Many businesses spring from the founder’s experience of a problem and dissatisfaction with the current solution set which led to the creation of a new and superior solution.

This understanding lets them identify whether the new solution is better and how to communicate this to an audience. The founder knows the audience and how it thinks as they were originally one of the audience before they created their business, so they can put themselves in the shoes of their customers and nudge the proposition accordingly.

Defining the right customer

Properly identifying the customer is an essential step in targeting your communications and sales efforts regardless of whether your running complex retargeting or affinity campaigns on social networks or social selling via LinkedIn you need to be able to describe the customer effectively and remain within the target. Some questions to consider:

  1. Are they defined by a specific public criterion ( HR Manager, Working Mum etc)
  2. Are they likely to be in a specific area?
  3. Do they work for a specific type of business?
  4. Are they members of a specific industry or social group?
  5. Are they users of a specific social network or commercial sites that could be leveraged?

There will inevitably be some back and forth in this process especially once you choose your main communications channels, as there may not be a way to properly target based on the criteria that you have chosen. Experience will also force you to refine your choices.

For segmentation and targeting criteria to be effective, your chosen target needs to be

  1. Measurable - I.e there is readily ( cost effectively) available data on the segment you’ve picked.
  2. Actionable. The segment needs to be reachable. For example, there is little sense having an online business targeting indigenous Amazonian tribes
  3. Substantial - the target market needs to be large enough to make a sustainable and profitable business from
  4. Actionable - you need to actually deliver the solution to this market

What does the customer want?

No-one wakes up the in the morning thinking " I must go out and buy a new software tool this morning!". More likely they have a set of objectives to meet and problems to resolve and will spend time seeking the solution to those issues. This is the critical step as it defines how, where and what you will need to communicate to attract their attention and promote engagement with your sales channels.

Consider:

  • What issue is the customer trying to resolve?
  • How would the customer communicate that issue in their terms
  • Where are they going to go to seek a solution
  • How will the customers business benefit from implementing the solution
  • What other solutions exist?

Language and communications channels

Understanding how your customer speaks and what channels they value most will give you a head start in building your communications plan in a way which will directly resonate with your audience and increase engagement.

Each business and function has its own set of concepts and jargon that it uses to simplify problems and streamline communications. It has certain places that it goes for information and a certain way of asking questions. People within the industry tend to describe themselves in certain ways which are meant to communicate specific skills or experiences to others within the industry.

For you to be able to communicate with your target customers you need to understand the relevance of these terms and ensure that you are speaking and listening in similar terms.

Online Search

At the basic level, your customer will be searching for a solution online and will have a specific set of keywords that they will use. Without getting into the complexities of how Google and other search algorithms identify and rank pages, keywords are still an essential part of the process. If your customer is looking for “how to retain talent” and your keywords talk about “keeping staff”, chances are you’re going to miss them.

Similarly, if you’re looking for the HR manager, and everyone’s changed their title to Chief People officer, you could be missing potential customers.

What’s the problem?

You need to understand how your customers' problem is described by them so that your solution can be described in similar terms, this shows that you understand their issues and allows them to see your problem in the same context.

Where are they going for information?

Whilst Google is relatively ubiquitous, it's not the only source of information and if your target market has active forums, specific industry sites and groups or makes extensive use of Reddit or LinkedIn as the font of all knowledge, you need to be aware of this and be active on those sites.

The difference between Customers and Users

Within the B2B space, you are likely to encounter a broad range of stakeholders within the decision-making circle, with the current rule of thumb being 6.8 stakeholders involved in each decision.  In simple terms, however, there are two types to be aware of

  • User - this is the person that ultimately benefits from the solution
  • Customer - the person who makes the decision to buy.

This is an important distinction as the user may not have decision-making authority and the customer may not see the benefits you deliver, so carefully consider what to communicate to whom.