A Free Strategic Marketing Plan: #1 Get to Know the Target Customer

For those of you who missed our intro post, we are presenting a series of articles that, when combined, will demonstrate a sample, actionable inbound marketing plan. This is the approach we would take for a client–in this case Safety Inc., a fictional B2B company that sells maintenance safety products, and whose core market is facility managers, safety managers, and facility engineers.

Our goal is to give you an idea of how the inbound process works in a practical way, and to allow you to plug in your business name wherever it says ‘Safety Inc.’, and see how effective it can be for you.

So let’s get started! We start at the beginning…

Step 1: Get to know the target customer.

You’ve heard us discuss marketing personas at length. That’s because nearly everything in inbound comes back to those. The more that you can get to know your buyer personas on a professional and personal level—not just their pain points on the job, but also what their fears are, what they deal with at the end of the day—the more you’ll be able to speak directly to them.

We as marketers would never take any action or put any strategy in place without this critical step of getting to know the customer, because all we’d be doing is putting out content that’s speaking to no one or everyone. And that’s not helpful or effective for you or your audience.

There’s a few ways we go about doing this.

A) Speak to everyone in the company. We’ll dive into every aspect of Safety Inc., and ask the right questions about who the audience is to anyone who’s been involved with them. It’s critical to span all departments with this research—not just marketing.

For example, sales is a crucial piece, as they speak directly to the customer, and therefore likely have much insight into who they are and what exactly they’re looking for. It’s important to know the kinds of questions being asked by unqualified vs. qualified prospects. This allows for a greater depth of targeting and the complete focus on those prospects worth Safety Inc.’s time. Every inside sales team knows this kind of data. They can instantly sum up the qualities that make a prospect hot, or one who just wastes their time.

B) Speak to current customers—especially customers who have been around for a while. We’d do a sort of journalistic investigation, reach out to Safety Inc.’s customers through surveys, and ask questions that will clue us into why they’re buying from Safety Inc. For example, what problems are they solving by using Safety Inc. products?  How is their experience working with Safety Inc.?  And then we span out into broader questions: Who do they report too? How often do they meet with their supervisors? What does their supervisor look for from them? The more that we can make your customer look good in front of the people in their world, the easier that sale will be for them, and the more eager they’ll be to work with Safety Inc.

When we’re putting together the buyer persona for Safety Inc., we really want to put ourselves in the heads of our safety/ facility managers/ engineers. We want to know when they’re getting into the office. Did they buy a cup of coffee on the way, or do they put up a pot when they get in? Are they spending most of day in front of the computer, or rather on site, walking around the facility and meeting with their team? Such questions tell us things like how often we should email them and what time of day will the email best get read at.  It will determine if, for example, producing video content will be more effective than long form articles.

We also want to understand where our personas stand in the pecking order. Do they have a team under them? Are they laborers or contract workers? Are there additional managers on the team? Understanding what their position is in relation to the rest of the team will influence how we speak to them, conveying a level of respect by acknowledging their expertise in the matter.

The ‘getting to know the customer and building out buyer personas’ stage will and should be quite a hefty time investment, because it will influence everything that’s done moving forward. Further, the expectation is that you won’t be switching up your personas that frequently, so it’s worth the investment of doing it right the first time.

If you’re following these steps and applying this to your own business, you might find that you have multiple buyer personas. That’s fine. I would start with 2-4 in the beginning. You’ll probably find that you thought you had a need for more personas at the beginning, but when you start building them out, you’ll realize that you can section off a lot of the characteristics of your personas into fewer categories.

Also, there’s a lot of tweaking and adjustments as you go, so don’t spend the time building out 7-10 buyer personas when a month into it you’re going to get data coming in telling you, “Oh, we missed the mark, there’s only one buyer persona,” or, “We’re seeing that the buyer personas are splitting further down in the sales funnel, so we shouldn’t break them down so early in the game.”

So—step 1: get to know the customer. Dive in there, utilize all the departments in the company, and get all the knowledge needed to truly know who’s being spoken to through the determined marketing actions.

Once you know who you’re speaking to, you’ll be ready to answer their questions with the dynamic content, as explained in Step 2…