Treat Me Like a Person, Not a Persona [The Customer Code Series]

Treat Me Like a Person, Not a Persona [The Customer Code Series]

Editor’s note: This is the third post in an 11-part series on the HubSpot Customer Code. You can subscribe to the full series here.

Businesses need customer personas.

Personas are a powerful tool to help align vectors. When everyone understands who your customer is, what their problems are, and how your business can help them you find that making decisions about hiring, budgeting, and even specific tactics becomes much easier. We’re big fans of personas at HubSpot, and even built a tool to help people make personas.

But while a business sells to a persona, people sell to other people.

A person has fears, hopes, and dreams.

A person is unique.

Not only is treating your prospects and customers like people the right thing to do, it’s also the smart thing to do. Here’s one story that demonstrates this pretty well:

Our email marketing team is always tweaking our email process to improve engagement. By early 2017, they had tried some clever ways to segment and promote content to our list:

Segmenting by the topic of the first offer downloaded (i.e., social media, email marketing) — showed some positive results.

Segmenting by business goals of the first offer downloaded (i.e., generating leads, improving sales pipeline) — showed even better results.

Then they thought of something so simple, it was truly revolutionary. What if, instead of guessing what someone cares about based on the content they downloaded, we just asked them?

In other words, instead of trying to bucket people by persona, we treat them like a unique individual and say, “What do you what to learn more about?”

The result was a 1000% (yes, that’s the right number of zeroes) improvement in our clickthrough rate.

Our email team calls this approach the “pick-your-own-adventure” strategy. I like that.

Turns out, it works for sales teams too.

A few years ago, we switched from the classic BANT (Budget, Authority, Needs, Timeline) approach to sales to our own qualification matrix: GPCT (Goals, Plans, Challenges, Timeline).

Notice a pattern here?

Once again, we’re starting with the goals of a unique individual. Like our email marketing team, the sales team also starts by asking: What are you trying accomplish? What does success look like for you.

They’re selling to people, not personas.

The second tenet of The Customer Code is: Treat me like a person, not a persona. We gave ourselves an 8 out of 10 here.

We’re doing quite a few things right here. In addition to the stories mentioned above:

We’re making it easier for prospects/customers to contact us how they want to contact us: Phone, email, chat, or a knowledge base that allows them to help themselves.

We’re making it easier for prospects/customers to contact us when they want to contact us by offering 24-hour support.

But we’re not where I want us to be yet.

One area we’re focusing on that will help us get closer to a 10 is what we call the Nth user experience. When we onboard the first user of HubSpot, we once again use the GPCT method to understand that person’s priorities. We go deep with them to understand who they are and how we can help them get the most possible value out of the product. As a result, NPS for our first users is very high.

But as additional users are added–Nth users–we see their NPS begin to slip. We’re not doing that deep “get to know me as a unique person” work. In many ways, that first user becomes the “persona” that we expect all users from that company to adhere too. But people are unique, even people who work for the same company. They might even be solving the same problem (increase revenue), but be focused on unique angles of that problem (increase brand awareness vs. increase MQL to SQL conversion rate).

Nth users represent tens of thousands of people. There is no way we can give them the high-touch, human-led onboarding that happens for our first user in the first 90 days. So our product team is experimenting with more automated onboarding flows that orients additional users to a busy portal while also putting their unique goals front and center.

Today, we onboard accounts. In the near future, we want to onboard individual people.

Businesses should always look for patterns: Finding patterns is how we grow. And personas are powerful patterns to find broad similarities and direct our efforts. But we need to remember when we send an email, pick up the phone, or respond to a chat message that we are never communicating with a persona. We are communicating with a person. Respecting that individuality and uniqueness is how companies grow better.

This post is part 3 of 11 in a series on HubSpot’s Customer Code. You can find more info on The Customer Code and how we score ourselves here, and watch my INBOUND talk on this topic here:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jC3IxUEyUEA]

Customer First Templates


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Google Used Search Data to Create This Report to Help You Navigate the Holidays

Google Used Search Data to Create This Report to Help You Navigate the Holidays

Ah, the holidays. It’s a holly, jolly time of year that’s full of egg nog, seasonal foods, and — in a word — chaos.

Here in the U.S., the November holiday of Thanksgiving marks the start of the holiday season, with millions of people hitting the road and airports to visit relatives and partake in turkey feasts, parades, Black Friday shopping deals, and similar merriment.

To help us navigate it all, Google has released a study using (none other than) its very own search data.

Leveraging Google Maps data from the time surrounding last year’s Thanksgiving holiday, Google compiled a report designed to help guide users on holiday-specific ins and outs — the most popular travel destinations, the best times to visit them, and the most optimal (or sub-optimal) times to be on the road this year.

