As a B2B marketer, do you (honestly) know who your customers are? If you’re able to state this answer simply, absolutely and succinctly, congratulations. You are well on your way to gathering new ones. If you’re not able to do so, don’t sweat it. You’re not alone.
Often when I ask this question to my prospective clients, I sometimes get uncertainty, disagreement, or vague, all-encompassing answers such as, “we have a wide variety of different customers.” While this answer may in fact be true, perhaps the better question to be asking is “do you know the different types of customers you have?”
The reality is that your customers might include myriad internal decision makers, influencers and end users. But in the interest of getting more customers, it’s important to understand all the players involved in procuring your product or service, starting with these three groups:
- The user: As the name implies, the user is the actual person who will use your solution as part of their daily job. Although this individual may occasionally suggest the purchase of a solution to those in their organization with buying power (e.g. “we should find a way to speed this slow process…” or “we used this other software at my last company…”), they typically will use whatever is provided to them for that task. And, generally, they aren’t interested in (or tasked with) changing the overall process (“processing paper is fine with me – it’s what we do here”) or involved in the purchasing decision. On the other hand, they can be great buying influencers. In fact, they may have final say over two product finalists, and be given the responsibility to choose the one he or she likes better or finds easier to use.
- The purchaser: The purchaser is the individual who is tasked and authorized to “cut a check” for your product or service. They are often (but not always) the one who may have identified the need for your offering, and conducts the initial research on a potential solution. But in reality, they may be simply trying to fix a higher-level need. For example, a CFO is interested in how a company can improve its financial operations, and may simply want to process and pay invoices more quickly and accurately. Only after some research and talking to various stakeholders within her company might she discover that she needs document imaging software to go paperless and process all invoices electronically – which is where your company offerings may come in. To reach such key purchasers, marketers will want to employ a high-level value message (e.g. “learn how to accelerate payments 25% and take advantage of early payment discounts”) as opposed to lower-level product information (e.g. “document imaging software is easy to use…”) This latter message should be targeted to the above customer type: the user.
- The supporter: The supporter is the person (or team) that will be tasked with installing, maintaining and upgrading your solution within your customer company. This group or person will inevitably be an important buying influence on the decision, but with different interests at heart. For example, the supporter might be the company’s IT guy (or CIO) who is less interested in the financial benefits of your solution, but more concerned about how well it will work within his or her existing product portfolio, how safe and secure it is, how soon it will need to be updated, and so on. Although these may be techy, “in the weeds details,” they may be front and center – the purchaser may ask the supporter to qualify or screen potential solutions first before any is considered or evaluated. In general, the easier, safer and less costly an investment your product is, the better it is for the supporter. For example, software offered for an affordable monthly subscription fee, such as software as a service (SaaS), was developed primarily to appease the supporters of the world. Recognizing the influence of this group, it’s essential for marketers to be able to communicate relevant benefits to them clearly and effectively.
B2B marketers should invest the time to accurately identify these three different customer types for their particular product or service before creating any messaging or engaging in any marketing campaigns. If not, the messaging might miss the mark, or be hazy or unfocused if trying to reach all of them at once. All of this said, in some smaller customer companies, and depending on the product or service, the purchaser and user may be the same person – and may even be the supporter as well.
The bottom line is that it’s important to understand the buying processes that are specific to your customers. Talk to your sales and support executives and even to your existing customers to learn how they went through their buying journey, and the myriad players involved.
If nothing else, gaining insight into the needs and roles of these three customer types will help you create more focused and compelling messages, which will ultimately lead to more sales and more satisfied customers.
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