What’s The One Thing Your Company Must Have?
I am sure the first thing that comes to your head is “profits” – but that would be wrong. There are lots of very valuable companies that exist for a time without turning a profit. I am sure your next thought would be “great people” or “a quality product” or even “effective systems” - all these would be wrong as well. There have been many well document situations where great people have failed, or great products that never sold, and even great systems have been under-utilized and failed to deliver. The one thing your company must have is customers.
Sure it sound obvious, but sometimes this is the biggest thing companies - both big and small - forget. They spend too much time working on their people or improving their product or systems that they forget that they need to always be growing their customer base.
While many companies will tell you they want to add more customers, it’s not always that easy. After all, it’s not just about acquiring new customers: it’s about acquiring the right kinds of customers at the right cost. It’s also about doing so methodically, regularly and reliably. This is where the best, high-performing companies that are growing at record rates separate themselves from the others. The best companies, regardless of size, industry or location, have all figured out how to do this part of their business well.
The challenge is that most companies don’t truly know why their customers buy, or how they buy, and more often than I would like to admit, they don’t even know who their ideal customer is. The core of any customer acquisition program is based on a thorough understanding of, and focus on, your customers. Without a clear understanding of who your customers are, you are destined to fail.
Define Who You Want to Target
Lead generation campaigns should always start with the “who?” - whom will you target? who has a need for your product or service? No one can optimize lead generation without specifically defining the right audience to approach. Targeting can encompass many dimensions:
- The types of business, typically defined by Industry or Standard Industrial Codes (SICs)
- The geographical location of the business
- The size of the business by revenue, number of employees or both
- The people within the business typically defined by their function code or job title
- Specific events that have happened in the business
Industry, Size, Geography
First, look at the types of businesses and industries that would most likely have a need for your product or service. Industry definition can be as broad as “Business Services” or as detailed as “Legal Services”. Some types of products and services are very specific to a certain industry – for use in their business processes or workflow. Some products and services, however, can have an application to a broader type of business with similar processes.
That takes us to the second factor to consider: company size. What size of company – by revenue or employee size – would be the best fit for your products and services? Are companies over $1 billion in revenue the ones for which your solution fits? Do they have a need for your product or service? Or are you better positioned to target the SMB market? The size of a company makes a huge difference. For instance, we actually segment the same industry, same target title/job function differently based solely on the size. The same industry and title within a SMB has a different pain and therefore in Inbound Sale’s case, we actually have a different solution to sell them versus the large corporations. That may or may not be right approach for you. It’s more common to see companies target just one size of company within a market.
Finally, you need to consider geography; this is often based on how you sell your products. Do you sell face-to-face? If you have regional offices, you might want to target around those offices? Do you have a national presence, city-only presence, etc? Do you sell over the phone and web? Most companies understand this criterion well.
Roles Involved in the Buying Process
Next, consider who within that company owns or shares the pain you are trying to relieve. Who owns that pain and who else in that company feels that pain? It’s important for marketing to target multiple points within a company. Unless you are selling low-priced commodities, rarely are decisions made by only one person. The “who” can be very different based on the size of the company you are targeting. For larger companies, you may target the VPs or Directors. For smaller companies, you may go to directly to the CEO.
I see many companies just assume who the decision-maker is and only target that person. The problem is this often leads to the company getting blindsided by another competitor or their biggest competitor: status quo. Instead you need to identify whom you should be targeting - you need to look at how your customers buy and the roles involved in the buying decision. These include the following:
- Project Owner
- Investment Owner
- Corporate Influencer/Approver
- Policy Influencer
- Consultant Influencer
- “Old Dog” Influencer
- Solution Approver
- Technical Approver
- Staffing/Implementation Plan Approver
- Financial Approver
- Legal/Contract Approver
- Final Approval
- Buyer/Contract Signer
While you do not need to target all of these roles, it is important you understand the part each of these roles play and how they can impact your lead generation efforts. Any individual could play more than one role, but don’t assume that the “big boss” will play them all. Companies use a consensus approach to decision-making much more today than they did five or ten years ago. The specific roles involved in the decision to buy the product or services that you sell could be different from these, but this should provide a good start. Any customer acquisition strategy that you feel is worth investing your time in is also worth the time it will take to develop a complete buying roles chart. This will help you understand the factors that go into how your customers buy.
The Bottom Line
Once you understand the who, how and why your customers buy, you can then better develop a customer acquisition program. While I agree it is important to have a great team, or amazing product or efficient systems, without a sound customer acquisition program, all those other efforts are pointless.
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