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 specific industries, 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 ginormous 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 this report.
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?
Personalized marketing 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 Buyer Persona Institute, only 15% are actually using them.
If you don’t spend the 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.
Your prospective buyers expect to receive communications that are relevant and focused on their individual needs and pain points. This is a tall order and something marketers have been trying to estimate through segmentation based on their goals — engagement, awareness, retention, revenue, and so on. Good news is, with technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI), the job of customer targeting and delivering personalized communications is getting easier and more precise than ever. Basically, it’s taking the “gut” and “guess-work” out of the process.
For example, AI can help you improve the user experience of your website by making it more personalized to the visitor. It can analyze thousands of data points about a single user — such as demographics, location, device, and interaction with the website, etc. — to display the content and offers that are best suited to the visitor.
As a 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 customer is the perfect or most suitable prototype of someone who will buy — or be benefited by — your products or services. That is who you’d want to target.
Here’s a step-by-step process to create the ideal customer profile:
- Internal analysis
Take a look at data available in your organization. There are many ways to slice and dice it. But the first step is to collect relevant data 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 or 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)?
- Interview sales
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 the 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, industry or geographical make-up of the customer base in different regions.
- 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. 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.