Imagine that you’ve built a terrific product and are all set to launch it in the market as the next big thing that will solve people’s problems. But which people? “We are targeting everyone” is a phrase that no strategic marketer ever wants to hear. And yet, this seems to be a common practice amongst B2B organizations in most industries.
If you are marketing your business without an in-depth understanding of who your ideal customer is, you are probably just shooting in the dark. And I’m not just talking about defining the B2B organizations you want to work with in terms of industry, number of employees or number of locations. In today’s complex buying world, you have to go deeper to understand the individual departments and decision-makers you need to target to ultimately make a sale.
When you target everyone, you target no one
Differentiation has always been a major hurdle for businesses, but it’s becoming even more difficult. According to some studies, the average consumer is bombarded with nearly 10,000 brand messages every day. The number, however, is growing rapidly as more and more channels are opening up for marketers to reach their customers.
Also, with a huge amount of data at their disposal, delivering targeted and personalized messages to customers is more feasible than ever. But that’s not happening. At least, not for a majority of organizations. An eMarketer report found that B2B marketers that leverage data continue to struggle with using it effectively to provide one-to-one experiences to buyers. The research shows that B2Bs have started adopting data and analytics more widely but many are not able to use it effectively.
I’ve seen a lot of companies simply blasting their content out to a bunch of people who may or may not care about their products or services. Many others spend time and effort trying to create messaging to hit “everyone”. The result? Every year, B2B organizations are wasting $958 million on ineffective marketing programs and content, according to Kapost.
If you think everyone is your customer and targeting everyone is your safest bet, think again. You’re probably letting your hard work, time, and money go down the drain. Instead, you need to identify, target and align sales and marketing initiatives that speak to your ideal customer.
Have you defined your ideal customer?
Just recently, I asked one of my clients “Who is your ideal customer?” In response, she rattled off 5 different industries and declared both start-ups and Fortune 500 companies. Now, it’s true that she serves customers in all of these different areas – but when I pressed her about which types of customers she enjoys working with the most, and which ones were most profitable, she had a very specific answer – established businesses in the consumer packaged goods industry. This was a major breakthrough for her, as she was drowning trying to keep up with the content, marketing and sales needs of each of the different audiences she serves.
By declaring that she wanted to focus more energy and time on building up her customer base in the Consumer Packaged Goods industry, she no longer felt that she had to serve “everyone” with her blog articles and educational seminars. Not only was this a huge relief to her, but she felt like her marketing content finally had a very specific purpose and audience.
Personalized marketing is becoming more expected in the B2B space, and in order to give your customers what they want – it all starts with defining your ideal customer. Sounds simple enough, but I haven’t found too many companies that are doing this. Some organizations have created buyer personas, but according to this survey, only 15% are actually using them.
If you don’t spend time to get to know your customers and understand their needs, preferences, and motivations, you’ll end up with a generic customer profile. And, your messaging won’t be any better than it was before.
As a customer-focused marketer, the challenge is: How do you ensure that your message will resonate with your target audience? And the first step to answering that question is to determine who your target audience is!
Define your ideal customer in three steps
The Oxford dictionary defines the word ‘ideal’ as “satisfying one’s conception of what is perfect; most suitable”. In that sense, your ideal client is the perfect or most suitable prototype of someone who will buy — or be benefited by — your products. That is who you’d want to target.
Here’s a step-by-step process to create the ideal client profile:
1. Look at your current customer base
Take a look at the data you have available on your current customer base. There are many ways to slice and dice it. But the first step is to collect relevant information about your current customer base and to study every resource you have about your ‘perfect’ customer. This includes asking questions such as:
- What industry are they in?
- How many employees do they have?
- What is their annual revenue?
- What products/ services do they buy from you?
- How long have they been a customer?
- How profitable are they?
- What was the sales cycle like? (Long, short, complex, etc.)
- How easy are they to work with? And do you enjoy it? (Some customers can be a drain on your energy and resources, and therefore wouldn’t be “ideal”)
- What pain points and/or triggers originally brought them to your company?
- Is there a specific organizational structure that benefits from your product or solution more (such as a centralized vs. decentralized model)?
2. Interview your sales team
Your sales team is a gold mine of information. Why? Because they spend time with customers every day. They can tell you which customers are a joy to work with, and which ones they regret taking on. Interview your sales team to understand where they are seeing the most success. If you sell in more than one region or more than one product set, spend time to understand which regions or products impact your success the most. You may have different ideal customer targets to consider depending on the competitive landscape or geographical make-up of the customer base.
3. Create buyer personas
Buyer personas are a great tool to get everyone in agreement on who you are targeting and why. In order to be effective, they need to be developed based on actual customer interviews (not just what you think you know about customers). I’ve discussed the process of creating successful buyer personas in greater depths in one of my previous articles.
Following these steps will help you paint the picture of your ideal client. Will there be outliers? Of course. After all, there is no magic bullet when it comes to marketing your business. There will be a few initial trials-and-errors but one thing is for sure — this will give you a solid starting point to focus your marketing and sales resources on targeted goals based on the ideal customer profile.