Ive always believed in playing the percentages in any endeavor Ive pursued. In other words, I like to employ tactics that have the highest chance of succeeding. This approach is especially true in selling and marketing your business. A great way to focus your limited revenue-generating resources is to develop Ideal Customer Profiles and Buyer Personas for your business. So what are Ideal Customer Profiles and Buyer Personas and how can they help your business generate revenue?
Ideal Customer Profiles
The concept of an ideal customer profile begins with the question which companies are the most likely to buy my product or services? Some of the criteria to be examined in developing the Ideal Customer Profile are:
- Industry (e.g. B2B companies selling software, technology or infrastructure)
- Size (e.g. annual revenue between $2M and $10M, between 50 and 200 employees)
- Internal criteria that indicate they may need your help (e.g. - IT staff of between 2 and 5 people)
- Problems that they are facing (not generating enough revenue, etc.)
- Concerns or frustrations they are dealing with
I recommend that management assign the task of developing ideal customer profiles to both the sales and marketing functions within your company. While there may be disagreements over the exact elements of the ideal customer profile, management can serve as a tie-breaker to finalize the definition. Keep in mind that your company could have one or several ideal customer profiles, depending on your product/service offerings and the applicability of your product and service.
The ideal customer profiles should be the first element examined in prioritizing your sales pursuit lists you should be focusing the greatest amount of effort on the types of prospects that are most likely to result in sales. The first question a sales manager should ask a sales person when discussing a prospect is, How closely does this company match the Ideal Customer Profile?
Buyer Personas are composite representations of the individuals that participate in the buying decision for your products or services. In developing buyer personas, you identify the following relating to those composite representations:
- Professional role (including titles and responsibilities)
- Goals and challenges that they face in their roles
- Where they get information to make/influence buying decisions (social media networks, trade journals, websites, etc.)
- Composite demographics (age, family, education, etc.)
Again, best practices for creating buyer personas include bringing sales and marketing together to collaborate on their creation. Here is a blog article detailing some of the questions to be answered when creating buyer personas.
Accurately creating buyer personas is important because:
- they help bring highly targeted website traffic, leads and customers to your business
- they help your sales and marketing teams communicate with prospects where and when the prospect prefers
- they serve as a guidepost for your product and service development teams
- they allow you to tailor your marketing content (blog posts, eBooks, videos, etc.) in a way that resonates with your buyer personas and increases your chances for selling your products and services to them.
- they help your customer service people relate to the customers they serve
As is the case with the ideal customer profile, you may have one or more likely, several buyer personas. For example, a company selling employee benefit consulting services may have identified the following two personas:
HR Manager Kathy: Kathy is the HR Director at a mid-sized company with 200-500 employees. She graduated from Virginia Tech with a B.S. degree in Organizational Development and has worked at the company for ten years. She reports directly to the CEO and is challenged by managing benefit costs while complying with ever-increasing legislative requirements. She is married with 2 teenage children. She would like to spend more time with her kids and save money to pay for their college educations. She regularly attends local Society for Human Resource Management meetings and gets most of her information from their website and 3 other trade journals.
CFO Steve: Steve is the CFO of the same mid-sized company and also reports directly to the CEO. He graduated from the University of Maryland with a B.S. in Finance and got his MBA at Georgetown University. Prior to joining the company, he spent ten years in the auditing department at Ernst & Young. Steve is focused on balancing cost reduction with maximizing employee performance. Steve is one of three people in the company that know the CEO has a goal of selling the company within two years. He works 70 hours a week and would like to spend more time with his 3 grade-school age children. Hes a member of the Association for Corporate Growth and regularly attends networking events to expand his knowledge and increase his network for the inevitable time when he will be looking for a job after selling the company.
Keep in mind that these are not actual people, they are archetypal representations of the types of buyers that this employee benefit consulting firm regularly works with.
Growth-oriented businesses focus their sales and marketing efforts by developing Ideal Customer Profiles and Buyer Personas. They focus on those prospects that will bring them the highest probability of a sale. When creating your profiles and personas, it is important to make the process a joint effort between your sales and marketing teams. Marketing has a good sense of how youve produced new business for your company over the years and sales has a unique view of whats going on in the field that can only be learned from experience.