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danger trip hazardYou may have heard that buyer personas are a vital tool for salespeople, and wondered if you should feature them in an upcoming launch or sales kickoff.

The first point is that although personas can appear deceivingly simple to create, the most common paths used to to build them generates personas which are NOT valuable to salespeople.

It is a waste of time to assign a name and photo to obvious pain points, or to focus on personal details unrelated to the problems you address. For example, one client showed us personas that included information about their prospect’s recreational activities. Unless you’re selling exercise equipment, your reps don’t need to hear that the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) is 45, married, and attends spin class three times a week. Yes, this make the CMO more human, but it does nothing to help your sales (or marketing) team frame a compelling argument for your data analytics solution.

No Fiction. Facts.

Far from fictitious or idealistic portraits, buyer personas need to be built on well-researched insights into the actual priorities, success factors, and decision criteria that factor into your buyer’s decision to solve the problem you address.

Before you deliver buyer personas to your sales team, make sure you consider these three points:

  1. Ensure Success for that First Sales Interaction

Many personas are built around job titles, with additional notes such as whether that role is risk adverse or tech savvy. This is a start, but not nearly enough to help your salesperson know how to engage this buyer in a first meeting.

Does your persona include specifics on the drivers that cause buyers to reject the status quo and begin to evaluate solutions like yours?  Your reps need to know which buyers are receptive, which are not, and most critically, which company or individual dynamics predict a willingness to change.

These insights also tell you which roles you should target. In a recent study, our client learned that their preferred buyers — those looking for higher-priced quality & guarantees of performance – were least involved in day-to-day operations, which everyone naturally assumed was where the high quality pitch would work. Totally new, totally fresh, this was an insight they were NOT expecting until we interviewed real buyers

By the way: this is what sales reps already LOOK AND LISTEN for when reading the web, watching the news or reading a company’s news releases. The more you can arm reps with KEY INSIGHTS they can use to fine-tune their “sales radars,” the faster they will find real opportunities and weed out time-wasters who just have time to talk.

This approach creates “wedges” to crack open opportunities that a product or ROI pitch simply cannot. Your reps will love these insights as they leave “less informed” competitors in the dust.

  1. Win/Loss Can Only Tell You So Much: Don’t Drink the Kool-Aid

While you may have heard that features or price are high on the list of reasons that buyers don’t choose you, unscripted, “safe” conversations with real buyers prove that these are only a small part of the story. There’s a LOT more to these decisions that buyers are not revealing to sales reps during the sales process, or to whomever is conducting the follow-on win/loss interview.

These unexpressed objections are CRITICAL because they allow your salespeople to address objections your competitors will never discover.

One of the primary objectives for buyer personas is to anticipate the buyer’s questions, and the answers they hope to hear, as they research options, weigh alternatives, and make a selection.

Every rep can tell you story after story of the “deal that almost was,” where everything looked just right and then: NOTHING. The prospect went dark, the deal went cold, it just wasn’t time.

It’s not the things you expect that can kill a deal, it’s the ones you don’t anticipate. Buying insight interviews prove that even the most informed companies have, at most, 90% of the facts about what matters to their buyers.  The missing 10% is slowing down your entire sales pipeline.

  1. Use Buying Insights to Build Synergy between Marketing and Sales Teams

Despite big investments in marketing automation, lead scoring, and shared goals, when you listen to buyers, you’ll hear that sales and marketing efforts remain largely disconnected.

Buyers are frustrated and lose trust in a company when the answers they need aren’t readily available. No one cares whether sales or marketing is at fault – if a buyer perceives the disconnect between themselves and the company, you’ve just added ANOTHER obstacle to the sale.

It helps to start with the understanding that sales people persuade one buyer at a time, while marketing persuades markets full of buyers.  Now conversations between sales and marketing can focus on the perceptions that exist and what the teams can do, separately and jointly, to educate the market and persuade buyers that you have a solution that is a perfect match for the buyer’s expectations.

The goal should be meaningful sales and marketing plays that aren’t based on simple buyer profiles or obvious pain sheets. Instead, your activities are built on facts that aren’t easy to discover, creating a competitive advantage that will be much more sustainable than a price reduction or feature enhancement.

Properly researched buyer personas are far more than a clever way to dramatize WHO “might” be the person involved in a buying decision plus their personality, pains and objectives. To be valuable to sales, they need to provide new insights about how, when and why buyers choose products or services like yours – the very insights salespeople wish they had to close a deal.