Below you’ll find our favorite tidbits from the seasonal study. 

Holiday Search Trends

Gaming Galore

First, let’s have a look at the U.S. national search trends in the days leading up to and following Thanksgiving. 

The data shows a pattern of shopping for video games during this time period, suggesting many people take advantage of seasonal sales leading up to December holidays — with particular enthusiasm for gaming.

Screen Shot 2018-11-19 at 9.56.15 AM

What specific category of video games people might be shopping for is another story. However, it’s worth noting that virtual reality (VR) headset manufacturer Oculus is launching a major, star-studded ad campaign in the days leading up to Thanksgiving. Perhaps the trend toward video game shopping signals a major step in the direction of the company’s lofty goals to make VR a mainstream technology.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v4eTJIbJYK4]

Localized Search Trends

It wouldn’t really be a true-blue Google study if it didn’t drill down into micro search trends, too. That’s why the report also features an interactive tool that allows viewers to see searches by state. 

Screen Shot 2018-11-19 at 10.04.48 AM

Google also rendered a visual representation of the most popular Maps searches according to each state during the Thanksgiving holiday period. Here in Massachusetts, the trend points toward “cultural center,” whereas in California, the most popular search seems to be for “city courthouse.”

stateMap

The Hottest (Holiday) Spots

Solving for the user first, if you’re Google, also means letting users know how to avoid crowds and traffic.

To address that first item, Google looked at Maps search data to determine the most popular business categories during the Thanksgiving holiday season, and when those establishments are the busiest.

Food and drink reign supreme here, with bakeries and grocery stores topping the charts on the afternoon and evening before Thanksgiving.

visitTimes

Then, there’s road traffic, where Google again provides a general chart breaking down when traffic congestion peaks during the Thanksgiving holiday in select metropolitan areas. The company’s findings also incorporate a localized, drop-down menu to help users determine the best times to hit the road.

Screen Shot 2018-11-19 at 10.24.23 AM

So, why do these search trends matter to the rest of us — like marketers or small-to-midsize businesses?

Well, as is the golden rule with creating quality work, having this information can help marketers plan and develop content that pertains to these seasonal trends, and adapting them in a way that makes them relevant to your key audiences.

Go forth and get festive with your strategy. And from our little, data-nerd family to yours, we hope all those celebrating Thanksgiving have a wonderful holiday.


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Self-Driving Cars Will Hit the Road in a Few Weeks. Are We Ready?

Self-Driving Cars Will Hit the Road in a Few Weeks. Are We Ready?

A recent Bloomberg report says that self-driving car maker Waymo is planning to launch a driverless car-hailing service imminently.

In as little as a few weeks, the story says, Waymo — which is owned by Google parent company Alphabet Inc. — will debut a commercial, self-driving car service that some have likened to ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft.

The launch, if the rumors prove to be true, is said to be small, consisting of anywhere between “dozens or hundreds of authorized riders in the suburbs around Phoenix, covering about 100 square miles,” according to the Bloomberg story.

But it raises a question. Are we ready for self-driving cars to hit the road?

To find out, we asked 3,325 people across the U.S., UK, and Canada about their experiences with and expectations of autonomous vehicles. Here’s what they had to say.

Most People Have Not Ridden in a Self-Driving Car

Despite much of the excitement around them, autonomous vehicles remain a highly emerging technology.

Have you ever ridden in a self-driving car_ (2)

Within our survey, over 88% of respondents indicated that they had not yet experienced riding in a self-driving car. 

People Want to Try the Self-Driving Car Experience

However, despite most people not having ever ridden in a driverless car, many of them are curious to try. 

Would you ever ride in a self-driving car_ (2)

Nearly half of our respondents indicated that while they haven’t ever been in an autonomous vehicle, they’d like to try riding in one — suggesting that, once these cars do hit the road, the interest in experiencing them could help them go mainstream.

Self-Driving Cars Will Be a Dominant Form of Transportation, but Not for a While

We found that over three-quarters of respondents indicated that they believe autonomous vehicles will make up the majority of cars on roads — some day. 

Do you think self-driving vehicles will eventually make up the majority of the cars on most roads_ (1)

However, most believe that it might be a while before that happens, with the highest number of respondents saying that they believe it will be a decade or two until self-driving cars take over.

Safety Concerns Abound

Despite the enthusiasm among respondents to experience riding in a self-driving car, few of them (about 17%) would describe autonomous vehicles as “very safe.”

Do you think self-driving cars are safe_ (1)

At the same time, most people agree that while there are still some safety issues to be worked out with self-driving technology, these vehicles are generally safe enough to be on roads.

