Monthly Archives: February 2018

Know Thy Prospect. Know Thy Customer.test

Let’s begin with a question:

How many of your marketing staff have ever seen or spoken to a prospect? Or a customer, for that matter?

Not many. Not many out there.*

It’s not just you, it’s your competitors as well. Which is why gaining a first-hand, unique insight into the men and women that inhabit our classification of “prospect” or “customer” is a potential game changer.

Changing the game

Bottom line, marketing needs to be:

  • Valuable and relevant
  • Distinctive
  • Compelling, and urge the prospect through the consideration journey.

Positioning, content and messaging can become infinitely more effective once we gain a deeper understanding of how our prospects and customers describe their issues and challenges, their individual and collective contribution and rewards, who they trust, and how and why they make a decision.

My experience is that the skill to learn, adopt, or strengthen in 2018 is gaining this unique insight. If you do this with commitment and agility, it will bring a vitality and immediacy to your marketing, and your product or service to your customers.

I’ll tell you how, but first I will tell you why:

Here’s why

I’ve had extensive experience with Voice of Customer research, and as it has evolved into the prospect persona process. Within that experience is a high-reward trend: the persona process has consistently prevented costly mistakes and illuminated the way to accelerated revenue. Each “aha” moment is a high-value insight:

  • One company was successful in Market A and wanted to enter Market B. Prospects in Market B said that the company’s “tried and true” positioning was absolutely wrong, and why.
  • One company’s product innovation was revolutionary and disruptive. However, the Market was risk adverse. The company felt that surely they could capture the mission-critical applications even without a track record. Prospects disagreed and pointed them to the appropriate entry point.

Here’s how

The persona process involves talking, probing, and carefully listening to prospects and customers, with intelligence and empathy, within a purposeful conversation. The result is a portrait of the person, framed within their business setting. An archetype.

It is their story, written by them, of how they do business. And because it is authentic, it can engender a vision and understanding common to both marketing and sales. It is most powerful when marketing a high-consideration product or service.

However, the persona process does not stand alone.

The power of 3

Marketing is most effective when it is combining information from 3 sources:

  1. Data Analysis. What definable and measureable actions and steps have prospects taken? Analysis of the data brings a critical aspect to our understanding of the person and the organization.
  2. Internal Intelligence. Nothing can replace or even replicate the Sales knowledge of the industry, the players, and the personalities. I’ve also learned through bitter experience that if you want Sales’ buy-in, they must have input.
  3. Persona Research. This not only unifies the marketing and sales perspective, but it enables us to talk to our customers and prospects about what they think is most important, where they go for trusted information, in their own language.

“Knowing our customer and communicating with them in their language, in the places they go in an appropriate way everything else is tactics.”

– Peter Bell, Product Marketing Senior Director, Marketo

The most powerful lever

Within this triangulation of customers and prospects the most powerful lever is the research, because it lets those individuals speak for themselves. When you put this all together and load it into the MarTech rocket ship, you turn competitive differentiation into clear and compelling competitive advantage.


*From Bruce Springsteen’s spoken intro to “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town”.







Gaining the Upper Hand in B2B Prospectingtest

Ladies and Gentlemen, may I please have your undivided attention.

Hah! Good luck with that.


B2B marketing wants and needs the attention of its prospects to shove them along the consideration journey. We’d like our messaging and content to fall from the heavens onto the tongues of prospects thirsty for knowledge, but the deck is stacked against us.


Our prospects are hiding under their bed, with their digital covers pulled over their head, suffering from:

  • The incredible shrinking attention span. Much has been made of the unfavorable comparison to goldfish, nevertheless, goldfish are not our targets. We must earn attention span.


  • The irresistible urge to multitask, which fractures what little concentration is left. Interestingly, neuroscience says multitasking is not really the concurrent performing of tasks (nor is it efficient). Our brains actually go through a stop/start process. I stop reading this article and start looking at puppy videos. Costs time, but multitasking is how we process our lives.


  • The Network of Me. Prospects are both executives and people, and the people side sharply restricts who and what gets through the digital cyclone that comes at us everyday. The person in you decides, beforehand, what sources are interesting. It’s likely that you’re not on the list.


So what’s a marketer to do? Here’s the short, marginally effective list, which you could probably get anywhere:

  • Be clever. For instance, write headlines that are abstractions of pop culture. An analysis of defensive tactics in the SuperBowl might be Game of Zones. (A poor example but you know where I’m going.)


  • Be quick. Utilize the 4-line rule: no paragraph can be more than 4 lines. Let folks know how long it will take to read your content. Put everything in bullets (like this post).


  • Be everywhere. Tonnage works. Cover every possible avenue a prospect might take looking for inspiration or information. Throw a lot against the wall.

Impressed? Not so much.


Or you could get to know your prospect better than anyone else. Empathy and insight will put your content and your message on the Network of Me, inside your prospect’s DNA, on the vein to the brain.

I am definitely advocating distinguishing yourself by taking the time to engage in persona research, where you engage individuals in a purposeful conversation – qualitative research to understand them as executives and people, what is important to them, and how they make decisions.

Compelling Competitive Differentiation

This is a compelling competitive differentiator, and will enable you, or the marketers who get their first, to empathize with your prospect, recognize what really matters and speak directly to it. The trust and respect that engenders is what really matters.

“Knowing our customer and communicating with them in their language, in the places they go in an appropriate way everything else is tactics.”

– Peter Bell, Product Marketing Senior Director, Marketo

It takes commitment, and the courage to change if the research says you got it wrong. The dividend is better qualification, earlier engagement, and accelerated revenue.

As my good friend, Stuart Taylor, SVP of Nielsen said, “B2B is a personal sell. Always has been.”

Gotta hand it to him, he’s right.