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Right-brained or left-brained marketing

I grew up thinking I’d be a fashion designer. My foray into the computer industry was accidental and (I thought) temporary. There’s a long story here, but the short version is that I came to appreciate the brilliant people and fascinating products in this industry. Tech marketing seemed like the perfect solution – keep my great paying job, work with interesting people, and if I went into marketing, I could spend my time being really creative.

These thoughts were triggered when one of my readers forwarded a paper published by Laura Ramos, Forrester Research’s analyst for B2B Marketing. The paper, entitled “Segmentation vs Personas, Where Should B2B Marketers Start?” reports that B2B marketers are way behind their B2C peers in developing effective messaging and marketing strategies, and that the source of our problem is that we don’t useboth sides of our brain. I’m sure that Jonathan Asbell sent me the paper because Laura points to segmentation and personas as the answer. Thanks, Jonathan.

The Forrester report describes the typical B2B approach to segmentation, with marketers following the sales people’s lead and utilizing industry, geography, or company size to identify target markets. B2C marketers start with this thinking but delve much deeper, seeking to understand and segment markets based on subjective differences in how customers approach decision making. In Laura’s report, she recommends personas as a way to capture and communicate these deeper insights.

Laura published her report in June 2006, but I haven’t seen much change. We’re still using the same left-brained thinking to develop marketing strategies, despite the fact that our markets are maturing. We’re not at B2C commodity stage yet, but we’re well beyond the time when we could successfully market and differentiate products based on the just-released features.

Since you’re reading my blog you may already agree with me, and are wondering what you can do to get your management to listen. I’m happy to recommend Laura’s report for those in your company who might be influenced by a Forrester analyst. Here’s one of my favorite parts of her report:

“Because segmentation defines who to target and personas describe what to say to them, B2B marketers should use both hard numbers and soft emotions to expand their customer understanding. They should delve deeper into prospect requirements and needs in exchange for handing out information like white papers or detailed product specs.”

Well said, Laura. We need to resist thinking like our left-brained companies. We need to abandon our personal preferences for right-brained, creative activities. It’s time for technology marketers to engage in some balanced brain utilization.

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