In our upcoming webinar series, we will explain how effective buying insights are uncovered using interviews that involve a completely unscripted dialog between an interviewer and real buyers. You’ll see how skills much like a journalist’s uncover the practical, emotional and rational stories related by people who have recently spent money to solve the same problem you address. For more information on interviewing skills, custom buyer persona studies and upcoming webinars, visit www.buyerpersona.com or email info@buyerpersona.com.

I just made an important buying decision. Since Wiley will release my first book on March 9, I wanted to hire a PR firm to do the launch right. I started out the way most buyers do when they initiate a “high consideration” buying decision. I asked my peers for recommendations.

I had phone conversations with three of the agencies they suggested, talked about my book, and received written proposals from all them. They each had good ideas, and I realized that the choice wasn’t going to be easy.

Then my buyer’s journey was disrupted by another buying influencer (something that happens frequently in high consideration decisions). In this case, it was my publisher, John Wiley & Sons, who suggested that I consider one of the firms they had worked with before. I was frustrated to be back at the beginning of a process I had hoped to complete by then.

The interesting thing about selecting an agency to launch my book is that they all do, essentially, the same thing. They contact media, try to get coverage, and help with positioning and messaging for the launch. And of course they are all smart enough to know that they can’t promise results. No one can assure me that the Wall Street Journal, Forbes or any of the other publications I hope to reach will actually interview me or write about my book.

I found myself in the same situation as the buyers we interview every day, relying on the same resources to make a significant investment in a service that is difficult to evaluate. And if I made the wrong choice, I was going to spend a lot of money and miss a big opportunity.

Wiley initially sent me a list of 20 or so agencies to consider, but after a bit of pleading they narrowed it to three. So I visited the agency’s websites.

The first firm had a site that was hyper-focused on their successes in the eBook market, with plenty of detailed case studies from satisfied authors. But I’m not publishing an eBook (although there will be an electronic edition). So that focus turned me off, despite their obvious competence.

The second firm’s site was professional, but generic. The authors and books they’d launched were impressive, but they looked a lot like the other agencies I was already considering.

But when I rthought leaderseached the homepage for the third company, Stern + Associates, my attitude changed in an instant. Right there, in larger text than their company name, was a simple message that spoke directly to me — “We build thought leaders.”

My motivation for writing my book wasn’t to “sell a lot of books,” although that would be nice. I wanted to change the conversation about buyer personas and end the confusion with buyer profiles. I wanted every buyer persona to feature the buying insights that help marketers make better decisions. I wanted to lay a foundation for marketers to become the buyer experts their companies trust to help them win more business.

From my first visit to the Stern home page, through the sales call that followed, I heard about thought leadership. I knew that I had found an agency that understood my motivations and could help me achieve them. My choice was suddenly clear and I was more willing to invest in the budget they suggested.

Stern didn’t use buyer personas to design their messaging or website. It’s clear that their focus on thought leadership is part of their core business strategy and that it was simply fortunate that Wiley referred me to a firm that was a direct match for my needs.

But this story about my buying decision is the precise reason that companies need to break free of the generic messaging that sounds the same for every competitor. It’s the reason that persona interviews must probe for the insights that identify an exact match between our solutions and a buyer’s needs.

We want every buyer to find the solution they’re seeking, and every marketer to know how to make that happen. That’s why I wrote Buyer Personas.

Buyer Personas You might have noticed that I haven’t published updates on this blog and that my presence on social media has been scarce over the last few months. I wish I could tell you that I’d been sailing the seas or lolling around on a beach somewhere, but in fact I’ve been heads down in my office and barely noticed the passing of spring or summer.

In March of 2015, John Wiley & Sons will publish the book that kept me locked away all these many months: Buyer Personas: How to Gain Insight into your Customers Expectations, Align your Marketing Strategies, and Win More Business.

It’s an incredible honor to be published by one of the world’s leading presses for business professionals. And I’m thrilled that the foreword is by David Meerman Scott, international bestselling author of The New Rules of Marketing & PR and The New Rule of Sales and Service.

David had been bugging me to write this book for years and I knew that he was right. As the interest in buyer personas has gone global, there is enormous confusion about how to discover and utilize the insights they should reveal. The misdirection I find online and the questions we field in our daily client interactions consistently confirm the need for a definitive guide on this topic.

But the simple truth is, I don’t like to write. I’d rather interact with people. Put me in front of an audience and I’m never at a loss for words, but I’ll procrastinate forever on a writing assignment. When I forced myself to sit down and write a 256-page book, I learned a lot about myself.

