people-puzzle-piecesThis post is part of a series to help B2B organizations improve sales and marketing cooperation. Part one was about making sure you have the right information to get started. In part two, you’ll learn how to identify the target buyer and outline the buyer’s journey.

After agreeing on your business goals, the next step is one of the most important – making sure you’ve identified the right target buyer. That means both your sales and your marketing teams have to agree on the buyer persona and then design their programs and processes to attract this buyer.

Do research to determine and define your target buyer

To start, determine your organization’s most valuable customers. You can identify your most valuable customers using the factors most meaningful to your business, such as revenue generated, product purchased, sales cycle time, etc. Then look for common characteristics, such as company size, buyer role, or industry. An example target buyer profile might be of owners of small businesses (5-20 employees) in North America who sell (something specific) to the trucking industry. Most sales these days depend on a team of buyers, and you may have personas that are alike except for level or responsibility. Our small business owner might have an employee in finance or ops or marketing that will help make the decision. That buyer should have their own persona, as their concerns, risks and rewards may be different from the business owner’s.

Sales should participate in the identification of this core set of target buyers. Marketing should research these personas to determine whether their marketing campaigns can attract enough of these buyer profiles to justify the investment. Learn more about the basics of developing buyer personas and get tips for building a content plan to meet the needs of your target audience.

Create and agree upon the target buyer definition and journey

It’s also important to identify the steps that your best buyers took to become customers. That way you can create a map of the buyer’s journey that detail how your buyers make their purchasing decisions. Make sure you publish your personas and buying journey maps internally so that everyone in the organization is on the same page. Learn more about creating a map of the buyer’s journey, from initial awareness all the way through to conversion and expansion.

Build your marketing and sales efforts to attract this target buyer

Magnet attracting peopleOnce the target buyer has been defined, it’s time to design the kind of sales and marketing process that will attract these types of buyers. For example, if your target persona is likely to be looking for articles and blog posts around a certain topic, you should begin to build content that will attract them to your website. You might want to develop an email nurture campaign, where a prospect is sent a new message on a regular schedule (often every week) with a relevant article or eBook about the topic.

Here’s an overview of the eight basic steps you should take in order to figure out who your best customers are, and what path they are most likely to follow in order to buy from you.

  1. Look at data to determine your best prospects. Begin the process by looking at data for your current customers. Try to find customer segments that are the most valuable to you by looking at revenue, gross margin, and sales cycle length. You want the segments to be distinctly different from each other.
  2. Look for common traits. Analyze the list of high-value customers by searching for common characteristics: company size, location, the buyer’s role, and industry type are all examples of possible common features.
  3. Meet with individual sales reps to get anecdotal feedback on the data. In most cases, the data will tell you enough to determine your initial profile of the target buyer, but sales has to agree. Meet with sales leaders and get their input on these buyer personas. Agreement may take several conversations and drafts.
  4. Determine whether marketing can generate leads for these buyer types. Before finalizing your personas, make sure you’ve agreed on buyers that you can actually market to. If you choose a persona that is very difficult to attract, marketing won’t be able to deliver on the requisite number of leads and the entire sales and marketing process will break down.
  5. Map the buying process of your target personas. After you have created your personas, outline the steps a buyer takes from their current state to after they purchase your product or service. This insight into the buying process will allow you to create highly effective sales and marketing messaging, programs, and processes. For example, many companies create content for each stage in the buying process to first attract the buyer, then to help the buyer move to the next stage in their process.
  6. Publish (internally) your findings. Once the target buyer personas, journey, and attendant messages are agreed upon, you need to distribute them to sales and marketing to ensure that everyone is targeting the same buyers with the same messaging, at the same stage.
  7. Optimize the target buyer persona definitions quarterly. Each quarter, sales and marketing should evaluate the current buyer personas by leveraging data and anecdotal feedback to determine effective they are. Sales and marketing should also look at any new data to identify opportunities to create new personas. For example, a company that targets small businesses might find that they are starting to close more business with larger customers; they might decide to create an additional target buyer persona as a result. Keep up with this; the market is dynamic and your personas will change over time.
  8. Test new buyer personas. Companies often need to test new buyer personas as they enter new markets. In this case, sales and marketing should agree on the number of test personas and the frequency of the testing. The key is to test likely new personas without disrupting your current efforts.

Did you miss part 1? Catch up here:

Successful Sales and Marketing Alignment, Part 1: Get Started

Stay tuned for the next blog post in this sales and marketing alignment series, where you’ll learn how to design the lead process.

Want to learn more about using buyer personas in your marketing strategy? This Buyer Persona Toolkit is a great place to get started.