Know Thy Prospect. Know Thy Customer.

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”.