One of the first things we do when starting a new customer engagement is to ask a series of basic questions about the target market, the target personas (the buyers and sellers to be interacted with), the market pain that is being solved, the thing or things that are unique about the customer’s offering, etc. (It must be something about our training.)
It is always surprising but not unusual when working with smaller companies to see that many of these questions often have no answer—whether clear, immediate, or at all.
At best, these questions were answered when the company was founded (5 to 10 years ago or more), but the answers never evolved along with the market. Worst case, these questions were never asked in the first place, and the company basically felt its way along, hitting every pothole along the way with the inevitable impact on finances and employee morale. While such perseverance on the road to eventual success can speak to the character of a team and its members, it is hard to draw many other lessons, aside from “what not to do next time”, if given the chance.
Such an approach to addressing the market you don’t have (as opposed to the customers you do) is akin to flying blind. It prolongs the “spray and pray” approach to marketing (spend money and see what sticks!) that was supposed to be rendered partially moot by the introduction of tools for quantifying and tracking customer intent across the buying cycle. And so, lacking insight into market needs, many companies were left with the usual “garbage in, garbage out” dynamic and then wondering why marketing and sales plans didn’t work out.
At Digitera, when we sit down to start a new customer engagement, we immediately speak to the importance of answering (or updating) these outstanding questions regarding the business the company is in (or wants to be in), the nature and the value of the product or solution, the typical and the ideal customer, etc.
We also involve employees from different functional groups. From our experience, this effort to provide clarity has value not only for sales and marketing needs but for the entire organisation:
- Marketing and sales teams have a better understanding of what problem(s) their solutions address, they have better messaging, and they better target their marketing and sales efforts
- The management team better understands the core product / solution offering and is better able to evaluate the efforts of the marketing and sales teams.
- The engineering / operations teams have a better appreciation of the impact of the product or solution on the lives of customers; they better understand what the marketing and sales teams are trying to achieve; and, they better appreciate how their own efforts contribute to the achievement of marketing, sales, and ultimately, company goals.
We call this clarity about purpose, direction, etc., the “gift that keeps on giving” because everything flows from it. Customer messaging, sales tools, product design, internal measures of success, etc. Everything the company touches or does benefits from a clear internal understanding and clear wording about what is essentially the company’s reasons for existing.