Psychologists Katharine Briggs and Isabel Meyers have a great explanation for the difference between introverts and extroverts. They say an introvert is someone who gets energy from being alone and with that energy, they can then go be with people for a while. An extrovert, on the other hand, gets energy from being with people and uses that energy to handle being alone. As anyone who knows me will tell you, I am definitely an extrovert.

Now I know why I get sleepy when I write, and why it’s always been easier for me to edit something written by others. When I’m editing someone else’s work, that’s almost like a stand-in for having a person in the room that I can engage with. I can see what I need to say to alter a perception or explain a concept that wasn’t clear. I understand what is already understood and how to avoid boring the person with information that might be interesting to me but irrelevant to my audience.

I learned a lot about myself by stepping out of my comfort zone to write this book, and even came to see how this aspect of my personality underlies my commitment to buyer personas as a method for marketing strategies. We don’t create buyer personas while sitting alone in a room. We talk to real people and we use the insights they give us to reflect on their actual needs, interests and concerns. With a persona as a stand-in for the buyers we need to influence, we know exactly what we need to do and say to engage those people, adjust their perceptions, and avoid boring them to tears.

While reflecting on these personal insights a week after submitting the manuscript, I decided to dedicate the book “to every marketer who questions the wisdom of making stuff up.”

I’m grateful to the many clients and colleagues whose questions and stories kept my energy flowing so that I could meet Wiley’s deadline. By showing me how real marketers were employing my methodology and finding success with it, you helped me to dig deep and tell the whole story. I hope that it is helpful to many marketers and look forward to the next step in our journey together.

I’ll tell you more about Buyer Personas: How to Gain Insight into your Customers Expectations, Align your Marketing Strategies, and Win More Business in the coming months. You can pre-order the book on Amazon here.

pro_colorful-personas_275x185This Thursday, I’ll deliver an online seminar at Marketing Profs that I’m really excited about.

I’ve delivered countless presentations about the need for effective buyer personas, but this is the first time where I’ve got 90 minutes to focus on how to effectively use them.

The idea for this session came from a recent ITSMA survey where marketers were asked if they felt their buyer personas were being used effectively. The vast majority – 83% – answered “somewhat.”

That’s obviously not the response we want for a tool that can be incredibly powerful in the right hands. So how do we leverage these personas and the insights we gain from them to make a measurable difference in marketing ROI?

This Marketing Profs Pro Online Seminar focuses on three important aspects of the application of buyer personas.

The first is building your message and core value propositions. Finding the essential message of a marketing campaign is tough stuff. Delivering 15 to 20 words that compel a buyer to learn more is harder yet. Too many marketing groups opt for a summary approach – “We’re the market-leading provider of scalable flexible compatible enterprise greatness” – that doesn’t give a buyer anything they haven’t heard dozens of times before.

Once you have the 5 Rings of Buying Insight™ for your persona, the most difficult part of the messaging effort is complete. Armed with this detailed list of your buyers’ expectations, it’s relatively easy to identify the engaging, actionable information that positions your solution as a perfect match for that buyer’s needs.

The second topic I’ll talk about on Thursday is building a solid content marketing strategy. Employing the 5 Rings of Buying Insight around each buyer should give you a list of 20 to 25 thoughts and concerns that the buyer has through the purchasing cycle. These are rich fodder for long-form content or multi-touch marketing – blog posts, white papers and other venues where you can address topics served up to you in your buyer’s own words.

And the third topic is sales enablement. We talked about this a bit in last week’s blog post, but this week’s presentation will give me a chance to talk about how buyer personas change the relationship between sales and marketing.   I’ll focus on the buyer insights that motivate salespeople to follow new leads and land new customers.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of everything you should be doing to leverage your buyer personas, but it’s three things that should be at the top of your list.

I’ll be going into everything above in much more detail during Thursday’s online seminar. I hope to see you there.

danger trip hazardIf you’ve been reading this blog, you’re well aware of the impact that properly-constructed buyer personas can have on sales and marketing. But – and this might seem strange – for best results, you don’t want to send your personas straight to the sales team.

There’s one more step, and it’s crucial, because sales people are one of the primary beneficiaries of the deep insights you’ve uncovered. A misstep has consequences that can cast your persona initiative in a less than favorable light.

Remember that an insightful buyer persona talks about what buyers want from solutions like yours. Sometimes buyers want something your solution can’t deliver.  Or the buyers may describe expectations where you need to give some thought to your response.

