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Predictive Marketing: What’s the “Kevin Spacey” of Your Business?

Predictive Marketing for Small Business

Do all country music listeners buy trucks? Do all truck owners listen to country music?

A couple of years ago, I was in a meeting where a local business manager directed his marketing team to run his ads on a local country radio station. That might seem appropriate enough, but it was a $10,000-plus ad buy, and the decision was based purely on a generally-accepted assumption that most truck drivers like country music.

That’s just the way broadcast advertising is, right? It’s the nature of this beast that eats all of our marketing money and ultimately drives up the price of that shiny new Silverado.

In this post, we’ll shed some light on the changing face of marketing. It’s one that’s less shouty and more nerdy. It’s hyper-targeted, but it works. In fact, Nielsen surveyed more than 2,000 small businesses and found that 60% of them are using big data to find opportunities to modify product offers.

Furthermore, fewer than 15% of the surveyed business knew how to find actionable insights from data. With a little elbow grease and some know-how from posts like this, you can get your business past the tipping point towards smart, sustainable, data-based marketing. Because the fact is, traditional broadcasting doesn’t have an accurately measurable impact. Instead of bringing your customers closer to your business with delightfully relevant content, it puts them in a metaphorical Texas tornado in hopes that they’ll land in your store.

Predictive Marketing Rule #1: Unless it’s clear to you, it’s not.

The primary challenge for us in the marketing world has always been to get in front of the right people with the right offer at the right time. And when we consider the deluge of today’s case studies, analytics, CRM reports, strategies, tactics, and frameworks we let into our work, I would argue that we’re also tasked with predicting the future.

As a small business marketer, you’re probably short on time. Luckily, it’s 2015, and you no longer have to spend hours and hours filing through a rolodex just to make contact with someone who wants to do business with you. Things are a little easier these days, and with a few clicks you can use predictive marketing to clarify your goals, your leads, and your message to reach the right people at the right moment – no matter what radio station they prefer.

Before we dive in, let’s cover a few key terms:

  • Predictive analytics (n): Predictive analytics is an area of data analysis in which marketers find patterns and make predictions about future outcomes/events.
  • Predictive marketing (n): A style of marketing which involves intentionally contacting people who are known to have the highest probability of purchasing within a certain timeframe, based on predictive analytics.

Predictive marketing isn’t a new concept. In fact, marketers have always used past performance to create strategies for new projects. Since the dawn of modern business, the concepts of prediction and marketing have been baked into each other, like a pie that just keeps getting sweeter.

The difference between the Mad Men era and the Facebook era is that we now have a generally wider view of the world and a whole lot of easily-accessible data at our fingertips. Today, you can begin using data to make your target audience, your message, and your results clearer than ever.

The Goals of Predictive Marketing

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” | Alan Kay

Almost every month here in 2015, I’ve read something new about how predictive marketing is becoming more and more of a reality for small businesses. Big data isn’t just a buzzword for giant think tanks and cubicle-laiden corporations. It’s getting real, and here’s what it can do:

  1. Bring the right people to sales at the right time. Today’s buyers leave trails of digital footprints that lead right to your doorstep. With the right tools, you can see every step and make sure others can hop onto the same path. And with the a good understanding of your sales funnel, you can measure the size of the crowd at each place on this metaphorical path and figure out how to get them to take the next step towards a sale.
  2. Create and evolve your buyer personas. If you use a CRM/automation system like Salesforce, HubSpot, or Infusionsoft, you’re sitting on a treasure trove of data that can help you and your team define the buyer personas that yield the most revenue for your business.
  3. Grow your following online. People will talk about you to their friends. It’s the bi-product of knowing what certain people need at certain times. Predictive marketing engages your contacts and your systems. Everything from your Google Plus page to your CRM reports can come into account in a good predictive marketing project.
  4. Scoring more sales by scoring more leads. If you’ve been following our blog for any amount of time you know that 9 Clouds is no stranger to inbound marketing. It’s at the core of what we do here, so we take things like data, marketing automation, and system optimizations very seriously. Predictive marketing plays into any good marketing strategy – inbound or outbound – by providing valuable information to your sales team. For example, if you know that it takes approximately 7 days on average for a contact to move from point C to point D in your sales funnel, you can predict the point at which your sales staff will have a drought or a flood of qualified leads to process.
  5. Processing is easier. Speaking of processing, predictive marketing is a great way for your marketing team to make good with your sales team. It’s just logic. By the time someone has been qualified and delighted by a predictive marketing system, they’re much easier for your sales team to engage, which makes your sales team easier to engage by the water cooler.

