants in the Nashville area. Because our client is well-known for their delicious gluten-free menu, we also tracked conversations around this topic. Our research uncovered:
- Gluten-free menu items that might be top of mind for consumers in this market
- A new demographic of customer to target (college students!)
- Potential competitors to keep an eye on
Key Takeaway: Turn to data before making any long-term decisions. Data is the key to telling a complete story about your brand and your customers. Companies that are able to provide quantifiable measures of success have a clear, competitive advantage.
Actionable tips: Use social listening to eavesdrop in new markets. Watch for trending hashtags and track competitors and profiles with a high number of posts and mentions.
Omnichannel marketing is the ability to offer your customers a consistent experience everywhere they interact with your brand: on your website, in a brick-and-mortar store, on social media channels, via email, text, phone call – you name it.
The modern customer’s journey is not a funnel. It’s not a circle or a flywheel either. It’s unique to each person, up and down and sideways, and not all trackable (dark social is a great example of this). We call it omni-path. And data is the hero that can help you meet customers at every stage along their unique path.
Putting all of your marketing budget into one section of that path is a mistake. We hear you – you need to “focus on leads.” But that doesn’t mean your entire marketing strategy should be built around consideration and purchase. If you focus on brand awareness but are silent after this stage, you risk missing key opportunities to convert new leads. If you focus on mid-path, and are silent until that stage, you risk missing opportunities to build trust.
What it boils down to is this: If you want to realize true growth at scale, your business needs an omni-path approach powered by data that can inform your strategy at every stage. Want to learn more?