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Customer Profiles: Why They Matter & How to Use Them



How to Create Customer Profiles? Buyer personas (read: customer profiles) are widely spoken about in theory but not widely implemented in practice. Largely, this is because most company executives, including their marketing department, limit their target customer criteria to client size, industry and why their product is good for them. While you definitely need to nail down those elements on your target market, they are really surface level. Often, companies limit their criteria to only those simple factors because they've either experienced tremendous growth in their sales with that knowledge or they're "trying to figure it out". Once sales take a dip, they immediately blame the market, the environment, staff, the mosquito on the wall and so forth. Can it be that maybe their product/service is not resonating with their offering? Or that their messaging is not hitting their prospects? It's easy to get lost in the weaves and blame multiple factors. In B2B, sales are 99% relationship-oriented and take an average of 3 months to complete; that's 3 months of prospect nurturing with tailored messaging and content needed to seal the deal. From your first sales call with a client all the way through close, the buyer journey evolves as multiple stakeholders in the organization need to provide their inputs on your offering and see how it best fits their respective day-day operations. Typically, you will need to convince on average, 5 stakeholders per organization in a complex sale. Depending on your solution, the type of job functions and departments you need to convince will change. It is therefore extremely important to know who your different buyers are and how to best approach them based on their needs and fears. Take the following example: you are a manufacturer of linens selling your product to large organizations the likes of Bed Bath & Beyond, Linen Chest etc. Your marketing team has generated a list of 30 large accounts for your sales development representatives to go after. Now, in each of these organizations, the decision to purchase supplies from a vendor might require buy-in from:

  • Purchasing/Procurement

  • Operations (COO)

  • Accounting/Finance (CFO)

  • Logistics

etc. This really depends on your industry and market vertical. Each of those stakeholders across different job functions have different levels of interest, motivations, schedules and point of views. Moreover, in a complex deal, each of these stakeholders play a very important factor in the whole process. I like Jeb Blount's BASIC formula:

  • Buyers: these are the stakeholders who have final say in making a purchase decision. Either they control the funds (like the CFO) or they are department heads who have a budget to respect each year.

  • Amplifiers: these stakeholders understand how your solution fills the gap in their operations. They can be used to handle any objections from other stakeholders to drive the point home.

  • Seekers: are those that scan the internet and offline resources for information. They usually are the stakeholders that will reach out to you. They typically have little to no buying authority.

  • Influencers: these stakeholders can either make or break your deal. They often are referred as the "technical experts" in their field and the decision maker relies heavily on their input. These are the stakeholders we must nurture the most with case studies, testimonials, infographics and other value proposition statements that speak to their language.

  • Coaches: these stakeholders like you, your product and often act as a coordinator. They will help you with the process. You typically see this type of stakeholder in very large and complex deals like the Defense industries.

It is your job to convince all of these different stakeholders that your company is the right partner for them. How to Create Buyer Personas? The first thing your team needs to nail down is understand at a deep level two things:

  • What do each of these stakeholders want/are looking for?

  • What do they fear most in their day-day?

The way to go about this is through conducting qualitative interviews with prospective businesses in your industry. We're trying to understand how they think and how they buy. You must interview the different stakeholders across different functions to understand how to communicate with them and how to communicate that they should consider your product. Other operations-related questions to probe for are:

  • How do they make a purchasing decision?

  • Who has the buying authority?

  • What are their deepest pain points?

  • Where and how do they consume information?

Question 3 needs to be treated as a discovery call - you must ask the right intelligent questions. Take note of the language they are using and follow up a lot on asking why they answered the way they do. Why Do You Need Buyer Personas? Once we understand how each stakeholder communicates, it is time to curate and develop content that really speaks to their needs, interests and job motivations. Operations directors want to know how they can eliminate bottlenecks in their supply chain, CFO's look for cost-efficiency & improving their EBITDA margins, Logistics wants flexibility in delivery and quality control..etc.. Your marketing team needs to craft value propositions across different marketing mediums to really hit the nail on the head. For instance:

  • Infographics vividly illustrate how your services can better improve the prospect.

  • Case studies that are short and too the point offer proof of work.

  • eBook's on purchasing manufacturing best practices demonstrates thought-leadership and expertise.

etc. Launch Campaigns Once you have all the materials in place to reach your multiple stakeholders, it is time to execute your strategy. Each week, the different stakeholders should be engaged with a tailored piece of content that demonstrates value and motivates them to push their colleagues to meet with us. It is best to organize yourself with themes. Week 1 is for Theme 1 which can be Cost Savings, Theme 2 Bottleneck elimination, Theme 3 etc. The idea is that based on our qualitative interviews of their peers in the industry, we can understand how to relate core pain-points an organization experiences as it relates to a stakeholders job function. By no means is this a simple task. It usually requires a third-party like Toledo to execute this strategy because resources are typically allocated to other marketing areas (normal).

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