Take it one step at a time.

Overwhelmed yet? Don’t worry. Although there are plenty of options out there for you, predictive marketing is still an underutilized tool for small businesses, which is why we created this resource for you.

Now that you know what predictive marketing could do for your business, it’s time to put it to work. In the next section, we’ll cover the ingredients you’ll need to deploy an effective system that saves time and money for your business.

predictive marketing for small business

Quality for quantity: How to measure and attract leads with predictive marketing

There is more than one way to score.

Predictive marketing involves measuring three dimensions of data.

(Writer’s note: I know what you’re thinking here. I said “dimensions of data” and now you’re all like, “Whoa. He’s nerding out on me. I might need to go Facebook for a while.” But stick with me.)

1. Lead Scoring

The first of the three dimensions is lead scoring. Lead scoring uses the demographical, economical, social and geographical factors that help you identify your prospects.

For example, if you’re marketing monthly mail subscriptions of razor blades, you might find that your highest conversion rates come from 23-year-old single male college graduates living in cities of more than 100,000 people, making more than $29,000 per year. In the marketing world, this is what we call a buyer persona, and it’s essentially a lead that matches ideal criteria for a successful sale.

“A satisfied customer is the best business strategy of all.” | Michael LeBoeuf

Now that you know what “type” of customer gives your sales team the best ROI, it’s time to figure out what makes them tick so you can talk to them at the right times. Enter behavioral scoring.

2. Behavioral Scoring

Behavioral scoring relies on analytics which show you a person’s path to your doorstep. Think of behavioral scoring as a point on a timeline. It’s the metaphorical footprint path I mentioned earlier. Behavioral data includes email clicks, page views and, most importantly, content consumption.

For example, if your business sells metal fabrication machines, you know that before a high-scoring lead (see above) calls to make an order, she typically visits your website at least three times, she downloads a product brochure, and clicks on a couple of your marketing emails before submitting a contact form.

You might be wondering: If the high-scoring lead nearly always purchases, why do you need to track them?

It’s important to understand and score a lead’s behavior because it allows you to optimize your content at each step on the path. If you have a really bad bounce rate on your product inventory page, for example, you might need to adjust the design for better usability. Behavioral scoring also allows you to strategically time and personalize your emails and sales calls effectively.

3. Case Scoring

The third ingredient in predictive marketing is case scoring. As opposed to looking at the quality of a specific person and his or her path to the sale, you’re looking at the experience as a whole. What made a particular sale a great one? How satisfied is that customer, and what can you do to bring more of those experiences to your market? Instead of measuring how interested a prospect is in you, case scoring looks the other way. How interested are you in this prospect?

Case scoring allows you to create and modify your buyer personas for effective lead scoring. It’s the learn-as-you-go approach that allows you set and maintain a great predictive marketing strategy.

Now that you know the three dimensions of scoring, it’s time to build your predictive marketing system!

Find a home for your data. Make it comfy.

Predictive marketing can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be, so plan a system that makes sense for your operation. Just like your brand, predictive marketing doesn’t necessarily live in one place. It’s a series of platforms, content, and reports that all add up to form a sales-funnel-shaped masterpiece.

Lead scoring data will typically be housed in your CRM system, or in a simple contact spreadsheet. This  data can be uploaded and stored in an automated platform such as HubSpot, Salesforce, or Infusionsoft. It’s a matter of what you can afford to pay for and use.

At 9 Clouds, we feed clients’ data into HubSpot to score leads based on demographic and behavioral data so we can understand their needs based on past cases and send them the right thing at the right time (also known as lead nurturing or “inbounding.”)

If your business isn’t willing to foot the bill for a premium inbounding platform like HubSpot, there are several more affordable tools like LeadIn and MailChimp that can do the job, albeit with fewer bells and whistles.

However, you don’t need software to apply predictive marketing. If you can create a spreadsheet of successful sales, you can apply that data to forward-looking strategies.

