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Market to These Key B2B Customer Profiles

Posted by Glenn Chapman

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Who are the individuals in your B2B accounts that your marketing should target? Your prospects' businesses may employ many people, perhaps even thousands. Should you be broadcasting your marketing to all, or zeroing in on key players? This article helps guide you to who your key players are, and how to deliver messages that resonate with each.
 
The focus here is on people. Specifically, employees and decision makers at your prospective client businesses. People, though, are not the only consideration for marketers. Revenue, geography, industry type, growth, and other important considerations come into play for effectively targeting businesses. But every business has people and organizational issues to navigate. Here we'll explore some of these common "people" characteristics and how they should inform your B2B marketing plan.

The Workers: Rank and File Employees

Generally, rank and file employees are not decision-makers for B2B products and services. Yet, there are circumstances where they can be very strong influencers. Businesses do buy consumer products -- everything from soap to smart phones. Often, these workers are the end users and will voice strong opinions to management decision-makers. Marketing to the employees of large employers can be an effective influence strategy. This marketing may also take the form of a hybrid B2B/B2C implementation.

 
Employee-consumers are targeted where they are, whether online or geographically. The goal is to motivate the consumer to influence decision-makers at the employer. In other B2B circumstances, rank and file employees have little or nothing to do with the purchase decision. Large service contracts or big equipment purchases are examples. These types of decisions are often made by a cast of corporate characters who will be familiar with B2B salespeople. 

The Department Gate Keeper

 
Gate keepers take many forms. They are usually not decision makers for significant B2B purchases. Sometimes, they work in a department or specialty area that most often uses your product. For example, the human resource department will likely be involved if you offer human resource services. So marketing to these individuals makes obvious sense.
 
These individuals may not be final decision makers, but they will introduce you under the right circumstances. Your marketing should first focus on awareness. They must know you exist. Only then can they influence decisions in your favor. Often, they are most interested in making safe recommendations to management. Branding your firm as the safe, solid choice helps with this. Finally, appeals to job security and improving their work day are effective messages. 

The Procurement Professional

 
Procurement involvement can be perfectly friendly, reasonable, and rational. In other cases, it can be intentionally adversarial. Procurement pros are trained to be skeptical and discerning. Marketing and sales interactions are routine subjects -- even targets of the skepticism. It is normally "fair" skepticism; that is, your competitors will receive equal scrutiny. Procurement people may be described as extreme influencers, almost to the point of being the decision maker. It is not unusual for procurement to work collaboratively with department gate keepers.
 
In other cases, procurement will aggressively take control of the buying process. This is especially true with early and middle stage decisions. Finding the best value, and often the best price, are primary considerations. Recommending a safe, solid choice is also important to procurement. Therefore, marketing should focus on awareness: making sure procurement has already heard of you. Providing better value than competitors is another appealing message to procurement pros. But be careful. Your claims will be subjected to their thorough verification process, of course!

The Decision Maker

B2B buying decisions in corporations are like a dangling chain: they are subject to breakage at the least supportive link. Marketing can help your case with every link.  Consider a B2B scenario where you have a great service and price, and a great sales pitch. Your sales team is working successfully with two chain links: gate keepers and procurement. Neither had heard of your company until the sales person introduced everyone. No marketing, but a great job by sales so far.Image of businesswoman in anger breaking metal chain

 
Enter the next link in the chain: the senior VP who is told the committee is leaning in your direction. "Who are they? I've never heard of them." This is a very risky position to be in, especially in a B2B deal-close setting! Your sales team is not in the room and your supporters must now choose how -- and whether -- to defend you. No doubt, the senior VP will ask, "Have you looked at big-company-safe-choice-A? Or mid-sized-safe-choice-B?"

B2B Customer Profiles Conclusion

 
The marketing point here is that awareness and branding are not only important for early stage lead generation. In the world of B2B, marketing also helps at later stages to close the sale! As a minimum marketing metric, every targeted decision maker and decision influencer should know you exist. Before they need your product or service. Direct the appropriate messaging described above to each key B2B customer profile. Build buyer personas for each profile. Finally, market to all your B2B customer profiles. Create the impression today that you are here, you are solid, you are stable. You are the safe choice your B2B prospects will choose tomorrow.
 
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