B2B marketers know that strong marketing starts with understanding your target market very well. As such, we take great steps towards understanding our target markets.
We perform market research to dissect our target market into different groups of companies that share similarities or buy alike (the fancy name for this is segmentation). We slice our markets into as many ways we can think of to create the ideal prospect. We want to understand size of company, location, verticals/industries, SIC code, and more. Armed with this data, we build savvier and better targeted go-to-market strategies.
While all of this is good and well, it can miss out on perhaps one of the most important segmentations that a B2B marketer can do… segmenting your buyers into individual groups of people within the target organizations. This segmentation at the buyer level is called personas (or buyer personas).
Like corporate level segmentation which identifies like organizations so you can better market to them, segmentation at the buyer level (or personas) helps you identify like buyers (or group of buyers) who think, act, and respond similarly.
Reach out and touch
Despite cuts in travel budgets and fewer mega industry conferences, respondents still prefer personal connections over technology touch points. In fact, respondents ranked in-person events, like trade shows and conferences, as the number one “influencer” in their buying decisions.
With this as a backdrop, it’s not surprising interactions with sales people and digital events, such as webinars and virtual trade shows, also ranked higher than less personal interactions such as social marketing and email.
By no means does this data indicate that online, traditional and social marketing are ineffective channels for reaching B2B technology buyers. However, the findings do point to the importance of real, personal and ongoing engagement with prospects and customers.
While “closing the deal” is always the primary goal of any sales function, today’s marketers need to take a different approach to accomplishing this. Rather than focusing on one-off communications, today’s successful marketers are taking a buyer-centric approach that reaches prospects and customers early and often. This methodology helps organizations enhance the prospect/customer experience and, in turn, build long-term relationships that deliver more value and generate more revenue.
Time for “warm” calls
For many, the Stop Selling. Start Listening. method of reaching buyers is an extension of current marketing efforts, especially at organizations that strive to reach prospects and buyers with relevant and personalized messages throughout the buying cycle.
Other organizations may be surprised that this seemingly long-term approach actually simplifies the selling process by removing “impractical” prospects from the pipeline and making the conversations with potential buyers more meaningful. This virtually eliminates the cold call concept from sales efforts and makes the communication between organizations and their buyers easier and more worthwhile for both.
Create a Persona
Within BtoB circles, you may need to create a persona for your technology evaluator, your financial decision maker and the business unit (or functional) buyer that drives the purchase. There may be more. You need to understand each of these personas specific needs and what makes them tick. According to The Marketing High Ground, a complete persona would include the following information about the buyer:
- Who they are (name/gender/age/education/title/responsibility/role in purchase/attitude/reputation)
- Where they work (ideal company profile)
- Why they are a good target for your product (values, fear, pet peeves, information sources)
Your first question might be, “How do I get this information?” Of course, nothing beats good old fashioned research where you get on the phone with 10-20 such people in each group and learn what makes each buyer persona tick. Don’t worry about getting it perfect at first. Put down what you know. Interview the sales people. Talk to a few customers. Start somewhere. You can do full-fledged offline and electronic research later.
The beauty of having personas is it ensures you are talking to specific buyers with the messages they care about using the communication mediums they prefer. Once you have buyer personas, you will find it drives your go-to-market strategy including positioning, content development, lead generation/nurturing campaigns, PR strategy and more.
Ultimately, knowing your buyer personas will improve marketing results including more leads and more revenue… sounds like a great tradeoff for some upfront work to understand your buyers. It’s time to get persona(l) with your buyers.