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If you are a CEO, CSO, or CMO, I am sure you’ve been confronted by the statement: “we know everything we need to know about our buyers” from your sales or marketing departments. This may be especially true in a company where there is a long rich history and you have an established customer base. In today’s changing buyer landscape, this type of statement may no longer be 100% true. What sure signs might tell you the organization may be losing its grasp on understanding buyers?
Information is Filtered: information on buyers comes from the same sources repeatedly it seems. It sounds like a chorus - sales, marketing, customer service, support, and corporate strategy all saying the same thing repeatedly. Also, you hear consistently about the same top, 5, 10, or 20 customers and prospective buyers and how great are the customers the company has and how those prospective buyers are just ready to close.
Slippery Slope: efforts to achieve revenue growth have been like trying to climb a slippery slope. You are not sure why this is happening either. However, the numbers tell you that the company hasn’t made much progress in the last couple of years.
Missing Segments: you are reading all the industry reports and you read about segments that are using your product or service – and you ask – why are we not selling in this segment? When did this happen?
Buzz about Competitor: at one time, the company name was the entire buzz in the media. It is down to a trickle now. Your competitors have become the new media darlings and the buzz of your buyers.
Social Media Confusion: the company seems lost on what to do about social networking and that new “thing” called social media. Sporadically, you hear an anecdote that the company wasn’t talked about favorably on a social networking site. Or, the company received glowing reviews but you have no idea how to use to the company’s advantage.
Marketing Spend: like the inertia of a rolling stone, you’ve been spending the same amount or more on literature, trade shows, sales collateral, and the likes. However, you can’t put your finger on exactly what you are getting out of this spend.
Sales Opportunities: every month, the pipeline looks pretty much the same. Also, you notice that some have been in the sales cycle for a long time. Longer than what you recall it used to take to win deals and acquire new customers. And all those glowing explanations of how you won or elongated stories of how you lost just don’t tell you anything. And when you call a lost customers or prospective buyer on the phone – well – it is just downright “silent”. You know that when you hear, “really, the company was a close second” often enough - you are not getting the full story.
In-house and Purchased Reports: you have globs and globs of those “thud” reports from every angle possible. You’ve bought third party industry trending and forecast reports and the company has a busy bee hive of market researchers clattering away in front of their screens. The problem is that there is too much information and you hate to admit it – you don’t even know what to do with it!
If you have one or more of these indicators going on in your company, it sure is a good bet that the company’s understanding of its buyers is no longer solid and perhaps not even in the 60% to 80% range. It is also a sure sign that the company has relied far too long on traditional means of knowing their buyers. A heavy reliance on sales representative reports, gleams of quantitative market research reports, CRM system reports, anecdotal trade show reports, third party industry reports, calls to customers on those deals you won as well as the deals you lost revealing little, and those friendly customer lunches arranged by your sales force – in which all combined are not telling you much about your target buyer.
All of these and more cumulatively tell you that you may no longer really recognize who your buyer really is. It may be time, the next time you hear “we know everything we need to know about our buyers”, to say “no we really don’t know as much as we should about our buyers.” It may be time to look into how to get deep buyer insights that can only be gathered though qualitative means as well as create those buyer personas you've been hearing about.