Here’s an example – say “easy to use” is an important part of your persona’s decision criteria. From the interviews that we conducted with real buyers, we know that buyers who say “easy to use” want it to “work just like other programs I use, so I won’t need any additional training.”

But your product might not work just like these other programs. It might need additional training. So Marketing would work with involved departments to make the training something that can be minimized – say with a 30-minute video that will bring users up to speed simply and effectively.

Now Sales can address “ease-of-use” with a direct, factual response that keeps the company honest. “It’s just a 30-minute video.”

When Marketing communicates buyer expectations without describing the appropriate response, it can lead to a lot of counterproductive behavior, including that classic move where Sales makes things up to impress the buyer. Or Sales may avoid following up on your leads, feeling defeated because they can’t deliver on every expectation.

Marketers also need to remember that sales people are trained to treat every buyer as unique. Talk about buyer personas and you could spend your time defending the entire concept of an example buyer, distracting everyone from the powerful insights you’ve uncovered and how your salespeople can leverage that knowledge in their sales calls.

Sales people are reluctant to follow up on leads when they don’t have experience with a particular solution and buyer. Understandably, they’re concerned about what questions might arise or how the competitors might derail their sale. With buyer personas, we can give them advance warning – here is the type of buyer that you’ll be talking to at every step in the sale. These are the expectations that each person will bring to the table. And, best of all, here are the resources you need to address those expectations and close the sale.

Keep your personas in marketing, but by all means communicate the insights you’ve uncovered and your strategies to address them.

Given the big investments that companies make in content marketing, you’d think that buyers would be impressed. You’d also expect that company executives would be enthusiastic about marketing results. Yet, marketers continue to struggle for budget, and buyers regularly tell us that vendor-supplied information isn’t helpful.

I’m talking about a solution to this dilemma during my presentation at this year’s Content Marketing World, which will rock the Cleveland Convention Center September 9-12. Thanks go to the “godfather of content marketing” Joe Pulizzi for inviting me back for a second year.

I’m building my CMW presentation around a buyer persona for a marketer who is considering an email marketing solution.  Many people have asked me for an example buyer persona and I’ve always regretted that I had to say no. I fully understand, however, why our clients will never allow us to share their competitive insights.

So I decided to develop this persona for an imaginary company, and could use two or three more volunteers for the interviews. If you have evaluated an email marketing solution within the last six months and can spare 30 minutes to be interviewed about that decision before August 27, please contact me. It’s fun and you’ll get to hear how we conduct buyer persona interviews.

At CMW, I will explain how marketers can become a strategic resource by changing the conversation with buyers and internal stakeholders. I’ll explain the 5 Rings of Buying Insight for the example persona and show everyone how I would use those insights to drive a competitive content strategy. I’ll also talk about how to show up as a buyer expert at planning and sales meetings, and how this small step repositions marketers as a high-value strategic asset.

I’ve decided to keep the example buyer persona secret until after Content Marketing World. But shortly thereafter, I’ll publish it here on my blog for those who cannot attend.

Want a preview of the conference? TopRank Online Marketing recently published this wonderful ebook – Content Marketing Rocks! 36 Tips from Rock Star Brands and Marketers. Thank you, Lee Odden, for including my quote (on page 27).

If you will be at Content Marketing World this year, please email me or contact me through the conference app. I don’t want to miss seeing you there!

It was 8:30 a.m. Pacific Time on January 28, 1986. This would be my second day as an Account Executive at Regis McKenna, the PR firm that Apple, Intel and most of the successful technology companies at that time trusted for their positioning and marketing strategies. I had a bit of marketing experience from my prior tech company job, but frankly, I was filled with anticipation and nervous about working for a famous PR firm.

I was in a conference room with a few of my new colleagues, preparing to learn more about my first assignment: conducting buyer interviews as a foundation for positioning an upcoming Intel launch.

Before we started our meeting, we decided to watch the televised launch of the Challenger space shuttle. Christa McAuliffe, a school teacher and the first “regular person” to become an astronaut, was among the 7-person crew. Christa’s inclusion was a part of a 1984 presidential initiative to promote the importance of teachers, science, and the space program, which meant that millions of school children were watching as the doomed shuttle exploded just 73 seconds after take-off, killing everyone on board.

Social media and the Internet had not yet been invented, but 85 percent of Americans knew about the tragedy within the first hour. The president’s plan to promote science was shattered, and the shuttle program itself was on hold for 32 long months.

