The concept of targeting companies has been around for a long time. Opportunity pipelines usually consist of company names. Sales automation typically has started out with creating a company account name. Knowing which companies to target has been the lifeblood for B2B Sales for decades.
This approach however is starting to become like trying to race across a quicksand lake. B2B organizations find themselves sinking deep into darkness with little knowledge about the companies being targeted. There is a reason for this. For years, we have done targeting quantitatively, categorically, and statistically. One problem, these approaches give us no clue about how companies behave.
While there has been much focus on how much buyer behavior is changing, it is an easy oversight to miss how much organizational behavior is changing. The emergence of the new digital age has affected how organizations, or companies, operate and behave. We are seeing new strategies, structures, processes, systems, cultures, and roles. These are all affecting how companies operate and behave. And, importantly, how they make decisions.
Big Shift in Thinking
Changes in company behavior can no longer be missed. Today’s buying companies expect understanding of their businesses, how they operate, and what can be done to improve it. What is needed in terms of company profiling is a big shift from inside-out thinking. Here are four ways designed to enable making the shift to outside-in thinking:
Realize Profiling is Inadequate
Going through an exercise discussing what is the Ideal Company Profile can be painful. The focus is entirely on categories labeled with internal definitions. The terms used are related to internal benefits. You know these terms – segments, number of employees, revenues, products sold, geography, and more. Of course these are valuable to know. However, they are not indicative of how companies behave. Behavioral insight is what is needed to be effective at how to help buyers today.
Adopt Company Persona™ Viewpoint
About ten years ago, I began to explore the use of organizational or company personas. It had been explored in the design world previously. I explored with a few best-in-class organizations how to shift the thinking from profiling to persona-based thinking about companies. Through context-based qualitative research, these organizations were able to build a Company Persona™ as well as an Ideal Company Persona™ viewpoint into their strategies. These company personas provided an archetypal view of how companies were predicted to behave, what processes impacted decisions, how different roles and people interacted, an archetype of a company’s customer value chain, and what were the overarching goals of an archetype company. Radically shifting how they thought about as well as succeeded at customer acquisition and retention.
Build Context for B2B Sales and Marketing
In B2B organizations, company targeting and profiling can be dominant. It is usually accompanied by a single buyer focus. The adoption of buyer personas in both marketing and sales, present serious challenges. The reason for this is both marketing and sales has no context in which to put buyer personas. And without this context, buyer personas can be poorly developed. Hence, you can get a backlash against buyer personas.
B2B companies today now expect suppliers to understand how to bring value, which impact the organization. Not just to the buyer. This changes the game. To know how to bring impacting value, B2B marketers and B2B sales need an understanding of how companies work, operate, and behave. The complement of a company persona houses buyer personas, providing the view marketers and sellers need. Here is a case in point:
For years, an enterprise software application provider in the healthcare industry, had targeted hospitals, large clinics, long-term care facilities, and pharmaceuticals. New healthcare information technology is radically changing this industry and impacted how these institutions operate and behave. Research-based company personas – providing insights on new procurement processes, new systems, new roles, and how these new roles interacted – was created. Which led to robust buyer personas portrayed within the context of the company persona. The adoption by marketing and sales is overwhelmingly positive – they have an internal navigation tool they never had before. Most importantly, they are able to message and converse with these institutions on how their application makes the transition to new processes and systems easier and possible. Leaving their competition stuck on the first floor at the reception desk.
Incorporate Into Education and Enablement
Knowledge of organizational behavior can be sorely lacking in B2B entities. With organizations undergoing significant behavioral change, this will turn into a serious disadvantage before too long. I advocate for the use of both company personas and buyer personas to be used in educating and enabling marketing and sales. Without it, B2B marketing will not know who to send the right message to and B2B sales can be stuck on the first floor with the receptionist – not knowing where to go and what floor to get off on.
Organization impact can often be overlooked and taken for granted. B2B marketing and sales leaders need to propel a big shift towards understanding how companies behave. It will change their own perspectives, generate deeper buyer insights, and create strategies, which give them the edge needed in tough competitive markets.
(I welcome further conversations to help explore how the combination of company personas and buyer personas can open new paths of revenues. I am very interested in getting your thoughts and perspectives. Please share widely – your peers and colleagues are wondering how to target the right company.)