Marketing and the human genome

The Human Genome Project was completed in 2003. It was a historic milestone that mapped human DNA. While the implications for medicine are enormous, we're still very much in the dark when it comes to human behavior even though we get it right, sometimes.

Welcome to the new marketing frontier, Customer Search Intent (CSI), the science used by Google to predict internet search behavior. Google is naturally way ahead of the curve - they 'own' behavioral data which combines historical search behavior with location mapping (yes, that "location is on" feature of your mobile phone). For example, my recent 'behavior' of visiting the pet store, Starbucks, my car dealership and a restaurant, when done on a consistent basis, 'profiles' me as a particular 'type' of a customer. And so, when I enter a search phrase into Google, my 'search intent' may be obvious. Oh, did I mention that as a Google user, my inbox is scanned, and Google can 'follow' my life based on keywords that appear in my Gmail account(s)? Using Maps? Your Timeline tracks where your phone (you) has been over any period of time you choose to set. Ouch. (BTW, that info is private and can be turned on/off in your Google settings). 

For the record, I am cool with all of the above and the least bit paranoid. I don't mind Google spying on me as long as it delivers relevant search results that save me time. Google isn't quite there yet, but I am willing to wait. "Time is money" and sifting through piles of irrelevant search results is both wasteful and frustrating.

Enter the world of small business marketing and how we can learn from Google's search intent AI (artificial intelligence) algorithms - yes, you too can benefit from valuable data about customers. 

But, here's the thing; data is right there for you to use but you need a different mindset -  stop chasing (the lazy marketer's) the hack-of-the-day and realize that marketing is a science and not something you just do or turn on or off.

So many businesses are stuck or struggle to grow because they lost art of getting to know customers by posing a few questions:

  1. How many customers complained last week?
  2. How many repeat purchases have we had?
  3. How many new accounts were opened? By Whom? How did they find us?
  4. How many returns? How many discounts?
  5. How many reviews? Positive vs. negative? How did we respond?

Here's the thing: We don't have to map our customers' genome, we just have to observe, ask, listen, engage and look at the data. While Google tries to figure out search 'intent', our customers tell us everything we need to know; complaints, returns, repeat purchases, and reviews aren't intentions - these are simple behaviors begging to be understood.

I don't know about you but I like simplicity; big data is for big companies with lots of analysts, agencies and bodies that are there to justify their existence. For us entrepreneurs, nothing should ever replace connecting with anyone who made a conscious decision to buy from us.

A genuine connection isn't an email survey; instead, how about picking up the phone sometimes and saying "Hi, just wanted to say thanks and ask if there is anything else we can do to continue and earn your business?"

Much of today's modern marketing jargon was invented by those selling solutions to something that isn't necessarily complicated.

When customers search, their intent has not changed because they are typing into a search box:

"I am looking for a product or service that can solve my problem. I want to be confident that it will deliver on the promise that was made to me. I want to buy it at a fair price. I want to feel appreciated and valued when I make my purchase decision and If something goes wrong, and it will sometimes, I don't want excuses. I want a solution and a genuine apology. If you deliver on all of the above, I will tell my friends about you and I will continue to buy from you.

Delivering on the above is what marketing is all about. There are no shortcuts, hacks, tips or tricks to fulfilling customers' expectations. And many times, we set those expectations through branding, advertising and how we communicate. All we have to do is be authentic, transparent and congruent - yes, that's just a fancy way of describing walk-the-walk. 

Despite what we think we know about human behavior, we remain unpredictable, highly distracted and emotionally driven decision makers. Yet, at our core, we still follow a very simple formula (think hormones): We seek pleasure, we seek to repeat it as many times as possible (great customer service, benefits, value) and we absolutely run away and avoid pain (bad customer service, bad quality, no value). 

See, that wasn't hard was it? You don't need an ancestry DNA test - they (our ancestors) did fine without marketing - they simply sought pleasure and avoided pain. 

Staying and growing a business is not based on a Darwinian principle of survival of the fittest. Companies that survive and grow do so because they are in-tune with basic pleasure seeking human behavior, and they quickly adapt to those elements that influence or interfere with it.