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Grow SMB Revenues With Buyer-Based Marketing

This is part 3 of a series on the challenge of targeting SMB markets and how the use of buyer-based modeling and buyer-based marketing help organizations to grow their SMB customer base. 

Buyer Persona © All Rights Reserved Cristian Cardenas

The sheer size of the SMB makes for a daunting task for any organization intent on marketing to the SMB segment.  When you consider some Fortune 1000 or Global 2000 organizations can have in the 10’s or 100’s of thousands of companies in their customer bases, the expression of zeroing in on your target buyer can sound near impossible.  It is a dilemma however that cannot be ignored.  The U.S. Small business Administration estimates that the SMB segment accounts for better than 98% of all businesses in the United States.

In the previous article in this series, How To Get To Know The New SMB Buyer, I touched upon the means to get to know the SMB buyer.  Marketing to the SMB segment and buyers should first start with visiting the segmentation issue a little deeper.  There have been many means tried for SMB segmentation whether it is by size, type, vertical, products, solutions, and etc.  To some degree, they have helped to manage the challenge of bringing a tighter focus to the SMB segment and its’ sub-market segments.  Analytics of your SMB customer database is like fighting numbers with numbers – you can contain the data but without behavioral insight – you will not be able to get inside them.  The call to action now is for organizations to bring more science and evolution to the challenge.  Why?  Because buyers in general have changed so rapidly in the last three years alone that gaining a competitive edge has become much more complex.

Getting Descriptive

Going beyond conventional methods of segmenting the SMB customer base means getting more descriptive about how SMB buyers behave and how goals drive their behaviors.  This includes getting a good sense about their Buyergraphics – their attitudes, perceptions, values, information needs, and more.  The attempt here is to answer some tough questions that help to bring more focus to an SMB strategy:

Who are our best customers in the SMB segments and why?

In what SMB sub-market segments are our best customers?

Who are our best prospects and in which SMB sub-market segment are they?

What are the best means of engaging our best SMB customers and best SMB prospects?

Descriptive buyer modeling helps you to get answers to these questions and gives you insight into the data as well.  In the previous article I stressed the importance of buyer modeling to help get to know your SMB buyers.  Modeling buyers and portraying them via buyer personas and scenarios helps you get to the first two questions mentioned.  To help round out the SMB buyer picture, learning their attitudes towards your product, service, or technology and how these attitudes drive information needs help to get deeply descriptive.  There are three specific buyer modeling efforts that can help shed light on the attitudes and goals driving SMB buyer behavior and help inform buyer-based marketing strategies:

Buyer Mental Models: collecting a picture of SMB buyer attitudes, perceptions, and goals that influence buying decisions can be a descriptive means for segmenting as well as buyer-based communicating.  For example if your product technology is getting high marks for user-friendliness and there is strong attitudinal resistance to perceived complex technology in 3 out 5 identified sub-markets, then  creating buyer-based marketing strategies around this mental model is one way of segmenting.

Buyer Content Models: identifying the information needs and goals of buyers today extends well beyond just the concept of content marketing.  With the rise of SMB sub-market segments engaging not only in new technologies but forming new ecosystem, the information needs of SMB buyers are vastly different and changing rapidly.  Carrying the above example further, the information needs of the 3 sub-markets may vary differently in context and how information is shared amongst both suppliers and partners.  More and more, organizations will need to think context-based marketing and context-based selling as opposed to just content-based marketing.  While this will apply to all types of businesses, I believe this will be especially true for the SMB markets.

Buyer Experience Models: how SMB buyers view, perceive, and expect experience is undergoing transformative gyrations.  The way SMB buyers experience inbound marketing and other newer technology-based marketing and sales is certain to be different than larger enterprises.  There are many more what I call Buyer Moment of Truth in SMB that are frankly invisible to marketers and sellers today.  Not identifying where these moments of truth are can be a significant disadvantage in laying out both inbound and outbound marketing and sales strategies.  Understanding experiences is important since they are instrumental in shaping attitudes, perceptions, and perceived values.  For the examples mentioned, previous experiences with technology not yet cleared of bugs may have created entrenched resistance to both new and complex.  Reshaping thinking around experience can then become an important strategy.

Modeling SMB buyers to a deeper level and around the three modeling efforts mentioned gets organizations closer to a true buyer-based marketing effort.  In addition, it gives more robust ability to segment SMB by behavior and context.  Buyer-based marketing can be most effective when it addresses how buyers behave and understanding the context of why they make purchase decisions.

Informed with behavioral buyergraphics that hone in on buyer behaviors and how they are influenced by mental models, information needs, and experience can be a powerful way to resonate with SMB buyers.  Getting at the heart of their contextual environments, which will vary by sub-market segments, gives the insight needed to develop specific buyer-based marketing strategies that defies one-size fits all.   When it comes to the dilemma of how to make sense of thousands of SMB customers and prospects, taking these steps eliminates wasteful guessing and pinpoints buyer-based marketing at the right buyer, the right sub-market, the right context, and the right time.

