Step Seven: Know Your Customers

May 15, 2017

Step seven of our series “Ten Steps to Drive a Connected Product Program,” explores how to develop personas.

  • Personas are best developed with product and sales teams that have experience in the field meeting face-to-face with users, influencers, and decision makers.
  • Develop a persona for each member in the decision process, and then rank the personas in order of importance.
  • The goal is to create meaningful collateral and campaigns for each persona – to use during the different phases of the sales cycle — awareness, consideration, and purchase. Often the same person who is most concerned about IT security is also responsible for compliance.

As described in Step 1, identifying value propositions is the core element of a connected product program and central to your sales and marketing strategy. At this point, you and your team should have a clear understanding of the customer’s desired tangible results from connected products, services, and solutions. The value propositions created around cost reduction, improved customer satisfaction, and increased revenue are the ultimate source for marketing content. And for the nuance that will take your program from good to great: Have your value propositions been tailored to existing customers or new customers? Or both? The answer should be both — keeping in mind an “upsell” value proposition can be different than a “net-new” value proposition.

Buying personas refer to the different roles encountered during a sale, such as an initial researcher, day-to-day user, key influencer, or executive decision maker. Each of these personas has biases and needs that must be anticipated and addressed by sales and marketing. And in the case of selling connected products to both existing customers and new customers — you have buying personas times two. Because, while the buying personas involved in upsell and net-new opportunities may be the same, they may now have different values and motivators. The goal is to create crisp, relevant messaging for buying personas (existing and new customers), at different phases of a sales cycle.

Veteran sales teams are familiar with the buyer persona tools and campaigns, and new hires will benefit from a greater understanding of the nature of multiple decision-makers and complexities in the buying process. Persona research can reveal distinctive buying behaviors within industries and organizational roles. A typical profile includes demographic information, preferred information sources, work style, work responsibilities, buying behavior, and involvement in the purchase process. Adding a layer of information covering goals and strategic initiatives will enable you to construct solutions that allow them to do a better job.

Personas are best developed in concert with product and sales teams that have experience in the field meeting face-to-face with users, influencers. and decision makers. You and you team will need to develop a persona for each member in the decision process, resulting in several personas. Some sample personas include: Initiator, User, Influencer, Gatekeeper, Decision Maker, and Buyer. From there, your marketing team should develop value-driven marketing collateral for use during the different phases of the sales cycle: Awareness, Consideration, and Purchase.

Internal Considerations:

  • A buying persona’s profile should describe a persona’s goals and strategic initiatives, their place in the buying process, and the frustrations they encounter during their workday. It’s your job to develop value-driven solutions that allow them to do their job better.
  • Don’t create too many buying personas. If even a list of five to seven seems too daunting, then speak with your sales team and ask them to rank the personas in order of importance. The point of using buyer personas is to enable you to get your hands around a discrete number of target customers that matter. The ultimate goal is to create meaningful collateral and campaigns.
  • Each persona will have their own set of information sources that influence them during the difference phases of a sales cycle.

External Considerations:

  • Developing buying personas helps to refine your value-driven marketing strategy. You can’t create compelling marketing content until you really understand the value a connected product program creates for your customers.
  • The value drivers involved in upsell and net-new opportunities may not be the same. The goal is to create crisp, relevant messaging for buying personas at different phases of a sales cycle.
  • Choose the right content, at the right time. Marketing collateral generally falls into three phases of the buying cycle: awareness, consideration, and purchase. Deploy a “less-is-more” approach, and focus on creating a handful of well-targeted pieces for each stage of the buying cycle.

Consider This:

Just as you help create your customers vision, it’s clearly important to calibrate your own.
This will provide the foundation for all subsequent steps. What are your goals for your connected product program? What is the scope of your project, and why? From examples in the field, we know that the costs associated with finding new customers are dramatically higher than the costs associated with up-selling and cross-selling to existing customers. Moreover, when executed correctly, programs targeting your installed based increase customer loyalty because their needs are better met — attrition goes down, profits go up.

“Can your sales, service and marketing teams have value-based conversations, with the right person, at the right time? If the answer is yes, then your teams are in sync and your program is ready to go.”
– Mark Hessinger, Executive Director Worldwide Customer Service, Gerber

The Harvard Business Review article, How Smart, Connected Products Are Transforming Companies, examines the impact of the IoT  on operations and organizational structure. Check out these eBooks summarizing the impact on each business function across the value chain.

Series: Ten Steps to Drive a Connected Product Program

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