Data Takes Center Stage This Week – 5 Posts You Might Have Missed

Data takes center stage in our discussions this week.
I. Earlier this month IBM’s Digital Analytics Benchmark Hub released its 2014 Holiday predictions.  By analyzing billions of data points from in-store and online transactions IBM made 6 predictions for retailers, here is one of them
Smartphones Browse, Tablets Buy: Smartphones will continue to lead in mobile browsing over the five-day shopping period, accounting for 29 percent of all online traffic versus 15 percent for tablets. However, IBM predicts tablets will account for twice as many mobile purchases than smartphones thanks to the larger screen size.
As a retailer the obvious opportunity this data analysis presents is the justification to optimize your site for tablet shopping.  Utilizing data for spotting trends like this is immensely valuable, but understanding the reason why these trends occur can uncover even more opportunities
In the case of this prediction, the fact that more people buy on tablets is only half the story, and it begs the question;  why aren’t people buying from their phones?
In a post on IBM’s SmarterCommerce Blog Bryan Eisenberg demonstrates how using Buyer Legends coupled with IBM’s data analysis can reveal even more powerful insights and more opportunities for retailers to take action. Bryan explains the key to understanding the “why” behind your data is knowing that data is always telling a story about people .  Bryan writes:


Those people have a vast array of thoughts, opinions, preferences, feelings, needs and motivations. The actions those people take are measurable, as evidence of that vast array of thoughts, opinions, preferences, feelings, needs and motivations. An analysis based entirely on the numbers can only take you so far.

II. On this blog we talked about Tesco, the UK’s largest supermarket chain, a trendsetting data-driven superstar whose recent fall from grace reveals more about the misuse of data than about the state of data driven business practices.

III. A research study about charitable giving prompted this post where we discuss the power of targeting your marketing at one person(a) at a time.

IV. Storytelling is such a powerful communications device that some are using it to increase their personal productivity, it is no wonder that it is so effective at improving communications, conversion, and execution in your marketing.

V. Roger Dooley at Forbes read our book Buyer Legends – The Executive Storyteller’s Guide and had some great insight into the book’s strengths and what makes the Buyer Legends process both unique and relevant.  He also left us this nice review on Amazon

Have a great weekend!


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Confused About What Comes First, the Customer or the Customer Data?

Data-Driven Poster Child Tesco Loses Its Halo

Teswhich came firstco had been recognized as a data-driven company that wowed investors. Now not so much, with its market value at an 11 year low. Investors are understandably disappointed. Should that give us pause about the value of customer data? Harvard Business Review might be making that case but we aren’t so sure. Tesco simply didn’t use data to support the customer experience. It seems to have used data to support the decisions it was already determined to make.

Tesco, Britain’s largest supermarket chain, got that way by pioneering the use of data specifically by mining data from their customer loyalty cards. Michael Schrage at Harvard Business Review writes:

With the notable exception of, say, an Amazon, no global store chain was thought to have demonstrably keener data-driven insight into customer loyalty and behavior.

Observers and those in the UK may already know that Tesco is on a downward spiral with it’s market value plummeting to an 11 year low.  A big part of the problem seems to be a major gaffe the company made in estimating it’s profits.  But there are other problems. Schrage continues

But the harsh numbers suggest that all this data, all this analytics, all the assiduous segmentation, customization and promotion have done little for Tesco’s domestic competitiveness since Leahy’s celebrated departure. As the Telegraph story further observed, “…judging by correspondence from Telegraph readers and disillusioned shoppers, one of the reasons that consumers are turning to [discounters] Aldi and Lidl is that they feel they are simple and free of gimmicks. Shoppers are questioning whether loyalty cards, such as Clubcard, are more helpful to the supermarket than they are to the shopper.”

Making The Anti-Data Case

That makes sense.  But then Schrage begins to speculate.

How damning; how daunting; how disturbing for any and every serious data-driven enterprise and marketer.  If true, Tesco’s decline present a clear and unambiguous warning that even rich and data-rich loyalty programs and analytics capabilities can’t stave off the competitive advantage of slightly lower prices and a simpler shopping experience. Better insights, loyalty and promotion may not be worthless, but they are demonstrably worth less in this retail environment.

