When it comes to reaching your ideal customer, marketing and sales activity is ultimately focused on reaching the decision maker and those who are most likely to purchase the product or service. After all, if you have the decision maker and purchaser interested, then it is pretty much a done deal, right? Wrong.
Part of the reason you may not be effectively reaching and connecting with those who will ultimately buy your offerings is because you have missed the mark in reaching and connecting with everyone else that may be involved in the process. While the decision maker can also be the purchaser and potentially the end user, in many cases these roles can be totally different people. In some cases, you may have three, four or even five different people ultimately playing a role when considering your product or service.
1. Initiators: How is it determined that your product or service is needed? Who feels the pain first and then declares the need exists? Who feels the excitement or desire first and then shares the value it can bring to someone else? For instance, an office manager is continually frustrated by the time it takes for a couple of computers to boot up in the office. She confirms to the owner that time and money is being wasted because of this time delay. However, the owner has a speedy little laptop and doesn’t quite relate to the need, only thinking of the money it will cost to replace the equipment. Another example is a child that is having difficulty learning in school. The teacher may identify the need for additional tutoring. The parent is the purchaser and will make the decision of who to select, but the child is the end user. If the child cannot connect with or see benefit personally from the tutoring, then it won’t matter in the end.
2. Influencers: Who may be influencing the purchase of your services? Who may be in a position where their opinion matters, even though they will not be actually making the final decision, purchasing from you or even using the product or service? Going back to the office manager example, the owner finally sees the need and decides it is time to look into options. The office manager is assigned to seek solutions and has now become the influencer. However, the company also has advisors who the owner resources to make some recommendations. This then influences the direction the office manager takes in identifying possible solution providers.
3. Decision Makers: How often have you pursued a potential customer only to find that the person you were dealing with was not the final decision maker? Pretty frustrating, wasn’t it? The unfortunate reality with most prospect pursuits is that too many assumptions are being made about the decision maker. Are you absolutely certain you are dealing with a decision maker and not the initiator, purchaser, user or influencer? Part of the discovery process needs to be about defining everyone’s role in the scope of your offering. Getting a bit of history of how the company has approached buying similar services or products is a good starting point. Once you understand which role the initial contact is in, you are then in a position of power and influence to get to know all the players in order to ultimately reach the decision maker. However, if you then treat this person who is not the decision-maker like they no longer matter, not realizing their role in the process, you have pretty much signed you rights away to earning any business with this potential customer.
4. Purchasers: Do you have an offering that is purchased by someone other than the decision maker? In larger companies, you may be dealing with purchasing departments that can go as far as dictating a short list of approved suppliers. However in consumer or small business situations, various types of purchases may be handled by different people and even decisions may be shifted depending on what is being purchased. Knowing this is critical to how you communicate your offerings and show your sensitivity to the different roles.
5. Users: Knowing how your products or services are being used ultimately seems like a no-brainer, but can also be a glitch for companies marketing their products. The classic example of not understanding the user and what is important is in showcasing features versus benefits. Who cares about the features? What matters are the benefits resulting from the features … the problem being solved, the results being realized, the feeling that is achieved, the emotion that is experienced, and the solution that no-one else seemed to have.
The key is to know exactly the role everyone is playing in the process and addressing in your communications and presentation of offerings what is important to each of them as it relates specifically to their role. Understanding the benefits and needs that are to be met for each of these roles is where true genius in marketing communications occurs. It also assures you are not unintentionally “snubbing” the very person that is critical to your product being considered, selected and ultimately preferred.
Sherré DeMao is author of the nationally acclaimed books, 50 Marketing Secrets of Growth Companies in Down Economic Times, www.50marketingsecrets.com, Me, Myself & Inc., www.memyselfandinc.com, and Dream Wide Awake. Her column seeks to help business owners build and grow sustainable enterprises and businesses with economic value and preference in the marketplace.