The filter bubble: it won an election and can help you win customers
Columnist Jeffrey Cohen believes that the right tools and the right data can help you to better appeal to your customers and win their business.
You are probably like me and don’t want to read another article about marketing lessons from the recent US election, but a number of thoughts coalesced in my head that prompted me to write one more. Since some time has passed, I hope you will bear with me.
Let’s start with an idea that is core to our experience living in today’s world:
The filter bubble
The filter bubble is the idea that we are mainly connected to people who think like us. These are our friends and our social media connections. We also follow news sources that reinforce our worldviews and values. And finally, these patterns of behavior even influence our search engine results and social media algorithm-based news feeds.
Technology platforms show us things we have a higher propensity to like and click so we spend more time on their platforms. This is one of the reasons half the country was surprised by the election results and the other half wasn’t. Everything they saw online reinforced their support for their preferred candidate.
Now, let’s put our marketing hats on and head into work.
Marketing has become more and more customer-centric. The better we know our customers and prospects, the better we are able to connect with messages that resonate. This will lead to more sales and long-term customers. Yes, technology tools can help with this, and we’ll get there in a moment.
We also need to remind ourselves that we are not our own customers. Just because you like an email subject line doesn’t mean a prospect will open that email. Would they like it? Does the idea resonate with them? This is the professional version of the filter bubble.
You must get out of your own bubble. If you are reading this marketing post on a marketing blog, it doesn’t matter how you connect with me and the other readers of the blog (Well, unless you’re a B2B marketer selling marketing software!).
What do your industrial equipment manufacturers think of it? What do your millennial online shoppers think of it? And don’t forget those Midwestern working moms.
Collect and use the right data
A great deal of ink has been spilled about the failure of data and polling in the election, but at the end of the day, a poll represents a sample of a given population, and there is always a margin of error. And a close election lives within that margin of error.
One of the advantages that marketing technology has over polling is that while we may use sample data to develop personas and design marketing campaigns with things like social listening tools, we have the opportunity to take a very different approach when communicating with customers and prospects.
Marketers can use the filter bubble to our advantage by using data to get in front of prospects with relevant messages. Whether these are anonymous users who look like your current customers or known users with known behaviors, there are many sources of data that help you find and connect with them.
Combine the right data that you collect on your website through forms and activity (first-party data) with data others collect and make available through data marketing platforms (third-party data) to truly understand the interests and activities of customers and prospects.
Don’t forget about the emotion
And there’s one final point that we should not forget when we are trying to connect with customers and prospects. No matter how much data we have assembled to understand them, emotion still plays a major role in the decision-making process. It has always been easy to see how consumers make emotional purchase decisions, but it’s also part of every business decision.
Whether you approached the election with your consumer hat on or your business hat on, you may have made emotional decisions.
If you are selling software or logistics services or assembly lines, your customer has to have trust in you and your company that this will solve their problems, make their company money and advance their career. Those are emotional — not logical, not data-informed — decisions.
Don’t forget fear of getting fired if the whole thing goes badly. That’s a strong emotional factor in many considered or large B2B purchases.
We will certainly be talking about the successes and failures of this election for many years to come, but if you use the right tools and the right data and acknowledge the emotional element in the process, your customers will pull the lever in your favor and choose you again.