One of the biggest challenges in any marketing or sales role is getting the right prospects in the room or on the phone. This difficulty is pronounced even further in the B2B (Business-to-Business) space because often the people responding to your messaging are not the people who control the organization’s budget.
Finding real leads requires cutting through the noise. You must find the people who feel the pain that your product or service solves and, simultaneously, have the authority or influence to do something about it.
“Where are these elusive buyers?” you might ask. The most difficult part of answering that question is that the answer is different for every industry and often for every individual company. In other words, the answer must come from you. Fortunately, the process to find that answer is similar across all businesses.
Understand Your Customer
You might be tempted to try to find your ideal buyer by analyzing your prospects: their traffic, your top-read blog posts, or any number of other metrics. The problem with that approach is that there’s no guarantee the people you are studying bought something from you. Let’s take one step back and look at the one group of people you know need your product/service: your existing customers that already bought it.
The data you have about your current customers is not just useful for your operations, accounting, and customer service teams. It can help your marketing and sales departments identify who your true prospects are. Not sure what to study? Start with these three factors:
1. Your customers’ demographics.
Consider the primary person your sales team worked with to close the deal and/or the person(s) your service teams work directly with. Who is this person?
- What is their professional role and experience?
- Do they share certain personality traits?
- Do they maintain professional credentials? What are they? Who issues them?
- Whom do they report to in the organization (or are they the owner/chief executive)?
- What departments at their company are they directly responsible for?
2. Your customers’ firmographics
If you have never heard the term “firmographics” before, it is the same concept as “demographics” but for businesses instead of people. Your customers’ firmographics are all the factors that define them as organizations such as:
- The industries they work in.
- Their main competitors.
- How long they been in business.
- What they sell and to whom they sell it (i.e. B2B vs. B2C).
- The way decisions are made at their companies (e.g. top-down vs. democratic/committee-based)
- Where they are based geographically.
There are so many more firmographics you could examine. The great news is that if it is important to who your customer is, there’s a good chance this information is already being tracked by someone at your company.
3. Your customers’ network
Almost every business forms partnerships with other businesses and interacts with industry-specific professional societies or publications. These relationships represent opportunities for you to influence more referrals, which we all know are some of the easiest deals to land.
It’s impossible to influence a customer directly to refer your business, but what if you have a good idea of whom your customers might be talking to regularly? If you reach out to these prospects, there’s a good chance they will ask your customers, “I heard about XXX company, and I know you use them. What do you think?” This question prompts your customers to share their positive experiences.
Therefore, identifying the networks, both formal and informal, your current customers operate in is an important step to finding great leads.
Bringing It Together
As you start working through this process, there’s a good chance you thought of other factors that define your customer base. Great! Include them as well. Then, once you are ready, bring all this information together.
What you have done is create what marketers call an Ideal Customer Profile. It is the list of characteristics you expect your best leads to have. The more factors a prospect checks off, the more likely they are to be a fit for your product/service; and we have proof, too, as these criteria come directly from your existing customers.
This approach not only helps you find leads who are like your current customers, it also gives you the opportunity to play with one or a few factors to find verticals that are ideal for your business. For example, say your customers are concentrated in one industry but you identify another industry that attends the same conferences and reads the same publications. With some tweaks to your formula, you should be able to pivot to this new opportunity since it has so many factors in common with your current customer base.
There’s so much more to explore on this topic, and I hope you will continue to follow our blogs to learn more about how you can optimize every aspect of your business.