A harsher alternative interpretation is that, despite its depth of data and experience, today’s Tesco simply lacks the innovation and insight chops to craft promotions, campaigns and offers that allow it to even preserve share, let alone grow it. What an indictment of Tesco’s people, processes and customer programs that would be. In less than a decade, the driver and determinant of Tesco’s success has devolved into an analytic albatross. Knowledge goes from power to impotence.

Schrage seems to want to give data driven business practices a blanket indictment.  But what if the actual problem wasn’t Tescos inability to innovate or create new promotions?  What if the problem wasn’t the fact that Tesco is a data-driven company? What if data-driven marketing isn’t doomed?

Data vs. The Value Of Correct Data Analysis & Execution

Assuming that data really does drive Tesco’s marketing, it is our guess that they made one or both of the following errors.

First, they may have been driven by the wrong data and were working to increase the wrong metrics.  Many companies use only the data that supports their current intuition. Bryan Eisenberg explains  how Amazon’s four pillars of success  revolve around data. If you read it  you will learn how Amazon avoids this pitfall.

Second, they may have gotten so buried in data analysis that they lost sight of the simple fact that all that data always tells a story about people.  Data simply measure the actions people take based on their feelings, motivations and situations. May I recommend that you check out, on IBM’s SmarterCommerce blog,  Bryan’s demonstration  of how using Buyer Legends avoids this pitfall this by turning data into story and then story into action.

Does your company use data to support the customer experience or does it use data to support decisions it’s already determined to make?

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Why Target Audiences So Often Miss The Mark



You can always identify someone as an amateur broadcaster. I was in broadcasting for 15 years but I can tell you how to spot one too. All you have to do is listen for, “you guys”, “Hello everyone”, or “You all out there”. The best broadcasters are the ones who make you feel like you are the only one they are talking to.

Stephen King writes all of his novels to one person, his wife. He calls her his ‘ideal reader’, and encourages every writer to have one of their own. King is well aware that hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of people will read his latest book, but he also knows he can’t think about impressing all of them at the same time, so instead he focuses exclusively on his ideal reader. He knows her well, knows her tastes, her preferences, he adores her and ceaselessly wants to impress her with his writing prowess. It is very sweet, even romantic, but it is also a wicked smart recipe for powerful writing.

Seems that human beings can truly empathize with only one person at a time.

NPR’s Shankar Vedantam writes about Paul Slovic, a researcher for the University of Oregon, and his recent findings;

In one study, Slovic told volunteers about a young girl suffering from starvation and then measured how much the volunteers were willing to donate to help her. He presented another group of volunteers with the same story of the starving little girl — but this time, also told them about the millions of others suffering from starvation. 

On a rational level, the volunteers in this second group should be just as likely to help the little girl, or even more likely, because the statistics clearly established the seriousness of the problem. 

“What we found was just the opposite,” Slovic says. “People who were shown the statistics along with the information about the little girl gave about half as much money as those who just saw the little girl.” 

Slovic initially thought it was just the difference between heart and head. A story about an individual victim affects us emotionally. But a million people in need speaks to our head, not our heart. “As the numbers grow,” he explains, “we sort of lose the emotional connection to the people who are in need.”

This is why broad appeal messages targeted at general ‘audience segments’ yield such sub par results, or why staring at research decks and spreadsheets of data alone cannot bring a marketer the deeper emotional understanding needed to truly touch a nerve in the hearts of customers.

The most powerful marketing hones in and focuses on an audience of one.

This is also why personas, coupled with Buyer Legends, are explosive in the hands of a good marketer. Personas and Buyer Legends give companies the tools to focus on the needs, wants, preferences, and motivations of ONE single person(a) at a time, and then tell the story of how they are currently experiencing and should be experiencing your brand. This allows marketers to design the ultimate customer experience.

Are you using Personas?

