September 09, 2009

Is It Time to Revisit Your Target Customer Profile?

Key to the effectiveness of lead generation is a clear profile of your target customer. That is the type of company that you want to do business with and can successfully sell to.
Now, it sounds very obvious, that before you shoot your marketing or prospecting gun, you first need to identify at target and set your aim. However, it is often overlooked, with attention being placed on narrow prequalification criterion instead. Here we will provide your with some tips.
Some Considerations Before You Get Started:
There are two important considerations before you set your target customer profile, that is which customers are:
- The most attractive to your business (in terms of profitability, length of the sales cycle, etc.)
- The most ameniable, given the appeal of your solution (e.g. unique advantages), the level of competition, the willingness or ability of customers to change supplier, etc.
This is something that can, and probably should change over time. For example, you may be targeting companies in manufacturing today that have at least 50 employees, but in time want to be ideally positioned to sell to the more profitable pharmaceutical sector at the high end.
That is you may have a strategic ideal, but are realistic in settling for the lower hanging fruit for this quarter and next. It will also be dictated by which type of companies you have we have a track record, or reference sites suited to. In any respect the profile you create today, is likely to change over time.
Finding it Difficult to Create your Target Customer Profile?
Some company find it difficult to create a profile of their target customer. That is because there is not just one single profile, but many. Alternatively, the criteria may not yet be clear.
That is not a problem, in these cases develop as many profiles as you need. Then compare and contrast them, to determine in what proportions they should be represented in your target list for next quarters sales and marketing effort.
People often ask 'How selective should I be?' Well,that depends on how confident you are in being able to predict who will need your solution. It is good advice not to shorten your list too much at the start, you can do that as you progress. That is because every conversation has value, at the early stages in particular. More importantly, we find that in many cases some degree of experimentation is required before the ideal target customer is clear, indeed all science aside for many companes the sweet spot in terms of the ideal customer is often stumbled upon.
Creating the Profile – What to include:
So, how to define the profile of your ideal target customer for the next sales campaign? Well here are some ways you may want to profile who you should and should not be targeting:
Who are they?
Who (among our customers) are they like?
Who are they buying from now?
Who can introduce us?
Who are they influenced by?
What size?
What sector, subsector, or niche?
What is its ownership, or org. structure?
What do we want to sell?
What solutions are they presently using?
What solution do they need?
What priorities do they have?
What success have we had?
What references / examples are relevant?
Where are they located?
Where are they listed, advertising, attending, etc?
When is the need at its most (triggers, critical events, etc.)?
When is the best time to approach them?
Why do they need our solutions?
What problems, or opportunities do they are have?
How sophisticated are they?
How long are they in business?
How much can they spend?
How much competition is there for their business?
How have we got an edge?

Other means of profiling might be: What are its aspirations (e.g. high growth company)? What is its strategy (e.g. green energy)? Who are its customers (e.g. price sensitive retail chains)? What end of the market is it serving (luxury/prestige end)?
The Practical Aspects of Profiling Your Target Customers
By now you have figured it out that setting a profile is the easy part. Applying it to your target list is however going to take some work. However, every company profiled and researched ready for contact, or indeed marked as not relevant for contact, has a real value. In terms of building a high quality list, such an entry is probably worth anywhere between 30 and 40 euro. List building and profiling is an investment that will payback beyond any single sales campaign.
The practical value is even greater however – afterall what is the point in making 10 calls, including voicemails, call backs, etc. to be find out the company is not relevant because it is only a reseller, as opposed to a manufacturer, when that information could have been got via the web.
I have to express a word of caution at this point. It is easy to get carried away throughly researching those companies you are considering contacting. I have seen this happen often, with the result that lots of profiling gets done, but very little contact. The objective is to contact companies, as many as possible in fact, the profiling is simply a means of making it more effective, not of stalling, or hindering it. It is important not to make it an excuse for not getting started.
In particular it is going to require that you spend anywhere between 10 and 30 minutes per company to ascertain if they fit your criteria and deserve a telesales call, or a piece of direct mail for example. Again the upper limit here is important, a cut off point in terms of the amount of time you will spend researching and profiling any company before calling is very important.
Anyhow you have also probably figured out that you are not going to find answers to all the profiling questions on the company’s web site, through internet searches, or annual reports. You are unlikely to get them answered on a telesales call, or perhaps even in a first meeting, and indeed maybe you would want to use the limited time available in those instances for more needs related questions.
However, maintaining the composite of the ideal customer for your business is still important as it will inform your view of the potential for a sale right through the sales cycle. The trick with profiling is that it is ongoing, as opposed to once off.

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