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“Please send me unsolicited marketing messages,” said no one ever.

As a lifecycle marketer, I am constantly faced with the challenge of grabbing my prospective clients’ attention, selling the dream that is Bigcommerce while creating an individualized experience that catches them at exactly the right time. And my email campaigns are competing with a flood of other information, including promotions, requests to chat, tips, guides, downloads, blog posts… the list goes on.

Nurturing and converting a buyer can seem overwhelming. When should I send an email? When do I call? When do I suggest an ebook download?  When am I just popping in to say thanks? And when do I just let the client enjoy a little online research of their own? The trick is realizing you can learn a lot about your customers just by sitting back, taking notes and gathering as much information as possible.

Inform, don’t interrupt

One of my favorite keynote speakers at Inbound 2014 was the ever engaging marketing and sales strategist David Meerman Scott. According to Scott, the way people buy has changed.  Sellers are no longer in control—the buyer is now in the driver seat. With the breadth of information that can be found online, consumers are increasingly aware of their options. Becoming involved in the buying process during the awareness and consideration stages, before the purchase decision, is critical.

“Educate and inform instead of interrupt and sell,” emphasized Scott. Creating the right content  and personalizing it for the buyer can make a huge impact. Scott actually walked the audience through a recent purchasing decision he’d made for a trip to Antarctica. He ended up picking an outfitter that wasn’t the cheapest, wasn’t the most famous and didn’t necessarily have the best SEO. But what they did have was great content (including awesome penguin pictures) that kept him engaged and got him excited for his adventure.

Connect, don’t pitch

Another keynote speaker Gérard Vroomen—who made a grand entrance riding his Cervélo bicycle onto the stage—echoed Scott’s advice and emphasized the need to be human. Optimizing your content and communications for consumers often means putting your personality into your work. Rather than hiding behind robotic sales speak or marketing spiels, be transparent and informative. After all, the buyer is going to eventually find what they are looking for online, so why make them dig?

Analyze, don’t assume

Of course you can’t market and sell if you don’t know who your customer is and what they During her talk, HubSpot’s own MK Getler pointed out that only 14% of marketers say they are strongly capable of creating a single view of a customer. That means 86% of us can’t do it well, and multi-tasking merchants probably have an even tougher time collecting the data to develop that view.

That number startled me and inspired some serious research of my own customer base when I returned from Inbound. Getler, Vroomen and Scott all reminded me to use my customer as my teacher. That meant looking at information they’d shared, actions they’d taken, their goals and their challenges. As marketers and sellers, it is then our job to provide consumers with what they actually want. Sending targeted messages is nothing new, but it’s crazy how many of us still fail to do so.

So the next time you are putting together a series of emails or developing content for your site, stop and consider your customer. Remember, you don’t get to decide what consumers want or need, you just get to decide how to make them feel important, unique and empowered. Because shoppers who love your marketing will become buyers who love your product too.

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