If you don’t have personas, our new book Buyer Legends – The Executive Storytellers Guide walks you through creating some Ad hoc personas as well as writing your first Buyer Legend in about 90 minutes.

If you are already have personas, but aren’t so impressed with them, you might like to read Bryan Eisenberg’s post – The Stepford Personas: What Lies Beneath 

Please let me know how things turn out.

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Storytelling to Improve Communications, Conversions, and Execution

“Humans have only one tool capable of communicating the subjective experience of relationship through time, and that’s narrative. Ask someone about a favorite possession, and you’ll hear a story. Ask them about a friend or spouse, and you’ll hear a story. There simply is no other way to talk about relationship. And that goes for the relationship between customer and company (or brand) as well. “

You and I are wired for story. Period.

This is not just a powerful insight into our nature. It is profound and fundamental to our ability to communicate our experiences with one another, and as it turns out, ourselves. Thorin Klosowski over at Lifehacker writes

“A story is a tool to help us make sense of the world. But what about the future? What would happen if you turned your to-do list into a story as a rehearsal for the next day? Personally, it’s helped me not just Get Things Done, but also boosted my memory so that I’ve been able to ditch complicated to-do lists and schedules for good.”

Klosowski then dives into the storytelling process he uses to increase his productivity. Pretty cool, and pretty powerful.

What is good for productivity is even more powerful for improving the communications, conversions, and execution of your marketing.

Grab your copy of Buyer Legends – The Executive Storytellers Guide and in the half hour you’ll invest to read it you’ll learn how to create customer-centered, data-driven customer experience design that is supported by narrative.

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Five Important Updates About Buyer Legends



This week over on the Salesforce blog Bryan Eisenberg explained how Buyer Legends improved collaboration within an entire marketing organization and brought clarity, focus, and better results to all their efforts.

John Jantsch interviewed Bryan and they discussed how to create a  Buyer Legend, listen to the podcast over at the Duct Tape Marketing blog.

Late last week Amazon introduced a new cloud device called the Echo, and knowing what we know about Amazon Anthony speculated that this device may be part of Amazon’s larger story to make shopping Amazon a more seamless part of our everyday life.

We interviewed Melissa Burdon Cameron from Extra Space Storage in the first of an ongoing series of posts featuring Buyer Legends in real life.  Melissa tells her story about how she was able to quickly integrate the Buyer Legends process into their current conversion optimization efforts.

Bryan’s article at ClickZ outlines the reason why so many rock star marketers are unhappy with the results they are getting from their personas and what they can do about that.

Have an awesome weekend!

P.S.  Jeffrey Eisenberg also lead a webinar at Balihoo called Buyer Legends – Combining Data with Storytelling to Boost the Bottom Line.

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How Extra Space Storage (NYSE: EXR) Uses Buyer Legends For CRO





Who Are the Storytellers Behind Buyer Legends: the Executive Storyteller’s Guide?

This is the first in a series of interviews with marketing executives who have read the book and are putting the ideas to work for their businesses.

Today, we chat with Melissa Burdon, Director of Marketing Optimization for Extra Space Storage (NYSE: EXR) and winner of the Direct Marketing Network 2014 40 Under 40 Award.

Good day, Melissa. Thanks for taking the time to speak with us today. First of all, can you tell us a bit about what you do as Director of Marketing Optimization at Extra Space Storage?
I’m responsible for reaching established goals within a testing-centric culture for the customer acquisition process across all platforms and channels including desktop website, mobile website, email, click-to-chat, call center sales, and various social media and customer-facing apps.

What are your short-term marketing goals?
Our primary goal at Extra Space Storage is to increase rentals of storage units. We drive reservations of storage units through the web and call center and then follow up with these reservations via phone, email, and SMS to improve move-in rates.

In 2014, we’ve focused more heavily on optimizing the buying experience through the entire customer-buying funnel based on who the customer is and what they are looking to accomplish. Data has given us some tremendous insights into who our customers are and how to give them the experience that effectively drives them to converting. But we know there is so much more to learn about our customers and so much more we could be doing to create a better buying experience for them.