It would be years before I fully appreciated how much I had learned that first week on the job. The research into the cause of the Challenger disaster demonstrated that internal pressure can override reason, resulting in stupid, even fatal, mistakes. Over the decades I spent in executive marketing and consulting, I learned just how critical it is for internal experts to be recognized and appreciated for their knowledge, and how difficult it is to convince an organization that a popular idea is flawed.

I also learned that marketers are rarely the trusted resource for knowledge that can prevent otherwise successful products from crashing and burning. This has got to change.

The training I got at Regis McKenna during that week in 1986 never mentioned buyer personas. They trained me to conduct “internal and external audits,” a terrible name for a great idea that involved interviewing internal stakeholders to understand their strategy, followed by buyer interviews to understand their point of view. I learned that I could market even seriously obscure technology if I simply listened to both perspectives to find the spot where they intersected. I learned that no one in most companies is a buyer expert, and that only marketers can prevent companies from pursuing a plan that has a good chance of exploding seconds, weeks, even years, after takeoff.

The Regis McKenna experience gave me the confidence and courage, in 1987, to start my own PR and market research company. A few years later, I sold it and accepted a position as VP of Marketing for a company that wanted me to build a market for a seriously obscure new solution.

The story of how buyers led me to a successful strategy in my first role as a VP is where I started my new interview with Matt Grant, managing editor and host of MarketingProfs’s popular Marketing Smarts podcast series.

In my 31 minute interview with Matt Grant, we chat about:

  • Part 1:  Building a market for “seriously obscure” products (1:50)
  • Part 2:  How we identified the buyers who would be receptive (4:00)
  • Part 3:  A story about a product that was doomed to fail (12:15)
  • Part 4:  Ad Age says that Marketers get no respect, the future of Marketing (15:20)
  • Part 5:  What is unique about your approach to interviewing buyers (22:15)
  • Part 6:  Why your Buyer Persona Manifesto recommends radical change (27:16)

Link to ebook and workshop mentioned in the podcast.

I hope you’ll have a listen and enjoy!

A recent engagement started with a familiar problem – the client wanted a single value proposition for a proposed suite of solutions that includes four existing products. The messaging would drive the development of their content marketing assets and help the sales people cross-sell the underlying products.

You’ve probably seen the default solution-level messaging: “We are the market-leading supplier of  enterprise-wide, best-of-breed, integrated solutions for  high-growth companies.”

Fortunately, marketers who are willing to accept that answer don’t seem to ask for my help. But the answer we did uncover was not what the client expected either.

How we approached the question

We talked to buyers who had recently evaluated each of the underlying products, including both wins and losses. Our agenda was to understand how the buyer evaluated each of the individual products, and how any single product purchase relates to the problems addressed by the other products.

As always, when we simply pick up the phone and have an agenda-driven, unscripted conversation with real buyers, we learn plenty. First, one of the four products was not even evaluated by the same buyer persona as the other three.  And more critically, none of the buyers saw any meaningful connections or synergies among any of the products. In fact, buyers confirmed that they would never evaluate even two of the products as part of a single buying decision.

We now know that there simply isn’t a suite value proposition that will resonate with buyers. I see this as a success story. Why, you may ask?

The marketing team was planning to present the solution message at an upcoming sales kick-off. They can now redirect that presentation, forewarned that a solution approach isn’t going to get the reps anywhere. Instead, they can present their new insights about how to influence buying decisions for the underlying products.

This reminds me of another project where the buyer research confirmed that a soon-to-be-launched product was so ill-conceived that the company decided to kill it outright. Incredibly, the client thought that the findings were good news, saving them the embarrassment and cost of launching a product that was destined to fail.

Before any launch…
Here are a few takeaways to apply to your own buyer persona research, messaging and product launches. Before you develop a message or introduce a new product, you need to:

1. Interview the target buyers to understand their definition of the problem and how they relate to the proposed approach.

3. Develop a messaging strategy that addresses the buyers’ needs and objections.

What do you think? Is it possible that bad news is actually good news? I also welcome your tips and comments about developing messaging and buyer personas.

Today David Meerman Scott launched his 8th book, “Newsjacking: How to Inject Your Ideas into a Breaking News Story and Generate Tons of Media Coverage.” I’ve just read it and am confident that it will be another huge success for David, who is best known for the bestseller “The New Rules of Marketing and PR”.

I first met David in 2005 when he was a relatively obscure marketing consultant. At the time I was leading the seminar I built for Pragmatic Marketing and we had recently won a very large contract. I was overwhelmed with too much work, so I put the word out that I was looking for someone who could take on a few classes. Jon Bachman suggested his friend David.

