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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 am fascinated by a recent Gartner study about the journey of 700 enterprise buyers across the U.S., EMEA, Brazil, India and China. According to a recent interview with Hank Barnes, Research Vice President at Gartner, the study focused on four areas:

  • During the buying process, what types of activities and information do you use, independent of the firm you are evaluating?
  • What type of content do you use from the provider itself?
  • What marketing activities get your attention?
  • What are you expecting from sales interactions?

Thebuyers journey findings? Buyers spend only 32% of their journey interacting with supplier-side content or sales people. Two thirds of the buyer’s journey is devoted to internal assessments, peer networking, and the recommendations of external experts.

According to Barnes, buyers “have access to all this stuff from vendors, but making sense of it, interpreting it, understanding that they have the right stuff is where they’re really struggling.”

This data quantifies exactly what we hear every day in our buyer persona interviews. And as a career sales and marketing professional, I am amazed that every company hasn’t realized that filling this void could be the best way to gain a competitive advantage.

In an article I wrote for CMO.com a few months ago, I related our experience interviewing buyers who say that marketing materials do nothing to help them make a decision, as competing solutions relate the same obvious benefits rather than useful information. The buyers’ experience with sales people is mostly a continuation of this theme, as sales arrives with the same marketing message rather than the critical details that help buyers gain confidence in their decision.

We know that many marketers are trying to explain the value of interviewing buyers to understand their needs and expectations. Maybe now that we have a report stating that vendors are privy to only 1/3 of the buyer’s journey, we can make it clear that it doesn’t work to build buyer personas by culling information from salespeople and marketing automation solutions. We’re seeing a very small part of the decision we need to influence.

A few days ago, Mark Schaefer published an article entitled “Why customer personas may be an outdated marketing technique.” In it he argues that every competitor is marketing to the same people, so if marketers rely on obvious data about their customers to guide their content, they’ll all come to the same conclusion and deliver the same useless content. I agree.

He goes on to relate a story about sitting with a CEO client while her agency asked questions in a persona template. Mark was trying to manage his frustration when the CEO stopped this ridiculous conversation, thank goodness.

The rush to build buyer personas is resulting in too many experiences just like Mark’s. If we don’t stop this insanity and get real about what’s involved in building and relying upon insights into buying decisions, influential stakeholders like Mark (and your CMO) will draw this same conclusion.

Buyers created the need for audience marketing

Let’s stop to remember why audience and content marketing first became vital initiatives. You have probably heard that today’s self-educated buyers are, on average, 60% of the way to a buying decision before they talk to our sales people.

Before the buyers messed this up, it was marketing’s job to build awareness with cleverly crafted and placed messaging about the benefits of our solutions. When buyers needed more information they’d contact us and we’d send in our sales experts, people who had been trained to discover the goals, concerns and purchase criteria for that buying decision. The reps would use these insights to position their solution as a perfect fit for that buyer and win the business.

Once buyers decided to keep salespeople at arms length until they had narrowed the field to just two or three solutions, audience marketing was supposed to keep us on the buyer’s list for as long as it took to get our sales people into the account.

Marketers underestimate the changes buyers have imposed

Few companies understood the magnitude of the responsibilities these buyers had imposed upon marketing. But it did make sense to “know your customer,” so marketers began to rely upon familiar approaches such as surveys, scripted interviews and agency partners to complete profiles for each job title or role who might influence the purchase. By some counts, 80% of marketers will have these templates completed by the end of this year.

But try to find a marketer who says that the purpose of audience marketing is to understand the buying decision so well that they know which questions buyers will ask, the answers they want to hear, and can create content that explains the capabilities that align with that buyer’s expectations.

It’s clear that the agency marketer Mark Schaefer met didn’t know that useful buyer personas require direct interviews with recent evaluators of a similar solution, or that they feature verbatim quotes to tell you, in the buyers’ own words, what triggers their decision to initiate this type of purchase, which outcomes they anticipate, their barriers to purchase, and the criteria they use to weigh their options.

If we don’t get this right, buyers will take things into their own hands

Yes, our goal is to know our buyers, but the knowledge we’re capturing in buyer personas is misguided and rarely used for anything at all.

Now that we have the mandate and automation to deliver content throughout the buying cycle, marketers need to know how to deliver more than the appetizer-grade, benefits-oriented messaging that was always meant for the top of the funnel. It’s time to deliver the beef, the main course that will help the buyer make an educated decision about whether we are the best qualified company to address their problem.

