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Really effective marketers have mastered two modes of thinking – forwards and backwards. Following in the footsteps of your buyer is thinking forwards. Deriving your overall marketing goals from your revenue targets is thinking backwards. I’ve found that most marketers are not especially good at either because they spend their days spinning their wheels slogging through piles of marketing tasks. Decent marketers may have a forwards or backwards mindset. Great marketers do both.
As I sat editing this post last Sunday morning, I had a Barclays Premier League soccer match on in the background. I was struck by the referee. In order to keep an eye on everything going on at such a fast pace, he would alternate between running forwards and backwards. Try it sometime. It’s not that easy, especially if you want to avoid running into people or being hit with a ball.
Referees actually train to run fast in both directions. If you want to train to be good at thinking in both directions, you need to work at it. You will need to be part actor, part psychologist, with a tad of sleuth, a tinch of engineer, and a drop of Indian tracker. Now follow along.
Start with your actor’s mindset. Get into character and think like your buyer. What’s the first thing they do when they’re trying to solve a problem? Unless Larry the office know-it-all is around (and probably even if he is), they go to Google. So, act like your buyer and pull up Google on your browser. Now think about what your buyer might be searching for. You’ve got to do a few things to make this work. Number one, you need to know who your buyer is so you can get into character. If you don’t know– a cardinal sin for marketers– you need to talk to your CEO or sales team and find out. The second thing you need to do is figure out what kinds of problems that buyer has that you can solve. This is where you might need a little bit of the psychologist’s intuition. Once you have a few ideas, channel your inner engineer and create a few hypotheses on keywords and phrases.
To get an initial readout on your hypotheses, you can use Google Trends. For example, let’s imagine I work for a home audio components manufacturer, and we have a great new portable speaker. I am acting like my buyer – who has a home office and wants to listen to music when working from home – and I try something very basic like ‘bluetooth speakers.’ I get the following.
Starting in about 2011, there’s been a steady uptick in searches for Bluetooth speakers. I can also see related searches and see the different ways people start their research on speakers. Clearly there are also a lot of librarians and file clerks out there buying speakers with ‘speaker bluetooth’ as a top search term.
Having put yourself in your buyers shoes, your next step in connecting their behavior to your marketing activities is to understand the search volume for your top keywords or phrases. Google AdWords Keyword Planner Tool or Keywordtool.io will tell you the how many searches there are and give you an expanded list of phrases. Keywordtool.io found me 674 related keywords and phrases, including ‘bluetooth speaker light bulb.’ (What will they think of next?)
Importantly, don’t just focus on the top keywords. You want to also think about so-called ‘long tail keywords.’ These are more specific, and actually make up a larger portion of the overall search volume. According to a great post my Moz:
It’s wonderful to deal with keywords that have 5,000 searches a day, or even 500 searches a day, but in reality, these popular search terms actually make up less than 30% of the searches performed on the web. The remaining 70% lie in what’s called the “long tail” of search. The long tail contains hundreds of millions of unique searches that might be conducted a few times in any given day, but, when taken together, comprise the majority of the world’s search volume.
Knowing the search term(s) of interest to your buyers, and which ones are the most important, you now should start planning content that addresses the search phrases. For example, if there are lot of people searching things like ‘how to configure Bluetooth speaker iPhone’ and ‘best Bluetooth speaker OSX,’ you could consider having instructional content that addresses these. As I’ve written before, make sure you’ve got a blog post, a landing page or an e-book, something relevant to that problem. Then work to drive people to that page. You’ll need to make sure the content is relevant. There are ways to actually do this, ways to make your content relevant.
One more bit of advice from Moz on the long tail:
Another lesson search marketers have learned is that long tail keywords often convert better, because they catch people later in the buying/conversion cycle. A person searching for “shoes” is probably browsing, and not ready to buy. On the other hand, someone searching for “best price on Air Jordan size 12” practically has their wallet out!
You may have more general content for your top of funnel folks, and more specific content for the long tail buyers close to a purchase.
Now turn on the SEO to make sure your content appears on the first search results page. If your content does not appear on the first page, it’s really not worth the effort, as over 90% of people will never even go to the second SERP. Getting on the first SERP will take some time but it is well worth it. Continue building up your blog, e-book and other content until until you begin to see a rise in traffic coming to that site.
Lastly, again with your actor’s cape on, think about what else that buyer needs to convince them to make the purchase. Continuing our example, maybe it’s a review from a well-known consumer electronics publication or blog. Perhaps it’s a promotional offer. Maybe you need to offer them a subsequent e-book on home audio trends. This is sometimes called the buyer’s journey, but I think that’s too grandiose. Makes it sounds like a Homer epic.
Instead, think about a simple three-step process, aka a three-touch process. Once you’ve figured out that second asset, then you need to go for the close. Channel your inner psychologist. What is it that helps you close your buyers? Is it a trial? Is it a demo? That review? For those who struggle in this area, I recommend the excellent book by Martin Lindstrom Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy.
Once you know how to get people to that critical step, it’s time to start thinking backwards. If you can get one buyer to purchase, how many do you need to convince to hit your sales target? This is where funnel math comes in, and it’s a thinking backwards exercise.
It’s time to crunch some numbers. Time take out your engineer’s slide rule and work backwards up the sales funnel. You know how many trials you need to get an opportunity, and how many opportunities you need to get a closed one business or aka, a customer, then you just do reverse funnel math. In the diagram below, I’ve flipped the funnel to emphasize the point.
This funnel shows that to get 50 closed deals with $5 million in revenue, I need 150 SQLs, from 200 MQL, which come from 400 inquiries and 20,000 names. The numbers are all derived from working backwards from the 50 won deals, using known conversion rates.
To build your own version, you need to figure out how many trials lead to how many opportunities, and how many of those lead to closed deals. If you don’t have a good handle on conversion rates for each stage of the funnel, you can find some industry benchmarks that are relevant to your business. There are many places to find these. Marketing Rockstar Guides has put together a nice list.
There you have it. Sitting down at a browser, thinking like your customer. That’s forwards thinking. Working all the way backward up to the top of the funnel – backwards thinking. Master both and your revenues and your career will go nowhere but forward.