I am a big baseball fan and a one-time want to be pitcher. Hitting the target within the strike zone with a variety of different pitches is what separates Cy Young award winners from ordinary pitchers. Their ability to target different parts of home plate with predictable ball movement is an amazing skill and if you have it – you can earn millions playing the game.
Lead generation today is becoming the art and science of targeting. A problem facing organizations today is getting a handle on who to target and where to target. Making the issue even more problematic is the changing behaviors of the buyer. Quantitatively, we are seeing through various studies and reports that buyers are engaged in the buying process differently. Depending on which study, buyers are performing different kinds of activities for nearly 70% of the buying process before sales intervention. And, they are making numerous choices along the way.
A recent report by the Aberdeen Group on sales performance shows there is a fair degree of dissatisfaction among sales leaders with 56% saying they were not seeing sufficient growth in top line revenue. Nearly 30% expressed dissatisfaction with lead conversion to sales. A recent CSO Insights report indicated that only 20% of organizations understood their buyer’s buying process. These two perspectives combined point to one of the key issues – targeting the wrong buyer.
Looking back on over 10 years of specific instances of qualitative buyer research and buyer persona development work, I found that in 6 out of every 10 instances of helping an organization– a different buyer was identified than the organization had been targeting! If you are off-target with the buyer – you will be off-target on your lead generation tactics.
Getting On Target
Marketing and sales leaders today are looking to increase their percentage of being on target when it comes to lead generation. If they are not of the mindset to get the current rate of being off-target down, they will continue to see the same dissatisfying results. There are four steps to resolve to targeting issue:
Buyer Research: It all starts here. You can no longer assume that the buyers you’ve been targeting are the correct ones. I have been party to many conversations where a sales leader laments about this lack of understanding who to target yet in the next sentence tells me that their lead generation teams are busy targeting a certain role or profile. To get to the heart of the issue takes committed buyer research. Qualitative efforts to understand markets and buyers are what improve the target success rate.
Buyer Modeling: For both marketing and sales, this is an important step. You not only want to model who your buyers are but model their buying behaviors. I am not talking about profiling here – which unfortunately many buyer persona efforts are nothing more than profiling exercises and yet still on the wrong buyer. I am talking about going beyond buyer personas and using a set of modeled buyergraphics that point to how your buyers behave during the early phases of the buying process.
Buyer Designed LeadGen: Designing your lead generation strategies, systems, and processes should revolve around your buyer research and buyer modeling. If your lead generation strategies and tactics are designed around the buyer, then conversion rates will rise and productivity amongst marketing and sales personnel involved will rise. The area of lead generation is where marketing and sales are usually out of alignment. With the age old battle of sales feeling that they are getting bad leads. Designing lead generation around buyer research and buyer modeling gets marketing and sales aligned around the same target – the right buyer.
Buyer Training: Like built-in appliances, organizations have routinely conducted product and sales training. I do not have statistics to back me up but I am willing to guess that a random survey would prove that the majority of training is product training. What is needed is to have Buyer Training become a staple of training in both marketing and sales today. The long ramp-up time it takes for marketing and sales to understand the buyer today is out of synch with the pace of change in buyer behavior. As the CSO Insights pointed out, barely 20% of organizations understand their buyer’s behaviors and buying processes! Folks – we are training marketing and sales people to understand and do the wrong things.
Targeting the right buyer is becoming part art and part science today. For many companies, the first important step in tackling this issue is discovering who their right buyers are and where they are with qualitative buyer research. Just like a Cy Young pitcher who knows who is up to bat and what the batter’s tendencies are and where to target the baseball over the plate in the strike zone – lead generation today has to get in its own strike zone.