Next Up: Connect With SMB Buyer Through Buyer-Based Selling

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How To Get To Know The New SMB Buyer

©All rights Reserved Peter Schofield

This is part 2 of a series on the challenge of targeting SMB markets and how the use of buyer modeling and buyer-based marketing help organizations to grow their SMB customer base. 

In the first article of this series, we visited two new realities.  One, that many Fortune 1000 and Global 2000 organizations are turning a focused eye towards growing their SMB customer and revenue base.  With revenue growth potential shrinking in larger strategic accounts due to budget and pricing pressures, many are dedicating attention and resources with more determination than in the past.  The second reality is that they are finding a very different buyer this time around than in the past.  Simply put, SMB buyers are more social, more sophisticated, more connected, and are transforming their buying behaviors at an accelerated pace.  New technologies opening their world to advantages only once afforded to large enterprises.

Waking up to these new realities has set up another challenge for executive leaders.  That is of how to get to know the new SMB buyer.  Here’s how one sales executive put this to me recently:

“One of the things we realized is that we have got to get to know our SMB customers.  If you keep in mind that we haven’t really dedicated much resource to this area, then we are lacking in knowledge per se’.  We’ve got to find out what is important to them versus just giving them some generic sales pitch.”

This is a very salient point for many organizations tend to view the SMB as a whole segment in of itself.  The reality is that the SMB is highly fragmented and consists of many layers of sub-market segments.  Getting to know what makes SMB buyers tick is, by no means, as easy as saying this is your SMB buyer.  Layer on top of this the enormous changes in buyer behavior, the invisibility of SMB buyers in their sourcing for information, and new empowering technologies makes this endeavor a higher mountain to climb.  It is no wonder many executives are walking out of their meetings where SMB growth is identified as a top priority saying – now what?

Getting To Know The New SMB Buyer

The first tough challenge is realizing that viewing the SMB as a single market and that rudimentary means of segmenting by employee size and revenue figures are not going to result in the understanding needed.  While vertical segmentation is of significant help, what is paramount is knowledge of how these sub-markets and buyers within behave.  What are steps that executives can take to understand the new SMB buyer?

Buyer Research: This has to be a clear mission.  Getting to know the new SMB buyer is going to take some level of buyer research.  It is going to take the integrated approach of committing to both quantitative and qualitative approaches to understand the full 360 degrees of the new SMB buyer.

Buyer Modeling: Depending on the degree of fragmentation in sub-markets, powerful buyer modeling can be an extensive exercise.  However, one well-worth the upfront investment to get to know the new SMB buyer in ways that transforms efforts into an order of magnitude competitive advantage.  There are several areas of modeling that by understanding them deeply, can make your organization relevant to buyers and core to their problem-solving:

Buyer Persona Modeling: What is important here is not to model the single archetypal buyer but to model the new levels of interactions buyers are having with newly formed ecosystems and networks.  They may be SMB but they are growing exponentially and organically by creating new ecosystems.  Buyer persona modeling represents composite archetypes based on behavioral research with a focus on identifying critical goals that drive buyer behaviors.

Buyer Scenario Modeling: To get a handle on the problems SMB buyers face and what confronts them, modeling buying scenarios can give your marketing and sales teams insight into how to be relevant.  Additionally, this gives you the ability to address fragmentation and identify sub-market segments that have the best optimal scenarios to be part of the SMB buyer’s solution.

Buyer Decision Modeling: How SMB buyers are making purchase decisions today is changing so fast and by sub-markets that not monitoring this aspect of a SMB strategy can put an organization behind the curve.  While looking at the buyer decision journey can be fruitful, in my qualitative research I’ve noted how the new SMB buyers are adept at more ad-hoc decision-making.  Furthermore, with the rise of ecosystems and networks, collaborative efforts in making purchase decisions are not so neatly streamlined.  Newer technologies are also making purchase decisions more decentralized than ever – making fragmentation on this issue even more complex.

Buyer Value Modeling:  SMB buyers’ value varies widely by sub-market segments.   Gaining insight and modeling how these values operate in their day-to-day world can help you to tailor offerings and communications to fit specific sub-market segments.  Depending on the industry and markets, values in the SMB take on a deeper emotive texture and can be a deciding factor in purchase decisions.

Avoid Big Data Trap

With the rise of big data, there will be a tendency to try and “cut the numbers” every which way to make sense of the SMB market challenge.  When dealing with 5,000 SMB accounts to 150,000 SMB accounts, the tasks of getting to know these SMB buyers at a deeper level can look downright daunting.  Analytics will play an important role towards reaching understanding.  I also contend and advocate that qualitative and predictive buyer modeling is essential to integrate into the mix of discovering the new SMB buyer of today.  Buyer behavior within the SMB world is rapidly changing.  A reasonable assumption can be made that in some SMB sub-market segments it is changing at a faster pace than that of larger organizations.

The combined use of analytics and predictive buyer modeling can yield an insightful picture into how these new behaviors translate into uncovering why buyers make purchase decisions.  And, get closer to the holy grail of uncovering the reasons why they would change.