Safety has been a significant part of Waymo’s message throughout its autonomous-vehicle-building journey. According to the Bloomberg story, for instance, the company said in a statement that “safety [is] at the core of everything we do.”

Approaching with caution can delay launches and slow the process of such a new technology going mainstream. Waymo’s own CEO, for instance, has remarked himself that he believes it will be “decades” before self-driving cars comprise the majority of vehicles on the road.

However, Waymo’s “safety-first” mindset gives the company what some believe a positive, competitive advantage — especially when compared to some other autonomous vehicle makers.

But until this fleet of self-driving cars hits the road, and you’re curious to know what riding in one is like in the meantime — check out the story of our experience here.

Featured image credit: Waymo


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Unriddled: Amazon Officially Selects HQ2, an Unsend Feature Coming to Messenger, and More Tech News You Need

Unriddled: Amazon Officially Selects HQ2, an Unsend Feature Coming to Messenger, and More Tech News You Need

“Unriddled” is HubSpot’s weekly digest of the tech headlines you need to know. We give you the top tech stories in a quick, scannable way and break it all down. It’s tech news: explained.

Unriddled: The Tech News You Need

1. Amazon Officially Announces HQ2 Locations

Confirming rumors that began swirling last week, Amazon officially announced yesterday that its second headquarters — better known as HQ2 — will be split between two locations: Crystal City, VA (considered by some to be a neighborhood of Washington, D.C.) and Long Island City in the Queens neighborhood of New York.

The announcement comes as no surprise to those who were saying for months that Amazon was likely to select the Washington, D.C. area as an HQ2 location — such as NYU Stern professor Scott Galloway, who earlier this year pointed out the proximity of Crystal City to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’s home in the area, as well as his preexisting ownership of the Washington Post

U.S. Senator Mark Warner of Virginia also commented on the Crystal City selection.

“As a former Governor, now Senator, but also as a former technology executive, I’m really excited about the potential Amazon offers not only to Northern Virginia,” Warner said in a statement, “but the whole capital region and the entire Commonwealth.”

As for the Long Island City location, Amazon notes that its selection is related to the area’s “diverse community with a unique blend of cultural institutions, arts organizations, new and converted housing, restaurants, bars, breweries, waterfront parks, hotels, academic institutions, and small and large tech sector and industrial businesses.” Read full story >>

2. An Unsend Feature Is Coming to Messenger

Facebook has confirmed, via an iOS app store description, that users will soon be able to “remove a message from a chat thread after it’s been sent.”

IMG_4181

“If you accidentally send the wrong photo, incorrect information, or message the wrong thread,” the description reads, “you can easily correct it by removing the message within 10 minutes of sending it.”

This teaser of the new feature — which is said to be “coming soon” — arrives after months of speculation, and follows Facebook’s admittance that CEO Mark Zuckerberg had the option to delete messages after sending them. Read full story >>

3. Twitter Follower Counts Drop (Again)

After alerting users that their follower counts might drop in July, Twitter has once again said that, thanks to a bug, these previously “locked” followers reappeared and have once again been removed.

According to Reuters, the bug caused these accounts to be “briefly added back [to] follower accounts” for a “few accounts.”

Twitter itself lost about 7.8 million followers in the initial July purge, got 2.36 million of them back by October, and lost another 2.4 million on Friday. Read full story >>

4. Google’s AI Is Getting to Work

Distinguished Speakers

Earlier this week, it was announced that Google would open source its artificial intelligence that plays a vital role in distinguishing one human voice from another.

The formal term for this distinction, “speaker diarization,” describes the process of being able to tell different voices apart in audio where many people might be speaking at once. It’s “an important part of speech recognition systems,” the company says, playing a vital role in “solving the problem of ‘who spoke when’.”

image2-1

Image source: Google

According to VentureBeat, the newly open-sourced AI can tell voices apart in this situations with up to 92% accuracy. Read full story >>

Smart Pictures

Also in the world of Google AI, The New York Times is using the company’s technology to help make its archive of photos (which date back to the 1870s) “smarter” — that is, to help recognize and translate text that describe the photos.

In other words, writes Stephen Shankland of CNET, the NYT is using Google AI to “turn a historic archive of more than 5 million photos into digital data that’ll appear in the newspaper’s features about history.” Also a future possibility, Shankland writes, is exploring AI technology for object recognition in the photos. Read full story >>

Help Me Finish That Thought

Think of it as a visual-content autofill. Google announced this week that its AI technology will also be applied to Android devices to suggest GIF images, emoji, and stickers that it believes fit into your conversation.

glowg_expression

Image source: Google

Starting yesterday, Google said, phones using the Android operating system and the company’s Gboard will use machine learning to know which of these visuals that best fit the specific context of a conversation.