A quick talk on the phone and we struck up an agreement. For the next few months, David and I traveled and taught the seminar together.  He frequently talked about his blog, but I was barely listening. The marketers in the seminar were not exactly engaged either. We had to work just to explain the concept and people fretted about whether it was a good idea for B2B marketers.

Then David released a little ebook entitled “The New Rules of PR”. Three months later, applying only his new rules to spread the word, more than 150,000 people had downloaded the book. A few months passed before Wiley Publishing asked David to write a “real” book that would expand on the ideas.

I thought that was very cool, but never anticipated the breakthrough that David was about to experience. A short six years later, The New Rules of Marketing and PR has sold over 250,000 copies, was recently released in its third edition, and is available in 25 languages. David is one of the industry’s leading keynote speakers, commanding a very impressive five-figure honorarium for a single hour’s work. CEOs and CMOs in the largest and most famous companies in the world meet with him and seek his advice.

And now David has published his 8th book, with another breakthrough idea that will soon be mainstream.

Watching David’s rise to fame and fortune has taught me a lot about the value of focus. In whatever topic they pursue, experts are always watching for a high-value issue that is not well-understood. Experts don’t wait around for anyone to tell them to solve the problem – they take the initiative before someone else can grab the opportunity.

Initially, the expert’s goal is to assimilate as much as they can from the information that already exists about their topic. This doesn’t seem to create more work for the emerging expert; it is simply a matter of prioritizing their thinking. Every activity is an opportunity to observe, to gain a fresh perspective or insight on the chosen subject. Every meeting is a chance to ask questions and listen. These people aren’t creating new ideas (yet), they are a central point of information for knowledge that is all around them but not aggregated, analyzed or appreciated.

Are you an expert on a topic that, in your company, is perceived to be both high value and rare? If you are in a tactical role, consider how much focus you have given to mastering a skill that can be readily outsourced or that few  people respect. Or maybe you have devoted your energies to product expertise, which is more valued but certainly not unique.

Whether your company has identified the problem or not, it needs (and lacks) deep insight into the motivations, preferences and influences that drive buyers to choose your solutions, your competitors’, or to maintain the status quo. The role I call buyer persona expert describes a marketer who can articulate their target buyers’ priorities and perceptions with confidence and clarity. Is anyone in your company focused on this expertise?  Can anyone predict, based on factual data, the likely outcome of a product or marketing strategy that has yet to be implemented?

David and his publisher know that his new book will be a huge success. David has so much focus on his buyer personas that winning is a foregone conclusion.

Marketers who find it frustrating to source qualified leads might be surprised to learn that buyers are equally frustrated about sourcing qualified solutions. Assuming you’re marketing a product that solves a pervasive problem (a topic for another post), there is no shortage of buyers who are currently looking for your solution – provided that it matches that buyer’s specific definition of the problem.

Following is a true account of a recent interview . . .

The owner of a large printing company describes her need for an accounting system that can track her orders, from quotation through manufacturing and billing. She says the system would need to be customized with codes for the materials that are unique to her type of printing business. She currently has separate systems for bidding jobs, materials management, billing and accounting. Without an integrated system she can’t track the profitability of individual orders.

She doesn’t know where to begin. I suggest a web search but she doesn’t know what keywords to use. The websites she does find are talking about ERP, cloud computing and software-as-a-service. What does that mean, she asks . . .

Your target buyers may be far more astute than this example, but listen carefully to their stories and you’ll hear that they never trusted the vendors’ sales and marketing pitches. If we honestly consider the confusing array of options that confront our buyers, we might agree that it’s reasonable for them to default to the solutions their peers recommend, or live with the problems they already know.

Just imagine the buyer’s reaction upon learning about a solution that is a perfect match for his decision criteria. Think about the trust that would accrue to the vendor whose sales and marketing resources deliver unambiguous answers to the buyers’ questions at every step in the buying process.

Marketers who want to generate leads need to rethink their approach to targeting and messaging. Why debate the merits of email, social media, or other marketing tactics if we can’t ensure that our actions accurately address the target buyer’s needs, perceptions and concerns?

Aprimo is sponsoring a free webinar series on lead generation. They invited me to deliver the July 21 session, “Defining your Target Audience: Why demographics are insufficient — and how to succeed with a buyer-centric strategy.”  I hope you’ll join me to learn more about how to generate leads by discovering and answering your buyer’s questions.

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