Business-to-business marketers have long struggled to reach decision makers and measure marketing results. Over 50% of the almost 570 respondents to my 2006 Forrester survey put these two issues at the top of their list of marketing challenges. It’s not branding, it’s not budget, it’s not competitive threats. Finding the right prospects to engage, and demonstrating that marketing had an impact on this process, is what keeps B2B marketers awake at night.
I think B2B marketers, especially those in high tech firms, struggle because they don’t spend enough time understanding who their best customers are and what distinguishes those customers from the rest. Knowing your customers takes discipline – it’s simply not about conducting satisfaction surveys or publishing customer success stories. B2B marketers need to analyze business buyer behavior and using the findings to inform their go-to-market approach. It’s about knowing and managing your Buyer’s Journey.
Tonight, I had the wonderful opportunity to share my insights and perspective with Professor Ravi Shanmugam’s Marketing 551: Marketing Analysis and Decision Making class at Santa Clara University’s Leavey School of Business. We talked about the fundamentals of business buyer behavior and how to “get to know” your audience. If you would like to see the slides, I put them on Slideshare.
At Xerox Services, we believe in customer segmentation, profiling, and analytics. We deliver professional managed print services as multi-year contracts worth several millions of dollars. Not your typical corporate purchase: there are a select number of organizations who need (and can afford) what we offer. But the business value is clear: we save our clients more than they spend. This means that account identification and profiling is very important since we orient around a sales-centric go-to-market model.
From an industry marketing perspective, we also know that “knowing” who your buyer is — what are the key issues that concern him/her and how Xerox Services can help — is also crucial to making those sales interactions meaningful and to building a lasting relationship. Drawing from this experience, I shared with the Marketing 551 class, the following principles behind B2B buyer behavior and analytics:
1) Segmentation. Critical to helping marketing to focus on “who” in the market you want to engage with your messaging and offers. Based on your market definition, segmentation shows you where the best market opportunity for your products and services will be.
2) Personas. Once you know “who” to target, personas help you understand “what to say” to them. As a representation of a real market group (i.e. segment), personas help marketers crystallize their message and speak in the voice of the customer, not market-speak. The best marketers create personas based on attributes that are relevant to purchase decision-making — not on generalities like industry, buying role (decision maker, influencer, etc.), or functional area.
3) Profiling. While most marketers are very familiar with firmographic information, and how to use it, many have yet to understand the importance of profiling behavior. One example of behaviorial analytics is Forrester’s Social Technographics, which describes a buyer’s propensity to engage in online, social behavior. In this always-connected world, business buyers are becoming more willing to take purchase cues from peers and “knowledgeable experts” than traditional, company-lead media and messages.
I’ve asked the class to share their reactions to what I presented by commenting on this blog post. By and large, these students are employed full-time at top Silicon Valley firms. They also tend to have technical/engineering backgrounds or current responsibilities. Take a look at the comments to see whether my views resonated with these future MBA graduates from my alma mater.