“With thousands of emoji and stickers, and an endless number of GIFs, it can sometimes take awhile to find the perfect way to say ‘I love you,’ ‘hooray,’ or anything else you’re trying to communicate,” writes Gboard Product Lead Angana Ghosh. “This makes it faster and easier to share your #feelings and your glowing personality with whoever you’re chatting with.” Read full story >>

5. Apples to Amazon

Yes — there’s more Amazon news. Last week, it was revealed that Amazon reached an agreement with Apple to carry more of the latter’s products on its website, including the latest models of iPads, iPhones, and the Apple Watch. The product selection will not, however, include Apple’s HomePod smart speaker, perhaps due to its potential competition with Amazon’s own Echo smart speaker products.

But, there’s a catch. This new product expansion means that independent vendors selling refurbished Apple products on Amazon’s marketplace will now face high restrictions. Their listings, explains CNET‘s Ben Fox Rubin, will be removed after January 4 of next year, and they’ll “have to apply with Apple to become authorized resellers on Amazon.” Read full story >>

6. Marketers, Take Note: Samsung Is Going All-In on Voice and Now Is the Time to Prepare

At last week’s Samsung Developer Conference, the name of the game was connectivity — and voice assistant Bixby is what’s tying it all together. Here’s what marketers should know about it. Read full story >>

7. Meet the People Building the TV Controlled by Your Brain

Imagine a TV that’s controlled only by the brain. Meet the people developing that technology today — and discover the future they envision for it. Read full story >>

8. The Voice Search Barometer: Where Do Users Stand? [New Data]

Studies say that more and more online transactions are taking place via voice. But what do these transactions look like — and how many users are really adapting voice? Read full story >>

9. The What, Where, and How of Video Consumption [New Data]

With new online video products popping up with increased frequency, we wanted to know how people really prefer to watch. Read full story >>

Featured image source: Amazon


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The Voice Search Barometer: Where Do Users Stand? [New Data]

The Voice Search Barometer: Where Do Users Stand? [New Data]

At this week’s annual Samsung Developer Conference, there was one technology that arguably stole the spotlight: Voice.

Samsung is making a somewhat apparent push to power more devices — from smartphones to smart speakers to home appliances — with its own voice assistant, Bixby.

It got us thinking: Where do users stand on voice assistants, anyway? How widespread is this technology’s use? And as Samsung keeps its audience waiting for its own smart speaker, the Galaxy Home, how enthusiastic are consumers about these digital assistive devices?

We ran some surveys to answer these questions, and with the help of new data from Zazzle, drew some conclusions on the current sentiment toward voice.

How Many People Plan to Buy a Smart Speaker?

We asked 831 people across the U.S., UK, and Canada: Do you plan to buy a smart speaker?

Do you plan to buy a smart speaker_

Most respondents — about 43% — indicated that they do not plan to buy a smart speaker.

It’s interesting to note, however, that while a smart percentage, the second-highest number of respondents indicated that they plan to buy one within the next six months.

That could align with more of the top contenders in the voice assistant market continuing to release newer models of their smart speakers, with improved functionalities and additional features (such as video).

The Value of Voice Assistants and Smart Speakers Remains Ambiguous

For many consumers, the purpose and tangible use cases of  voice assistants (and the smart speakers they power) remain unclear. When we asked 818 users across the U.S., UK, and Canada, “If you do not own a smart speaker, why not?” we found that most people simply don’t see the benefits of having one.

If you do not own a smart speaker, why not_

These findings align with two other sets of data.

The first is data from Zazzle, where out of “thousands of social media users” in the UK, 35% said that they don’t believe they would ever actually use such voice assistant devices as smart speakers.

The-State-of-Voice-Search-2018-Zazzle-MediaSource: Zazzle

The second is an additional survey we ran among 481 people across the U.S. and Canada, where 21% of respondents said that they don’t completely understand what voice assistants do.

Do you plan to buy a smart speaker_ (1)

The Outlook

The findings above point to some possible key indications about the outlook for voice assistants and the devices they power.

First, it seems that many users are unclear about the value of voice assistants, or what they do — a finding that’s suggested by the number of survey respondents who, if they didn’t say that their understanding of voice is muddled, said that they want to learn more about the technology before investing in it.

It is possible that some users do not assign the formal terminology of “voice assistants” to the technology with which they might be on a first-name basis; for example, Siri, Alexa, or “Okay, Google.” That’s suggested by Zazzle’s finding that 68% of users acknowledged the convenience of a voice assistant, saying that they were able to find information quicker by using this technology over typing out a query.

