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Handicapping Your B2B Target Market

Who wouldn’t love to have the Superfecta ticket when four long shots finish in the money at the racetrack?

Who wouldn’t love to have the Superfecta ticket when four long shots finish in the money at the racetrack?  Luck is a good thing, we all need it, but I wouldn’t want to wager business results on the concept.

Avid horse racing fans spend hours handicapping their bets. They subscribe to publications like The Daily Racing Form, belong to online forums like TVG.com and study what the celebrated handicappers pick. They look at bloodlines, work times and previous finish times. Occasionally they go with name or jockey or trainer, but not unless all the other things line up.

Creating personas for a target market is a lot like handicapping race horses. You want to know everything you can about them. Especially anything that will help you win. Some handicappers love a bloodline. They’ll bet anything with a "Bold" heredity or a "River" bloodline, for example. This is closer to what you’re trying to accomplish with a persona.

A persona pulls the traits of a group of people together so you can make certain assumptions about them and determine the best way to engage them—and this is very important—before they get locked onto a preference for some other vendor. The best way to get close enough to your target is to know enough about them to craft messaging so relevant that putting your organization on their list of vendors under consideration is a given.

Building layers of knowledge about your prospects will come as time goes by and you have the opportunity to learn more and more. As you do, flesh out your persona with more details and give your company the opportunity to continuously up the odds of creating actionable relationships.

As an example, I’m borrowing Adele Revella’s example of Chris.
(You can see her blog post here. The comments are interesting as well.)

Chris is 29 years old and recently married. He and Karen want children some day, but she’s also got a good job, and with the pressures of a big mortgage, they think they’ll wait a few years to start their family.  For now their baby is Logan, a two-year-old springer spaniel that they rescued from a shelter.

Chris has been in the tech industry for five years. He was a product manager until the most recent reorganization created a separate product marketing group. He willingly made the move to the new department, but that was more than a year ago and he is still trying to understand just how his job fits with those in product management, marketing communications, and sales.

Chris is responsible for the go-to-market planning for several products, but he spends most of his time; attending meetings, answering emails, writing content for sales collateral,  helping sales people with customer accounts, and driving to and from work – the new house has resulted in a longer commute and the traffic is horrible.

These pressures, plus a tight travel budget, have limited Chris's customer interactions to times when he helps sales people with demos or prospect presentations – definitely not what he had in mind when he took this job. He knows he’s not spending enough time listening to the market or working on strategic activities, but he doesn’t have time to get focused amid the daily frenzy of requests and emails. He keeps thinking that there is a more effective way to do his real job, but can’t figure out how to get there from here.

Given Adele’s example above, what conclusions can you draw?
What messaging focuses are likely to engage Chris?

What’s interesting is the mix of personal and work environment information. People asked Adele a lot of questions to extend their insights to his personal life, but that’s a lot more to do with enjoying the story than approaching him as a prospect for work purchases in a B2B environment.

There comes a point at which you must guard against getting too involved in individual personal characteristics when developing B2B personas for marketing programs. You need to remain conscious of the fact that a persona is representative of a group of people. Not just one. So make sure that the factors you choose to use are common across the specific segment.

Save any specific details for salespeople to use when the time comes for personal conversations. In fact, if you can add them to the prospect profile to memorialize them for later, all the better.

A persona should give you an idea about selling to a select target market. With that in mind, here are some things to think about if you have prospects and customers in Chris’ situation.

  • Chris needs to maximize his time. Because he knows he doesn't spend enough time keeping up-to-date with market information, can you help him do so while making your point? What can you tell him that he may have missed?

  • Better collaboration tools might help him work better with the departments he interfaces with and may even cut back on all that email. If you're thinking of contacting him via email, your message has to be spot on to get his attention amidst all those requests and other emails he receives.

  • If you're considering using white papers, time-pressed people like Chris will appreciate an executive summary so they can quickly learn if the paper will be of value. He's unlikely to make  time to read something he's unsure has a payoff he needs.

  • Podcasts with market insights and strategic thinking ideas he can listen to during his commute might help him get some of his focus back. Someone like Chris doesn’t have extra time to read more stuff, so if you can help him leverage audio during his drive, that may help you get closer to him.

  • What insights can you provide that help him improve how he takes his product lines to market? What customer stories can you share that shine a light on your expertise in action? How do people like him increase their effectiveness?

Given the information you know about Chris, what else would you like to know that can help you craft more relevant content and communications that engage him?

Would knowing if he bought an immaculate house in good repair vs. a fixer upper tell you if he’s willing to roll his sleeves up for a project or if he’d be a better candidate for a one-stop solution that the vendor maintains for him?

The point is that we need to get creative and thoughtful about what we can glean from the intelligence we gather. Especially with social media encouraging people to share more insights about themselves that you've never had access to before.

Handicapping your targets is an ongoing process. This only scratches the surface of what’s possible. You’ll have to stretch your thinking to discover which details can be used to generate that extra relevancy which could mark the difference between getting your foot in the door or being left at the gate.

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Ardath Albee

Ardath Albee, CEO & B2B Marketing Strategist of her firm Marketing Interactions, helps companies with complex sales increase and quantify marketing effectiveness by developing and executing interactive eMarketing strategies driven by compelling content.

Her book, eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale, was published by McGraw-Hill.

Her articles and blog posts have been used for university ezines, published in CRM Today, Selling Power, Rain Today and Enterprise CRM News. Marketing Profs has incorporated her blog posts into a number of their "Get to The Point" newsletters.

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