By Brenna Lofquist, Senior Marketing Consultant at Heinz Marketing

One of Matt’s recent LinkedIn posts received more comments than usual, and it got me thinking.

But first, here’s a high-level overview of the post. The post talks about storing information and insights about the person, not just the account/contact – more personal things like hobbies, interests, etc. Matt poses a few questions such as where in your CRM are you storing such information and how are you leveraging it, which spark some controversial responses. You can read the full post below.

Here’s the post:

“Where in CRM are you storing information and insights not about accounts and contacts, but about people?

Not just their title and role, but their hobbies, interests and more? How are you keeping track of who likes to cook, who likes to eat, who they root for on Saturdays, on Sundays, which causes they favor, etc.

Anything they share, and you remember, shows that you listen, that you notice, that you care. There isn’t a nature place for this in CRM, but it’s easy to commandeer a notes section or create a single custom field to serve as a collection spot for information that anyone in your organization hears.

Would love to hear best practices from anyone who is doing this consistently already. Where do you store it? And more importantly, how do you leverage it later?”

As Matt said, there’s two parts to this post: where do you store this type of information (if you do)? and how do you leverage it?

After reading majority of the comments on the post, there were a few responses worth mentioning—and digging into a little further.

  1. One response pointed out that managing, updating, controlling, and potentially using the information in an inauthentic way doesn’t fulfill the connection we as humans (& marketers) are seeking.

I would agree with this – keeping this information in your CRM system can get very messy, especially if you utilize an open text field. There’s no way to standardize this kind of information unless you keep separate data fields, and open text fields can’t be efficiently used for list segmentation. Secondly, how will you know when information becomes old or out of date – there’s no easy process to manage such information.

I believe there’s value in keeping this information if everyone is on the same page about how/what it’s used for. In Matt’s case, he tracks the information to help supplement his memory because he’s more likely to remember and ask people about them afterward. However, how do you find the balance between entering enough information/information that’s helpful versus too much information that’s likely to be outdated or incorrect the next time you can use it?

I would try to enforce some type of rule or guide when tracking more personal information that can be used to personalize a conversation or experience. Maybe that’s something like only tracking this type of information for prospects that are highly likely to convert to an opportunity or only once an opportunity is created. Maybe the information can be stored somewhere such as, an Excel/Google Sheet or a note pad of some sort, else until it gets to that point and then you can load it into your CRM.

  1. Another topic that stems from the response above is how do you use this information in an authentic way? Collecting and storing personalized information helps to provide the human element of marketing and relationship building, if it’s used correctly.

It’s clear to me and from the responses personalized information is better used by sales to create and/or build relationships with their prospects – this information is not necessarily helpful to marketing.

You are better off keeping this information and using it in dialogue with prospects. It’s best to keep this information out of more broad campaigns where you are targeting people with varied interests and hobbies.

One commenter mentioned the importance of this information to be able to analyze and identify trends over time, that can then be used to create content or highly targeted campaigns – a great example!

  1. Another response mentioned notes like this are very helpful when it’s time to graduate an account from sales to an account manager.

I believe the main point here is if you can find a way to track this kind of information in a way that makes sense to you and your organization, then do it. It’s obvious having these nuggets of information is useful for a number of different situations. There’s most likely always going to be a slight struggle to maintain such information but if you start out with documented process, you might be better off.

However, it’s important you find the right way to use this information in an authentic way. Most people will not be amused you email them and mention how well their alma mater is doing this football season, as mentioned by one commenter. On the other hand, what’s to say if you sent them a coffee mug with their alma mater mascot and a personalized note, you’d get a different response?

  1. Another comment that stuck out to me mentioned that personal interests don’t help Marketing much and leads to a few points discussing buyer personas. Here’s an excerpt from the response:

 “This leads me into Buyer Personas. Too often, they are wrongly done and have all these irrelevant interests tied to them. What magazines they read for fun is not helpful.

 Buyer Personas should be how they BUY – who they trust – their decision drivers – related to the purchase. Not side hobbies. I can see that value though in open opportunities, as mentioned above.”

The reply goes on to recommend fields to use to track buyer information such as buyer persona, buyer stage, and buyer needs. Check out the post for more information on that.

I agree with the part of the response regarding buyer personas. Many of our client projects include reviewing existing persona documentation to provide feedback or inform our engagement, recommend ways to improve or consolidate, or sometimes create personas from scratch. Often, I see psychographic information and I always think to myself “How can a marketer use that?”

For example, I’ve seen favorite restaurant included in persona documentation and that they enjoy red wine and drive a Prius. It’s highly unlikely that’s the case for every single person that falls under that persona—so how is that going to be helpful when you are developing a campaign? When you include such information, you are generalizing, which can hurt you in the end. Keep this information in your back pocket for conversations further down the funnel, but don’t include it in your buyer’s persona documentation.

Simcha hit the nail on the head when she said “Buyer Personas should be how they BUY – who they trust – their decisions drivers…” That’s the information helpful to marketers.

All in all, I’m not saying one person is right or wrong, however I think it’s interesting to hear different opinions on the topic. Reading about real examples on how people are recording and using this information helps people see different perspectives—and might even give us ideas we didn’t think about.

I foresee this topic will continue to be discussed. I’ve heard about success stories from using psychographic or more personal information, but I’ve also heard about fails. Either way, let us know if you have a story that went sideways or a time when a personalized piece of information helped you seal the deal!

We’re also curious to hear how you are tracking/storing this type of information, are you storing it in your CRM? An Excel doc? Whatever it is, we want to know!