When we fail, buyers rely on their peers, consultants and employee’s prior experiences to decide which options they should consider. At that point, anything can happen.

This isn’t idle speculation. Over the course of the last year we had lengthy, unscripted conversations with 419 buyers who had recently evaluated our client’s high consideration solutions. It wasn’t fun to report back that we are losing deals, at least in part, because buyers couldn’t get the information they needed from their sales and marketing interactions.

We can change this outcome, but first we must realize that we have big shoes to fill. Salespeople have a much better chance of convincing one buyer at a time, but the buyers we interview don’t seem likely to make this any easier for us.

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.

Spotlight on 5One of the life experiences I credit most for teaching me about marketing was the five years I spent in sales. I came to that job in a roundabout way – a division of Wells Fargo Bank wanted a paperless office and asked me to make that happen. I knew nothing about technology (and ultimately failed to create paperless-ness) but I quickly fell in love with computers.

My boss at that company helped too, giving me some of the best career advice I’ve ever received. He told me “You’ve got to love the core business you’re in or you’ll never get ahead.” I hated the core business I was in (banking), so I cut bait and started trying to find a job as a salesperson in a technology company.

My first assignment was a sales “overlay” position that focused on winning more business from the current customer base. I loved it and grew revenue by 300%, but the reps weren’t happy that someone else was making money from their customers. Management didn’t want to irritate the reps, so they eliminated my position and offered me a job in marketing.

Fast forward ten years, and in another company I spent four years in charge of both sales and marketing teams.

So while I consider myself a marketer, those five years in sales helped me see that several aspects of the way we differentiate the two roles is illogical and costly.

Consider this:

1. Sales and marketing are both about persuasion. The sales person’s job is to persuade one buyer at a time, while the marketer’s job is to persuade markets full of buyers.

When I was in sales, it was marketing’s job to get a buyer to notice us, and then it was my job to persuade that buyer to choose us. This was a great division of labor, because it’s way more difficult to persuade a market full of buyers than one at a time. But today’s buyers have changed the rules, navigating 60% to 80% of their decision before they talk to a salesperson. Companies that haven’t made the shift to persuasive marketing risk elimination before the salespeople have a chance to do their job.

2. Salespeople have the opportunity, permission and training to listen to buyers before they build a strategy to persuade them. Marketers have none of these things.

As a sales rep, I learned to dedicate the first part of every sales call to listening to my buyer, gaining real insight into that account’s needs and expectations. Then it was my job to describe our solution in a way that established a perfect fit between that buyer’s needs and our product. Go tell sales management that you want their reps to stop listening to buyers before they sell to them, and they’ll look at you like you’re crazy. But everyone expects marketers to do just that.

3. Sales people have to optimize their time to persuade buyers to buy now, but marketers have to optimize their investments to build pipeline for the future.

By the time I started running sales, I completely understood the importance of marketing.  However, it wasn’t long before all of my time and attention shifted to the salespeople. Faced with the urgency of meeting this month’s numbers, our longer-term investments suffered. I learned that it’s really difficult to balance short and long term priorities, and that marketing metrics need to focus on results that impact the next quarter or next year, even if this seems less tangible.

4.  While there are dozens of things that every good sales person learns about each buyer, the ability to be persuasive hinges on just 5 key insights.

When I decided to help marketers understand their buyer personas, I knew that many of the things I learned about buyers in sales only worked when I had the opportunity to build a strategy to persuade one buyer at a time. It was easy to see that tracking all of these distinctions about buyers would cause a lot of confusion and far too many different strategies. So I started thinking about what really helped me to be a persuasive sales rep, and that’s how the 5 Rings of Buying Insight™ became the foundation of buyer personas.

5.  Despite everything you’ve heard about price, the company that wins the buyer’s trust wins their business.

The solutions I had to sell were invariably more expensive than our competition. So we didn’t win on price. We competed for the buyer’s business by being the best listeners and using our insights to persuade buyers that we were best qualified to meet their expectations. Now that buyers can avoid sales contact for so long, a lot of that responsibility belongs to the marketing team.

