Every company has to discover the meeting point between customer and product, what customers need, what they expect, and what sales and market strategy drive the best results. Even if you think you've figured it out for one product or target audience, the process could be very different for a different audience or market.How do you reduce your growing pains and improve your odds?
Get to Know Your Target Audience on a Deeper Level
As the following short video from Entrepreneur points out, there are many ways to get to know your audience: You can run surveys, conduct interviews with open-ended questions, see what's already in the market for this audience, and analyze what your ideal customer does in relation to your type of product.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YSSEZw3Kepw
Source: Entrepreneur via YouTube
Check out Tip #1 - challenge your assumptions about your target audience, from their age to their place in the decision-making process. Regardless of how highly confident you feel about your target audience, you need to be able to validate it. That, in turn, will help you communicate with your target audience much more accurately.
It is pretty easy to see who the target audience is for this Dick's Sporting Goods commercial:
Easy to spot right? We'll get into what Dick's Sporting Goods did here later in the article, but first, let's explore how a preconceived notion could cost you a lot of money.
Gaining Insight into your Customer to reveal their True Decision Process
Let's take an example from the Harvard Business Review, in their article “Scalix launched its product” – a Linux-based email system for large teams – “in July 2003. In early interviews, CIOs responded enthusiastically to the promised cost savings, so the company decided to expand its sales capacity quickly.”
They had a simple strategy, “sell directly to CIOs at large companies. However, as Scalix moved deeper into the sales cycle at large corporations… it became evident that the CIO was not the primary decision maker for purchasing email systems,” but rather, that was left to the lower-level operations team, reports Harvard Business Review. Unaware of that, Scalix didn’t explore that team’s needs and therefore found that its product was not a good fit as-is after all.
Fast forward 14 years later, in 2017, it’s much easier and cheaper to learn about what it takes to sell in your desired market.
Using your favorite search engine and you’ll easily find countless research stats, like the often-quoted statistic about how B2B technology buying decisions often involve 6-7 executives.
Not a big fan of trying to solve the trends through statistics? There are plenty of infographics that’ll help you consume the stats in an easier way, check out The Marketing Blender infographic published last year:
Source: The Marketing Blender
If you follow our blog, you know we’re big fans of data. But sometimes you have to get in the trenches and test which statistic is the accurate one for your specific target audience. It is your due diligence to confirm that these numbers are accurate.
Beta Test Your Product with Paying Customers Before You Commit to a Market Strategy
To avoid the type of situation that happened with Scalix, Danny Iny, founder of Mirasee, recommends getting a small group of paying customers before you fully go to market. Emphasis on paying customers.
“Sell a pilot version of the product,” he writes in a guest post for product launch expert Anne Samoilov. Iny, an information product entrepreneur that went from hundreds of dollars in debt to over 3 million dollars in revenue in just 5 years, recommend you use this small beta group to get feedback on what you need to improve – but also on what to build in the first place.
It’s a win-win. Your beta customers make sure the product fits their needs and get it a discount price, and you “get paid… before you even create your product! Rather than spending time and money ahead of time for a product that might not sell, you use sales of the pilot [product] as your final validation process,” Iny writes.
But even Beta Customers don't come easy!
Watch this 10-minute talk Kathryn Minshew, founder and CEO of The Muse, gave at The Lean Startup Conference to find out how she acquired her first users:
Source: Lean Startup Co. via YouTube
Analyze Whether Your Target Audience is Really a Good Fit
When Scalix went to market in 2003, targeting executives who weren't the decision makers weren't their only mistake.
"Scalix [also] discovered that many large companies needed to get more comfortable with Linux before they would run email on it. While a small group of people trained on Linux existed in most organizations in Scalix's sales pipeline, they were not working on email. Early adopters, such as Amazon and Ebay, were running online customer-facing applications on Linux," reports Harvard Business Review.
No matter how much you study the market when you first get started, there are always going to surprise you couldn’t have anticipated. To reduce your sales learning curve: challenge your original assumptions of your target audience, run the beta test we talked about above, and analyze your results.
Figure out who’s really ready for what you have to offer, and whether that aligns with where you are right now. For example, if the sales cycle is too long to keep your head above water, it might be better to change directions to a target audience that’ll be a better fit.
According to Harvard Business Review, Scalix did just that. “In mid-2004, it overhauled its go-to-market strategy to hit the Linux evangelist and early adopter community first, with a particular emphasis on smaller targets in the higher education and public sectors, where Linux acceptance was strongest,” it reports.
The strategy overhaul worked so well, that “Scalix was named one of Red Herring’s 100 top private companies in North America in 2004 and 2005,” adds the website.
Build Your Sales and Marketing Processes Based on What Works for Your Target Audience
Now that you’ve validated who your target audience really is and what exactly they need, it’s time to develop accurate sales and marketing messages that will make it easier to convert them.
Remember that Dick’s Sporting Goods video we shared above, that features moms exercising?
As pointed out on Tubular Insights, the “video doesn’t talk about the quality of their running shoes – it tells the story of the almost insurmountable effort it takes for busy moms to put these shoes on and put themselves first… It makes you want to put on your running shoes, so you too can be everything you dream to be.”
This type of message is only possible when you’ve gone through the process of getting to know your audience on a deeper level.
And once you have, it’s time to scale up by expanding your sales and marketing teams.
In the video below, Alex Berman, founder and SVP of Operations at Experiment27, a marketing and lead generation firm, recommends starting with a sales team, as that will help you close deals faster. Specifically, he recommends getting two salespeople once you reach $10,000 in monthly recurring revenue, then adding a marketing professional once you reach $30,000 MRR, so you can start getting inbound leads.
If you follow this route it’s important to ask your salespeople to keep track of common objections and challenges that come up. Your marketing team can develop better content when communications with prospects and customers are relevant.
As we previously reported, 94% of B2B buyers conduct research before making a purchase. Your marketing team can increase the chances that their research will lead them to answers from you.
Reduce Your Learning Curve Figuring Out What Sells
The sales process is a constant process. Your company will change, your product will develop and your target audience will shift. But if you do the preparation we detailed today, it’ll be easier for you to figure out what works at the core, and build a mature company that generates predictable revenue results.