Written by Ariad Communications on October 10, 2014
in B2B Marketing, Customer Experience

At Ariad we regularly create buyer personas and customer journeys. But so very often at some point in project scoping we hear B2B prospects and clients ask “do we really need to spend time on this, don’t we know enough about our audience already to get started?”

Well the answer, laid bare in two recent Forrester reports, is no. Not even close.

If you’re a B2B sales or marketing professional the reports will make for some uncomfortable reading, and I have to say I was genuinely shocked at the picture they paint; of just how utterly damning B2B buyers are about the state of the sales and marketing they encounter. And it is total, across the board. Not a single bright spot, anywhere, any industry, at any level.

In the reports, B2B buyers castigate sales people for failing to understand their industry, for failing to understand their specific business and for failing to understand the issues they face.

And those same B2B buyers are just as blunt about the abject failure of the marketing material they see – condemning it for being all about the selling company and not about their business challenges, for not answering the specific questions they have at different stages of their buying journey, and for doing nothing to help them in their specific buyer role.

However, I believe there is a huge opportunity here for B2B organizations who are prepared to put in the effort to do things right. But, with that effort comes tremendous reward. Starting to do things right means starting with these three steps:

  1. Find out what your clients and prospects need – Your prospects work for a business that is facing challenges. Find out what those challenges are, how they are trying to solve them, and what will be needed to convince their internal stakeholders your solution can help.
  1. Understand who they really are – Your buyer has a role at the prospect organization. Be sure to really know what it is: their level in the organization, how their professional performance is assessed, the extent of their internal influence, the degree of influence on buying decisions. But then don’t forget all the other stakeholders that will influence the buying decision and make sure you understand them too. 
  1. Know where they are on their buying journey – Make sure you understand the different stages of the journey and the different needs that require answering at each stage. Also make sure you understand the different roles that will play a greater or lesser part as the sale progresses, and that you understand the answers they will be looking for too.

There is no shortcut to get the answers you need. The only way to solve this is to speak directly to your clients and prospects.

Yes, creating the personas and mapping the buying journey might take a little more time up front. But, the power of these tools is clear: they help uncover the real needs of prospects. They show how those needs change as their buying journey progresses and as different roles take part. It’s only when we truly understand this that we can respond with marketing, content, sales presentations that are aligned to and relevant for our prospects.

And when we take the time to do it right, the upside, from our experience and according these reports, is significant.

Kieran Miles is a Senior Strategist at Ariad Communications.

[Sources: Forrester Research: Valuable Message Development For B2B Marketing In The Context of Sales Enablement, June 2014, and, The Failing School System For B2B Sellers, November 2013]

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