What did you think of the ideas presented in Buyer Legends: The Executive Storyteller’s Guide?
The ebook was very enlightening. It’s based on a simple concept. We really just need to put ourselves in the shoes of our visitors and actually walk through the buying experience they go through in order to identify the holes and opportunities that exist. The difficulty has always been how to come up with a process to achieve this. The Buyer Legends ebook is this missing piece. It outlines the steps you need to take to effectively put yourself in the shoes of the potential customer and actually walk through their buying experience to look at your marketing efforts through their lens. Once you’re able to identify the opportunities that exist, then you can take these pieces and begin optimizing the experience.

Do you plan to use the process at Extra Space Storage?

We’re applying the process to four projects at this point within the marketing department. We’re applying Buyer Legends for a social branding video, a few on-site content pages, one of our main buying funnel pages, and an acquisition email campaign.

How do you believe the Buyer Legends process will help you reach your goals?
We know the Buyer Legends process will help our department approach our optimization efforts based on what matters to our customers, first and foremost, rather than what matters to our sales process. The Buyer Legends approach allows our employees to put themselves in the customers’ shoes and see the experience from their perspective. This will help us achieve a higher number of rentals at the end of the day because we’ll be answering the questions our customers have at the most critical points of their buying process.

Have you shared it with your team/staff?  What was their reaction?
I shared what I learned with our CMO and he completely sees the vision and even thinks that once we prove this out in Marketing, that this is something we need to train other departments on because this affects Operations, Learning and Development, as well as many other departments.

Once I got the thumbs up from our CMO, I put together a small group of 4 employees; our Email Manager, the Brand Manager, the Content and Social Manager, as well as our Optimization Manager and did a half-day Buyer Legends training for them. They were all expected to take on their assigned project and use the Buyer Legends approach to create or improve the campaign.

Do you see things any differently after reading the book?
I always knew it was important to see things from our customers’ perspective and focus on them rather than our sales process but it has always been difficult to actually approach making changes to specific campaigns based on what we know about our customers. The Buyer Legends ebook gives you a step by step guide on how to achieve this.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking to improve their results through every channel the customer is exposed to.

Thanks, Melissa! 

As more readers share their success stories with us, we’ll tell you about them here.  Have a story you would like to tell, contact us.  To get started creating your own Buyer Legends, grab a copy of of the book Buyer Legends – The Executive Storytellers Guide.  


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How Airbnb Uses Sensitive Stories To Connect With Audience



The most powerful stories are usually the most revealing.  They reveal our innermost secrets, dreams, hopes, fears, and the struggles we overcome.  They often lay the hero completely bare.

So how does a marketer tap into these vulnerable stories without seeming like an opportunistic shameless wares hocker or without seeming like you are capitalizing on the pain and gain of others?

Ashley B. Coombe at Affiliate Blogging Coach outlines how Airbnb successfully makes a customer the epicenter and hero of it’s brand story.

Get the whole story over at Ashley’s Blog.

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Retail Legends: Amazon’s Trojan Horses And Their Customers’ Story


Back in June Amazon released its first smartphone and we wrote this 

While it may be true that Amazon is attempting to become a profitable consumer electronics manufacturer with a new smartphone venture, make no mistake that what matters most to Amazon is its ability to leverage those devices to improve the customer experience by reducing friction, and creating more buying/selling opportunities.

Turns out it was an epic flop and now Amazon is sitting on $170 million in unsold phones.  But if you think that is going to deter Amazon, you would be wrong.  

Blair Hanley Frank at Geekwire writes

Jorrit Van der Meulen, the head of Amazon’s device division in Europe, told The Guardian in an interview that the company is “undeterred” by the Fire’s poor consumer reception, and is taking feedback from the device’s introduction under consideration for future forays into the same space.  “We certainly read everything that’s written from customers to journalists and take note, so might the second step be slightly different than our first step, sure. I suspect that it will be,” he said.