I think it’s fair to say that when I was in sales, we had a lot more impact on the outcome of a deal than the reps I know today. And because this change is driven by buyers who have ready access to the information they think they need, this trend is unlikely to reverse itself. It’s time for marketers to gain the deep buyer insights that have always been the foundation of successful sales.

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.

One of the hardest parts of bringing our Buyer Persona model into practice actually comes after the project is completed.

We’ve accomplished so much with the client, working with them to build clear, actionable buyer personas, and the results are spectacular. We just can’t share them with anybody.

Needless to say, marketing departments like to keep their successes close to the vest to make sure that their competitors don’t hop on board. There’s nothing I’d like more than to trumpet from the rooftops how Client X or Client Y improved their marketing content or sales results using the 5 Rings of Buying Insight™, but iron-clad NDAs keep my mouth shut tight.

However, sometimes clients are so excited that they just can’t help talking.

Buyer Persona Masterclass alumni Samuel Williams, with his firm Aamplify, was contracted by Deloitte Private, the division of Deloitte Consulting that specializes in families and small businesses, to develop a marketing plan.

The firm started by interviewing people who had recently evaluated solutions like theirs, modeling the buyers’ decision to uncover clear, factual insights about how they compared Deloitte to its competitors.

When Deloitte saw the details that these personas revealed, it was easy to identify the targeted messaging and marketing content that would persuade their buyers to choose them. And it was simple to help the sales teams see how to tell those same powerful stories to their customers.

Don’t take my word for it – watch this video from Deloitte head of marketing and communications Cassandra Worrall about the whole process.

Strong stuff, right? Here’s a more in-depth case study from Aamplify with even more data.

One of the key takeaways from their buyer persona research was that buyers had three key motivations for coming to Deloitte:

1. Help leveraging global business development opportunities

2. Heavy lifting to help solve specific challenges

3. Technology solutions to improve business processes

Armed with these insights, Deloitte Private pushed that messaging front and center to their home page, giving their digital strategy a powerful, clear call to action.

The best way to judge the power of a marketing campaign is by real-world results, and Deloitte got them. Using the tools and interviewing skills they acquired by attending the Buyer Persona Masterclass, Aamplify gave their client exactly what they needed to connect with buyers without the guesswork.

I rarely mention it, but I spent a year of my marketing career as a sales rep.

I was in a marketing role at a software company/hardware reseller when I noticed that our existing customers were bypassing us for their computer upgrades. This translated to a lot of lost revenue, because those were the days when software was nearly free and companies like ours made most of our profits by reselling another company’s computers.

So what did I do? I brought the issue to management, and they assigned me to a new position that sold only to the installed base.

Less than a year later, I had grown current customer revenue by 300 percent. But the sales people were furious that I was earning commission checks that could have been theirs. The company eliminated my position and I went back to the Marketing department.

Several years later,  I also spent four years as SVP of Sales and Marketing.

So while I am a marketer at heart, I’ve carried a quota and have at least a passing understanding of what it’s like to do hand-to-hand combat to win a deal. And while most marketers have other reasons for building buyer personas, I’ve always noted that the sales people have the most to gain from a marketing team that has deep buyer insights.

That’s why I jumped at the chance to deliver a webinar for Sales and Marketing Management on Tuesday, September 18, 2012. I chose the title, “Deep Buyer Insights: Closing the Gap Between Sales and Marketing” because I know that a common understanding about how to influence the buyer can align the two teams’ goals, activities and cultures.

Here’s one scenario. Can you recall your sales people’s reaction to the marketing presentation at a recent launch event? Were they really engaged by either the product details or the upcoming marketing plans – or where they more focused on their smartphones?

Now consider a different approach. What if the marketing presentation focused on the results of recent buyer interviews, with details about how each type of buyer chooses this type of solutions? What if the opening slides could clearly articulate, for the solution you’re about to launch:

  • Which buyer persona(s) will agree to meet with a rep, including when and why
  • The positives that will impress buyers and objections to overcome
  • What the buyers are saying about each of the competitive solutions
  • How different types of buyer personas will influence the decision
  • Which tools/programs you have created to address all of the above

It’s my experience that the best way to align Sales and Marketing is around factual, shared insights about how and why buyers choose among their options, and what each team can do to impact that decision. Do you agree? I welcome your comments, and hope that you can join me at my Sales & Marketing Management webinar, “Deep Buyer Insights: Closing the Gap Between Sales and Marketing” on Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2012.

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.

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