Next Up: The Importance of Buyer-Based Marketing in SMB

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How B2B Leaders Are Understanding Buyers Better With Behavioral Buyergraphics

B2B Buying Process Today © All rights reserved by Kenny Madden

In the business-to-business world, the quest to connect with decision-makers has been and most likely will continue to be the main challenge confronting B2B leaders.  Meeting this challenge successfully is the essential lifeblood of survival for many B2B companies.  While today’s continuing convergence of the Internet, social technologies, and Enterprise 2.0 platforms are increasing B2B visibility like never before, connecting with buyers and decision-makers is becoming increasingly elusive.

For decades, B2B sales and marketing has relied on business information of the likes of Hoovers, Dun & Bradstreet, and others.  They provide the critical view of market segments and the companies that fall within those markets.  Business information also plays a role in providing B2B with a level of company profiles and firmographics data about organizations within markets.  Business information services also serve a valuable role in drilling down to help with contact information, such as newcomer Netprospex, to provide B2B with potential decision-makers they can reach.  On the other end of the business information spectrum, B2B leaders have relied on business and market research reports that help them understand strategically trends in markets and how they may be impacted.  These reports, often analyst generated, help to shape strategic vision and enable both short-term and long-term planning.

What has been missing?  Where is the void in today’s fast and furious changing B2B landscape?

As the rate of increasingly changing B2B buyer behaviors continues to skyrocket, the void for deep behavioral insight continues to widen.  Behavioral B2B buyer insights are becoming mission critical to informing, shaping, and adapting to changing buying behaviors that are coming in like ocean waves on a sandy beach.  Today’s B2B leaders are just beginning to understand the importance of behavioral analytics and insights for making informed decisions on how to allocate company resources to engage buyers in the new hyper-connected B2B world.

When I introduced buyer persona research and creation a decade ago, the premise then, as it is now, is that it is a methodology for understanding not only who your buyers are but how and why buyers buy.  The primary driver being that understanding goal motivation helped you to understand what drove buyers in decision-making.  What is becoming increasingly clear as a result of the changing B2B landscape is that buyer personas alone may be inadequate (especially as a result of the multitude as well as widening disparity in how buyer personas are defined today) and that gathering a new set of behavioral buyer insight is required to meet the challenge of today.  The B2B leaders facing challenging market dynamics, to fill the void of deep behavioral buyer insight, are becoming more aware of the value of what I term behaviorally oriented Business Buyergraphics™ to understand buyers better.

Understanding buyers better behaviorally is today’s “holy grail” of sustaining competitive advantage that can no longer be guaranteed standing pat for any amount of time.  Behaviorally oriented Market and Business Buyergraphics provide insight into and answers for several crucial questions:

  • How do we understand buyer segments based on purchasing behaviors?
  • How do we understand buying scenarios that we can meet?
  • How well do we understand the buyer decision journey?
  • Do we understand our buyer’s story and the narrative they tell?
  • What are the new buyer ecosystems and networks that affect purchase behaviors?
  • What do buyers think and what are their collective attitudes?
  • How do we know what type of content engages and how buyers will find, use, and share content?
  • Do we understand the critical moments of truth in the buyer experience cycle that affect purchase decisions?
  • Do we understand changing buyer values and how they impact purchase decisions?
  • How do we understand and distinguish the buying behaviors of emerging social buyers and traditional buyers?

The methods for gathering behavioral buyer insight and getting answers to these questions rely on what has been true for understanding buyer behavior – qualitative research and buyer interviews.  B2B buyer research has been heavily weighted towards quantitative surveying methods over the last few decades.  These types of methods remain extremely valuable – getting deeper and understanding buyers better behaviorally however requires some shift to the qualitative.  It will also require a degree of savvy integration of analytics and qualitative behavioral insight.

Without going into an extensive treatise on the tools and methods of behaviorally oriented Business Buyergraphics, they are designed to provide data and insight elements related to:

  • Insight into evolving buyer persona ecosystems and networks
  • Understanding buying scenarios that affect purchasing behaviors
  • The mental models of buyers that affect purchase decisions
  • Insight into buying processes and the buyer decision journey
  • Insight into how buyers find content and share content
  • Modeling the buyer experience to understand critical moments of truth
  • Insight into the perceived values of buyers that shape purchasing behaviors

These tools and methods are utilized to collectively tell the story of how buyers behave when making purchase decisions.  The purpose of behavioral Business Buyergraphics is to enable B2B leaders to understand buyers better in terms of their purchasing behaviors.  This understanding and set of deeper buyer insights informing B2B leaders on what they need to know to shape sales and marketing strategy that are going to work in today’s B2B landscape.  Or, as many would say: at least a working chance when the ability to peer around the corner is getting harder and harder to do.

Understanding buyers better and deeper today as well as more intimately requires filling in the void of the business information spectrum.  Filling the void with behavioral insight into how buyers behave when making purchase decisions and understanding various segments by buyer purchasing behavior.  B2B leaders, who are intent on winning, understand that what they think matters very little – unless they have a good idea of how their buyers think.


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