Is your sales team so in tune with your prospects that you land most deals? Does your marketing team really know how to speak to your target audience?

It’s a common question early in the process of developing any marketing or sales strategy – who is your target audience? The majority of business owners, marketing managers and sales directors believe they know the answer – and know it well. However, if you find that your marketing efforts are falling short, or your sales team has longer close cycles and low win/loss ratios, perhaps you should start at the beginning.

Do you truly know your target audience?

Even more important to consider is how well does your competitor understand your target audience? Is  their deeper understanding providing an advantage over your organization?

We all do business with people, not buildings. Having a thorough understanding of who you are targeting goes beyond a high-level outline. The beginning of this process is asking the basic question of who – age, gender, socioeconomic background. You must then understand the pain they feel and how you solve it. Then you must know the major challenges your target audience must overcome to be successful.  Once you have these questions fully answered, you have the beginnings of a target audience profile.

Challenge the Norm: Creating a fully developed target audience profile requires deep knowledge of who you wish to attract. The steps you take from the basic beginnings outlined above will be slightly different if you are you selling to consumers (or using a consumer model) or are you selling to businesses?

The initial steps are the same – you must have an ideal target profile that is so descriptive you could recognize the person if you met him or her on the street. Try to visualize them, and maybe even give them a name, after all they are real people. Once you have one of these written for your primary targets, then you are in a much better position to create a solid marketing message and lead generation funnel.

But what about B2B? Again, you want an ideal target profile but this time you will create one for every person in the buying process. Let me give you an example – if you sell large industrial equipment, then your target client might have four people that make the decision to purchase. The warehouse manager who determines the type of equipment best suited for his environment, the operations director who decides how many warehouses need this equipment, the CFO who must sign off on all large purchases and determines if this is within budget or worth the money, and last but not least the subject matter expert- in this case the guy who is actually going to use the equipment and whose opinion gets weighed heavily when the initial decision to move forward is made.

Now, it is easy to recognize decision makers in the B2B purchasing process, but we often forget the users and SMEs who have great influence over the decision. Understanding the process that each person goes through to make a buying decision is very important. While it may be easy to generalize that everyone starts with research but buys based on emotion, the bottom line is that each person’s decision making process is different. Remember that emotions are individualized, and therefore what influences a person to actually make a person vary. Understanding all the nuances for each of the people in the buying process will improve your sales efforts significantly. And puts you in a much better position to really understand your target audience.

Now, you can choose to simply create a high-level profile of your target and hope for the best. But the next time your competitor lands your deal, you might want to ask yourself – do they understand the target audience better?

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