3 CMO Signals For Sensing Shifts In Buyer Decision Behaviors

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Tony Zambito

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Signal by Arthur Shlain
Signal by Arthur Shlain

The calendar is usually full.  Exercise coming from jogging from one meeting to the next.  Engrossed in the daily demands for time and being in the moment of now.  The now being a crisis or a looming project deadline.

The gnawing feeling of something being missed about customers and buyers never going away.

The world of busyness can cause many of us to miss out on important signals about what lies ahead.  It is like driving whereby signals play a very important role in letting drivers know what is about to take place and the actions we need to take.  Turn lights, the red lights of braking, and the yellow light for caution all signal for us what to anticipate and how we should respond.

In today’s robust digital economy, signals about what is to come with respect to buying behaviors and how they shape buyer decisions are becoming increasingly a necessity.  Creating a duality in the role of CMOs today.  A role requiring having heads down and meeting the now needs of the organization but also having heads up constantly looking out on the horizon.  Serving the necessary role of helping the organization to anticipate and prepare for the coming shifts in buyer decision behaviors.

Hearing And Seeing Signals

The new world of big data and analytics could make CMOs be in a constant state of having heads down and peering through numbers.   While trending data is an important component of what is happening in the now moment, as well as in the future, caution should be given to only having a one-dimension perspective.  In order to sense shifts in buying behaviors, CMOs must raise their heads up from the one-dimension of analytics and incorporate two other dimensions.

The additional two dimensions to incorporate are:

  • Buyer Insights Research: qualitative buyer research should be conducted on a consistent basis to gain deep buyer insights into buying behaviors.  To understand buyer decisions, as well as, shifts in buyer decisions, it means uncovering insights into goal-directed behaviors.  It has been largely found by research, in the field of social sciences, choices made by people (both individually and in organizational settings) are driven by goal-directed behaviors.
  • Buying Scenario Planning: In my previous article, I offered perspectives on the three types of buying scenarios CMOs must get to know through qualitative buyer research.  The purpose here is to explore the context of the future.  To explore potentially what scenarios could confront buyers in the near and long term.  Providing the ability to explore potential implications for how to engage customers, which services to provide, and what marketing strategies to begin preparing for.

Signals Must Be 3D

What CMOs need to guard against is a one-dimensional reliance on analytics.  Never raising their heads to look out into the horizon and get a panoramic view of customers.  While trending information can be insightful, reliance on just analytics will result in the missing of key signals related to context.  Missing out on both the context of now and the context of a potential future.

Accurately sensing signals on the how and why of buying here in the now and in the future, requires a three-dimensional approach.  All three views (trending analytics, qualitative buyer research, and buying scenario planning) should be incorporated into marketing planning and strategizing.  Allowing for CMOs and their teams to draw inferences and to discuss implications.   One of the downsides of a one-dimensional focus on analytics and the constant quest for “real-time” is conditioning a team to be primarily reactive.

The Goals Of Signals

The goals of signals are to sense future realities, explore future potential, sense what is happening now, sense what could happen in the future, and sense how to prepare for what will most likely happen.  Analytics alone cannot achieve these goals.  It takes the proactive discipline of incorporating a three-dimensional view of customers and buyers.

Where do buyer personas fit into this picture?  Buyer personas are archetypes designed to portray a real-life representation of the scenarios – here in the now and in the future – confronting buyers. They are not the end means themselves.  They are meant to help teams to focus in on a common view of customers and buyers, thus facilitating abilities for sensing shifts in buying behaviors and buyer decisions.

As we look ahead to the future, one increasingly important attribute of CMOs and marketing is that of sensing the future.  To be effective at preparing for the future, CMOs must then prepare for a three-dimensional view of customers and buyers.  Resting only on a one-dimensional view could mean they will be blind to the future.

(The following video highlights the power of drawing and visuals in moving from a current state to a desired state.  Buyer insights research, buying scenario planning, and buyer persona development are very much about visuals and providing a powerful picture of a common vision of customers and buyers.  Speaker, comic, and consultant Patti Dobrowolski also stresses the importance of adding a third dimension to our perspectives when thinking about the future.  Enjoy.)