Imagine planning a European vacation for people you’ve never met (maybe you’re a travel agent on the side). What would you do first? You’d probably get in touch with them and learn as much as you could so you could tailor the trip to their preferences. Now imagine you are planning a business to serve people you’ve never met. What would you do? The same is true of marketing.
Your first and most important rule of marketing is Know Thy Customer.
Your ability to create compelling messages is directly tied to your knowledge of the customer. Try to #GetGoing in marketing without knowing your customers and your efforts will be like throwing spaghetti against a tile wall. Some messages will stick, but most will fall to the ground.
Are you writing content on your website or marketing collateral without knowing your customers? Rewind, gather the marketing team, and do a refresh on your buyer personas before trying to update or test any content.
1: Engage Your Customers
We recommend surveying your customers to ensure that any blog and website content, as well as your marketing efforts, are addressing questions that your customers are actually asking. Surveys can be done formally online through tools like SurveyMonkey or informally through end of year client follow up meetings over coffee or lunch. You can even add customers to your PipeDrive, Hubspot, Salesforce, or InfusionSoft CRM lists as a “touchpoint” call and ask them directly during yearly follow ups.
Customers’ driving needs and pain points change over time and the only way to stay on top of addressing their concerns is to have some type of follow up mechanism in place.
2: Implement Discovery Process(es)
As you move a prospect through the sales cycle, you may implement a discovery process prior to the beginning of the formal engagement.
Discovery is critical to the proposal process, so you will likely uncover a great deal of information on the buyer’s pain points and personalities during this stage. It is helpful to ask direct questions at this stage such as:
- What problems have caused you to seek help for this [service/product]?
- What does a great business solution look like to you?
- How do you picture your ideal solution-provider?
- What attributes and services do they provide to you?
- What will happen if you don’t find a solution to this challenge?
- What are your objections to purchasing a [service/product] of this type?
- What perspective/opinion do you have of our service or product now? Is it positive or negative?
- What experiences, good or bad, have you had with this [product/service type]?
- What have you tried in the past that hasn’t worked?
Discovery at the opening of the engagement is another appropriate way to get to know your customers.
Even though you have done a preliminary discovery process during the proposal stage, it is customary for consultants to re-engage the client at a deeper level of discovery upon the implementation of the engagement. During this phase, a formalized one to three hour session with your client will ensure that your understanding of your client is representative of where they actually are.
If you are a B2C company, you may never have the opportunity to talk directly to your customers in a formal “discovery” session. But this doesn’t eliminate the need for you to identify what your customers’ needs are. Informal focus groups, social listening using tools like Crimson Hexagon to “hear” what your customers are saying online, surveys at the end of a customer’s buying cycle, and online reviews are great ways for you to
3: Review the data
Once you have a representative sample of data across your client profiles, look at the clients as a group and ferret out trends, patterns, and repeated information among them.
Place that information into categories such as those listed below.
- DEMOGRAPHICS: Who is your buyer? Collecting demographic data is a great place to begin sketching your persona. Try to establish some basic information, such as a description of your buyer personas, their gender, age, education, location, and so on.
- CAREER: What is their job? Describe their job title, company size, industry, and general responsibilities.
- HABITS: How does a day in their life look like? Try to imagine how an average day in the life of your ideal customers looks like. What problems are they dealing with and what decisions do they have to make to solve them?
- PAIN POINTS & GOALS: What are their main pain points and their primary goals? Describe the challenges that they are trying to overcome and how your products/services could help them. In addition to the obvious things, also consider the more subtle emotional needs – how are they feeling?
- VALUES: What do they value most when choosing a solution to their problems? Determine the factors that have the most impact on their decision-making process – price, brand, support, etc. Understanding what’s most important to them can help shift the conversation away from price and more on the value you provide.
- DATA COLLECTION: What are their primary sources of information? Determine the sources your ideal customers use to get the information they are interested in. Which sources do they trust more – family, friends, coworkers, or industry experts? Do they go to Facebook? Industry journals and experts? Blogs?
- INFLUENCERS: What’s important to influencers when selecting a company? Make a list of the things that might influence your prospects’ final decision. Do they care if the vendor is an industry expert? Is it important to them if the company is perceived as a technology leader?
We have a great Personas Worksheet that is FREE to download! It will walk you through the process of understanding your customers.
4: Develop Personas
Use the worksheet we referenced above to help you develop a storyline for your different customer types (e.g., personas). It is helpful to give each of them a realistic storyline, character, and personality attributes because when you sit down to write your compelling messages (part II of the blog), you will be able to envision each of the personas as if they are sitting at your dining room table.
This exercise will help you identify and get to know and understand your customers. Next week we will discuss how to target those specific personas and write messages that are compelling and will address their specific pain points.