The-State-of-Voice-Search-2018-Zazzle-Media(2)Source: Zazzle

That finding is supported by our own findings that about a quarter of users who do use voice assistants do so to answer questions.

Which of the following describes the way you use your voice assistant -- like Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri -- the most_ (1)

To repeat our earlier point: More top contenders in the voice assistant market continuing to release newer models of their smart speakers, with improved functionalities and additional features. As the technology improves and scales, it could become more widespread and accessible to consumers, broadening the value and use cases.

And as it does, points out HubSpot’s head of SEO Victor Pan, so do the different platforms where customers can be reached.

“Pay attention to when your customers start to adopt,” Pan says — such as voice. “The point of marketing is to be where your customers are.”


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Is Amazon Really Gaining on Google's Search Traffic? [New Data]

There’s been some speculation that Amazon might be creeping into Google’s (search) territory.

In some ways, that’s at least partially true. Amazon has showed some promise of potentially overtaking Google’s paid ads business, and its market share of product searches (54%) outnumbers that of Google’s (46%). 

But not all search is created equal. We dug a little deeper into the numbers, looking at a recent report and running our own surveys to see how people search for different types of information.

The Info-Seeking Market Share

While it may be true that Amazon is gaining on Google’s share of product-specific searches, when it comes to general information searches, Google still reins supreme. 

According to a recent report from SparkToro, Google’s domination in the area of general search traffic is quite significant, with 90% of web searches taking place on its site. That includes not only the primary Google search bar, but also, queries taking place on its Images and Maps products.

js-search-us-09-2018-pie800px

Source: SparkToro

To see how that information might uphold among a census-style audience, we asked 860 people across the U.S., UK, and Canada: Which resource do you most commonly use when searching for information online?

Which resource do you most commonly use when searching for information online_

Data collected with Lucid

Our results lined up with SparkToro’s, with 82.7% of respondents indicating that Google is their primary resource for finding information online.

When including respondents who chose “Google Maps” or “Google Images,” that number increases to 84.7%.

The Product-Seeking Market Share

Here’s where things start to get interested. As we previously mentioned, studies show that over half of all product searches take place on Amazon. And, according to our own previous data, people are more likely to buy something based on an ad they saw on Amazon, versus an ad they saw on Google.

However, when we asked 827 people across the U.S., UK, and Canada — Which resource do you most commonly use when searching for products online? — the results looked a bit different.

Which resource do you most commonly use when searching for products online_

Data collected with Lucid

Here, only 10% of respondents said they use Amazon as the primary resource for searching for products.

A few things could explain that — namely, it’s possible that survey participants use Google as the primary source of information to seek information like the “best” products in a certain category.

As Andrea Leigh of Ideoclick, a company that works with manufacturers to optimize online sales, explained at Code Commerce in September — Amazon is most effective when it comes to specific, niche product searches. Think: queries like, “Probiotics for children.” That could one source, for instance, of the aforementioned 54% figure.

So, Does Amazon Stand a Chance?

When it comes to general searches, it could be quite some time before Amazon can see eye-to-eye with Google’s traffic. As Rand Fishkin, author of the SparkToro study put it, “Google [has] a near-monopoly” of web searches. 

But that doesn’t mean Amazon should be completely discounted, for a number of reasons — a major consideration being voice search. In 2017, for instance, eMarketer found that 70.6% of smart speaker users owned an Amazon Echo, versus the 23.8% who used a Google Home.

However, we don’t know if those uses pertained to information-seeking or product-buying — and other studies have shown that even if it’s not used by as many people, Google’s Assistant (the voice assistant that powers the Google Home smart speaker) answers questions correctly 17% more of the time than Amazon’s Alexa. 

Another key question to ask when looking at this data: Does Amazon actually view Google as a threat? And, is its primary goal or concern to reign supreme in the world of web searches?

“If you view search as a pie, sure, Amazon doesn’t have a huge piece of it,” says Keith Anderson, SVP of Strategy & Insight at Profitero, an eCommerce performance analytics platform. “Amazon isn’t particularly threatened by Google as a search engine [and] has a different business model that has different incentives.”

So, for Amazon, product search could remain the name of the (winning) game — especially when it comes to understanding the intent behind those searches.

“What Amazon is building really quickly is an ad network and targeting capability at the intersection of ads, and the ability to buy really seamlessly,” Anderson explains. “Because they have so much information about buyer intent and buyer behavior, they can build a level of targeting that’s very hard for Google to match.”

In other words, he says — for now — there’s no need for Amazon “to try to out-Google Google.”


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