You Don’t Know the Buyer, JACK!
If Si Robertson, one of the the “Duck Commanders” on A&E’s hit show “Duck Dynasty”, were to assess today’s B2B Marketer on how well they know their buyer, I can imagine he’s sum it up by saying, “Hey! You don’t know the buyer JACK”! Recent research as well as the collective experience at ANNUITAS indicates that Si would be right.
Yes, a lot has been written lately on the use of buyer personas, or how content marketing “starts with the buyer, or the importance of mapping the buyer journey. Yet, according to Forrester, only 14% of marketers align compelling content with buyers’ journeys. This indicates that marketers have not dug deep enough to understand their buyer.
If this is ringing true in your company, perhaps it’s time to take a step back and reassess how well you know your prospects and customers. I offer up three questions you should ask about your buyer, and how to go about answering them:
Three Questions to Ask About Your Buyer
1. What does the buyer look like? This question is addressing the idea of personas, or profiles. What is a persona? It’s basically a short biographical sketch of the typical buyer of your product or services. It includes information such as their background, daily activities, current pain points, and what’s important to them. Having this information is important because it’s the first step increasing communications effectiveness, and laying a foundation on how to develop content that moves them along the buying cycle.
2. What steps does the buyer take when purchasing my product or service? It’s all well and good to understand the buyer persona, but having profile information only paints part of the picture. At some point, this persona is going to begin the buying process. Do you know what triggers that process? Do you know what their first step is in the process? What about the second step? Could there be more than one second step? What decisions along the way alter the “typical process”? The days of creating a buying cycle consisting of “Awareness – Interest – Evaluation – Justification – Purchase” are gone. They are too generic for today’s sophisticated buyer. A customized buying process, per persona, gives you the insight you need to speak directly the buyer at their level.
3. Where do they go in the early stages? In case you think your company or sales team knows the answer to this question, think again. Depending on what study you read, 60-80% of the buying process is done before the vendor community is even contacted. So, if you want in on influencing the buyer, you’d better figure out what they are doing and who they are talking to before they get to you. Where do they go first to solve the problem they are facing? What are they researching? Where does Google take them? What social networks are they leveraging? And what kinds of media are they using to answer these questions. There are too many outlets for any one company to cover them all, so it’s important to narrow down the field, and define exactly where your buyers are going.
How to Answer the Previous Questions
At this point, you may be saying, “That’s all well and good, but how do I get that information? How do I find all of this buyer data”? The following three steps will get you there.
1. Hypothesize Step one is to map out the hypothetical buying personas and processes as currently understood within your organization. This should be done in a collaborative fashion: marketing, sales, lead development, product development, etc. should all be involved. This is a basic white-boarding exercise where each persona is defined, and each persona’s custom buying process (both their steps and where they go) is mapped. Don’t leave this phase until there is consensus.
2. Test Once you have the buying process hypotheses documented, use both internal and external research to compare to your hypothesis. Use secondary research from groups like Forrester and Aberdeen, as well as research that focuses on your industry. There is a host of data available that describes the buying process. Take the time to look for it and compare to what you developed in step one. Make the appropriate adjustments.
3. Validate The last step is to validate your proposed personas and process with the buyer themselves. Phone interviews and focus groups can be used to show them what you’ve developed and to gain feedback on how accurate your understanding is. Use prospects, customers, internal groups that were not part of steps 1 and 2, and even former customers. This confirmation steps will give you the confidence that you have accurately portrayed the buyer.
The buyer is the center of B2B marketing today. Knowing the buyer as intricately as possible will increase your brand, increase buyer loyalty, and increase speed to revenue. If you fail to understand the buyer, well, then “You don’t know JACK!”