With their goal of being the most customer centric company in the world, Amazon most certainly will release an improved Fire phone that will sell better.  But keep in mind, Amazon’s eye is on a bigger prize than just selling more phones, they want to sell more of everything.  Fire phone is likely only one piece of a comprehensive strategy that Amazon is hatching to create their own shopping ecosystem in the story of our daily lives. 

So almost on cue, Amazon introduces the Echo.

Echo is a tube shaped cloud device that recognizes your voice, answers questions and basically acts like an always-on Siri on steroids.  At a glance it looks like it has the potential to be a supremely useful device to have in the home.  

Of course, we think the Echo is Trojan horse, and Greg Kumparak of TechCrunch agrees.

Amazon is in the business of selling you things — and that is why Echo exists.

For now, Echo’s shopping-centric functionality is limited to helping you add things to your shopping list.

Need some pickles? Cool. Just say “Alexa, add pickles to my shopping list.” (Note: Echo listens for the word “Alexa” by default. You can pick a different name, it seems.) It won’t order them for you yet. It’ll just add them to a list for you to look at later.

But if Echo sees any sort of success, just watch how fast that will change.

You’ll be able to say “Alexa, order me a copy of Kung Fu Panda 2,” and it’ll be done.

“Alexa, order me some dope-ass high thread count egyptian cotton sheets.” Bam. Done. Sheets are on the way.

One-click purchase becomes no-click purchase. Your entire house (or at least, anything within earshot of Alexa) becomes the impulse-buy candy shelf from the grocery store’s checkout lane.

While other online retailers scramble to optimize their shopping carts, Amazon continues to do that too. Amazon is also innovating methods to take their shopping cart offline and embed it seamlessly in our day-to-day lives.  

So while Amazon weaves themselves into the fabric of their customers’ life stories, will other retailers be able to keep up?

Probably not without working just as hard as Amazon does to understand its customer.

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All The News About Buyer Legends



This week over at LinkedIn, we shared some data from a Kapost study about the critical role content is playing in marketing strategy and how Buyer Legends can pull all your disparate content efforts into a cohesive and accountable customer experience.

Murray Newlands over at Inc. explained how the Buyer Legends process can be used to hack your growth.

How your organization prices products and services tells your customers a story about your brand, in this post you can read how J.C. Penney learned this lesson the hard way.

Anthony shared an example of how simply telling a story using a series of banner ads can have a nice impact on conversion.  And we also wrote about how Steve Jobs built a legendary brand story and how after 30 years, that brand story is still exactly the same.

Bryan Eisenberg wrote about the future of CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization) for eConsultancy.

Today is also the last day to grab a free copy of Buyer Legends – The Executive Storytellers Guide.  Currently the book has 52 5 star reviews, for a overall 4.9 star rating and it hit #1 in Marketing.  

Your support means everything to us, thank you!

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True Buyer Legends: How Steve Jobs Created Apple’s Legendary Brand

You don’t have to be an Apple fan-boy to understand or appreciate the mojo of Apple’s brand story. When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997 it’s brand story was tribal, but anemic and small. Jobs needed to take that tribalism in his small base of customers and expand it beyond the PC vs. Mac war , a war that Apple was losing. As a result the “Think Different” campaign was born.

So instead of telling a story about the company, a product, or even a philosophy, Jobs decided to tell a story about Mac users by placing them in the same category as some of the worlds movers and shakers like Einstein, Dylan, Lennon, Earhart, etc…

Steve jobs created a Brand Legend where the hero of the story were his customers.

hero of the buyer journey

In an internal meeting introducing this campaign to Apple Jobs describes the ad:

“It honors those people who have changed the world. Some of them are alive, some of them are not. But the ones that aren’t, as you’ll see, we know that if they ever used a computer it would have been a Mac.”

Fast forward 17 years, and a market valuation that now exceeds Microsoft, we can see that the Apple brand story is still the same. Here is the video they featured at their introduction of the iPhone 6 and the Apple Watch.

The most powerful brand stories are not about the brand, they are about the customers. What is your brand story about?

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After our workshops, we work with only a few select clients. Your business must be committed to the Four Pillars (as described in Be Like Amazon) on a long-term basis .