Predictive Marketing on a Budget

We’ve been throwing around a lot of buzzwords here, and while predictive marketing sounds complicated, it’s actually quite simple to apply for any business.

First, create a spreadsheet of your current customers and look at the columns you have available at your fingertips. What do you know about all of your customers? Any demographic, economic, or geographic data – anything from payments to birthdays – is useful. You can use this knowledge to form the ideal context for an ideal lead.

Second, look at the big picture. Find some trends. Are 80% of your customers males between the ages of 25 and 40? Maybe it’s time to see what this group enjoys about your business and target your marketing at them – just make sure to avoid the “we should run this on a country station” mentality. This will help you understand and market to your ideal marketing persona.

Third, create content for your personas that leads them into a perfect situation with your sales team. Looking back at your trends, see what, where and how people interacted with your business before pulling out their checkbooks. What ebooks, blog posts, or emails did they see before you picked up the phone? That will help you craft the perfect marketing content strategy.

Lastly, use marketing automation to your advantage. Drip campaigns, batch emails, marketing ebooks and other things can be sent out automatically based on past cases. If you know, for example, that 80% of your customers download a product-relevant ebook, subscribe to your blog, and visit your site a few times within a week of the sale, [pausing to take a breath] make sure those things are offered to brand new visitors in your drip campaigns. Once that campaign is set up, you can be confident that you’re reaching the right people with the right offers at the right time.

Predictive Marketing Examples for Small Businesses

Predictive Marketing Case Studies

The Food Bank of South Jersey

The Food Bank of South Jersey used predictive marketing to increase donation sizes, reduce the cost of direct mail and create a profile of its most valuable donors.

According to a case study by Arjuna Solutions, the Food Bank needed larger donations to increase its positive return to match its marketing expenses.

After analyzing their data and finding the ideal donors with lead scoring techniques, the Food Bank saw a 7% increase in average donation sizes, a $150,000+ savings in marketing expenses and a 50% increase in fundraising ROI.

Notice the emphasis on the word ideal in the previous paragraph. That’s the fulcrum of predictive marketing. Chances are that you already know what you want to sell, but who are the best people to sell it to?


Predictive Marketing Case Studies


While predictive marketing helps you focus on the results at the bottom of the funnel, it can also help you focus on the individual steps to get there.

A Boomtrain case study showed how Chowhound.com used a predictive marketing recipe to assess the individual interests and needs of each lead and then curate content just for that person.

Chowhound.com expereienced a 250% increase in click rates from personalized content compared to users who received standard popular content from the site. From these results, it’s easy to see how predictive marketing can make it easy for you to show relevant content to each individual lead as part of a strategy to boost your email click rates and overall site performance.


Predictive Marketing Cases

House of Cards on Netflix

Anyone who has logged into Netflix in the past two years knows about House of Cards, and that’s not a mistake.

According to Mintigo’s Jacob Shama, PhD., Netflix crunched the data from its 27 million subscribers in the U.S. and found three big correlations:

  1. Movies directed by David Fincher (The Social Network, Fight Club, Seven, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, etc.) were watched from beginning to end. That’s some serious engagement.
  2. Netflix also found that, for various reasons, Kevin Spacey is one of the most popular actors in their archive of content.
  3. Additionally, they saw that the British version of House of Cards (yes – there is a British version!) gained a very large viewership.

When Netflix put these three findings together, it was clear that House of Cards was a winning recipe from the start. In fact, Netflix has used this algorithm to create a plethora of other original series since House of Cards launched into success in 2013.

Writer’s note: House of Cards is also a great – albeit extremely large scale – case study on the power of original content, but that’s for a future post.


predictive analytics for small business

Find the Kevin Spacey of your business.

No matter what you sell, your business has a Kevin Spacey lurking in its data. Take the challenge today and discover the trends, interests, and other factors that make your market unique.

With a little help from a great spreadsheet and a digital strategy, any business can find insights from their clientele and discover new, better ways to connect with prospects.


Change bravely. Predictive marketing affects every piece of your marketing strategy. If your business is ready for a change, take a look at our inbound ebooks and case studies for inspiration. We publish these resources on a regular basis. Want to be the first to know about marketing news and resources? Subscribe to the 9 Clouds blog.