Customers focused on a tech solution

 

‘We’re customer-centric’, ‘put yourself in your customer shoes’, ‘the customer is always right’ – I won’t go on. There are heaps of well-known phrases about being customer-focused – some more eye-roll inducing than others. They’re easy to say, harder to live by.

But, they basically all boil down to one concept – you should care what your customers think and maybe, more importantly, feel.

Being customer-focused is about understanding your customers as much as possible and building your strategy, including your marketing, around that knowledge. And I mean REALLY understanding your customers. Spending 30 minutes cobbling together some vague details about a fictional ‘buyer’, giving them a fancy name and calling it a persona, just isn’t going to cut it.

Creating truly useful personas takes time, but they can help to supercharge your business and it’s possible even if you don’t have any customers yet.

What is Customer Focus and why is it important?

Build it and they will come, won’t they? 

Well, I hate to break it to you, but it’s extremely unlikely.

You can have the best idea in the world, hell, you might even have the most outstanding viable product out there, but that alone won’t translate into a successful business. People have to be looking for a solution to the problem you solve. 

They need to be able to find out about your product and service, they have to want your solution over others available and be willing to part with their (or their businesses) hard-earned cash for it.

That’s why being customer-focused puts you in a strong position and it starts right from the beginning, in the strategy phase. 

Focusing on your customers from the beginning means you can:

  • Understand the size of the prize available
  • Learn the sweet spot for your pricing
  • Know what differentiates your offer 
  • Establish the messaging that will resonate the most with your ideal customer

What’s the Point of Customer-Focused Marketing?

When you think about it, is there really any other way to be? Well, unfortunately, you can see the evidence of that without looking too hard. 

Much of what you’ve read won’t be brand new to you and you may think that elements sound obvious, but if you’ve ever squirmed at a pitch, deleted a sales email without opening it or ignored that LinkedIn connection request, you know many businesses miss the mark.

Even with the best intentions, it can be easy to fall into the trap of just jumping straight in and going for the sell. Often it’s driven by passion, even obsession for your business, but it can also be driven by desperation. Desperation for that elusive sale.

There probably are some examples of brands that have thrown enough at the wall that something has stuck, but let’s not get distracted by some outliers. Although no-one ever turned down a good helping of luck, it doesn’t make for a reliable business plan!

Being customer-focused forces you to look outward more. For example, an inward focus might have you doing the online equivalent of using a megaphone on a street corner and shouting about your amazing features and functionality. An outward focus ensures you connect those features to the benefits they represent to the user. It also means you find out where your customers are and find ways to be helpful to them. 

The great news is that being customer-focused actually makes marketing easier. When you know your ideal customers inside out, you know how to help them, what content they are looking for and what tone and messaging will resonate with them. You’re stripping out the guesswork.

Turning Marketing into Sales – Know, like, trust

Customers can’t buy from you without knowing you exist – no matter how perfect your solution might be for them. You’re also much more likely to get that sale when your potential customers like and trust you. 

It may take your customers just minutes to get to know, like and trust you, but more likely, it will be months or even years, particularly in the B2B enterprise world. The sales cycle can vary hugely. By having your Marketing and Sales efforts working together (I know, crazy right?) you can help guide your buyers through that journey, giving them the opportunity to get to know, like and eventually trust you.

You want there to be a consistency across your Marketing and Sales – customers should know that they’re speaking to the same company. Having a strong identity can help to draw your ideal customers in.

The role of marketing isn’t over once you’ve got someone to sign up either. There are opportunities to create additional touch points or moments of contact with your customer base, to ensure they have a great experience with you, entice them to spend more and encourage them to keep coming back. Personalised and contextualised communications are a powerful way to position yourself as a helpful partner to your customers. 

When you know your customer well you can segment your audience and send them the messages that are most likely to drive those individuals to action.

The Customer Experience

Delighting customers and keeping them coming back is arguably just as powerful, if not more so, than winning new customers. This is why considering the whole life cycle of a customer, and the experience you provide at every stage, can add serious value.

If you’ve not tried Journey Mapping before it can be a powerful tool to help you see the experience from the customers perspective, as well as spotting those all-important areas for improvement. It also prompts you to plan your approach to onboarding customers, issue resolution, upselling, renewals and even cancellations – helping to avoid the dreaded churn.

An important aspect of developing and delivering an outstanding customer experience is to keep the lines of communication open and make sure you’re listening to the ‘Voice of the customer’. Depending on the size, scale and nature of your business this could be setting time aside to speak to your customers on a regular basis (something I’d recommend), all the way through to introducing more formal customer feedback programmes. 

Whatever the method, the important part of the process is what you do with the information. 

Does Customer-Focused Marketing Work?

Customer-focused marketing definitely has its benefits, but it’s most effective when it’s part of an overall customer-centric strategy.

Having all elements of the business aligned from marketing, through to sales, customer success and product development,  you can ensure that you draw customers in with a brand promise that fits with their needs and then deliver and build on that promise throughout the lifetime of that customer.

Although gaining new customers is obviously a goal, keeping them, as you will know, is equally important – but somehow always seems to be the poor cousin of new sales! However, if you can create that elusive brand loyalty, it can lead to customers becoming brand advocates, referring your business to their friends, family and colleagues and helping to drive sales down the line.

The power of positive word-of-mouth should never be underestimated. 

And, of course, there are ways to encourage that behaviour in your customers to make it as easy as possible for them to share their great experiences far and wide!

Potential business customers waiting sitting on chairs

How can you attract your ideal customers? Well, to start with you have to know who they are. Sounds so simple right?

However, to have customers knocking on your door, you have to really understand them, you need to go deeper than just identifying a broad target market.

Building a buyer persona gives this process structure and provides you with clarity to make decisions across all areas of your business. Before we get stuck into that, let’s just review what we mean by a buyer persona.

The definition of a buyer persona

Hubspot defines a buyer persona as ‘a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customer.’

At its core, I don’t have an issue with this definition, except that the ‘semi-fictional’ element feels a bit unnecessary and unhelpful. Wouldn’t it work just as well if that element was dropped?

In the wrong hands, the concept of it being ‘semi-fictional’ could conjure up the idea that it’s actually made up, rather than the more accurate ‘based on a true story’. I like to consider personas as more fact than fiction, although granted, your real-life customer is unlikely to be called ‘Enterprise Ed’ or ‘Sales Rep Susan’.

Personas can be used as a guiding light for decisions, prioritisation and development, but this only works if the time and energy are put into crafting them well to start with. As the saying goes, shit in, shit out. 

Researching your buyer persona

Research is what makes your persona actionable, firmly based on fact and not fiction. Your persona shouldn’t feel like a stranger, it’s an aggregation of people you should know well, albeit with a slightly ridiculous name. 

Without research, a persona is likely to be a flat and unconvincing stereotype, more likely to put customers off than bring them in.

Although personas are typically depicted as an individual, they need to be based on an aggregation of people, gleaned from a variety of sources. Personas are there to represent a key segment of your target market.

A marketing persona is a composite sketch of a key segment of your audience.” Ardath Albee

Even if you don’t have customers currently, there are ways to research your buyer persona. And, you can continue to fill in the gaps and fine-tune the persona over time as you learn more about your customers.

For any business, personas should be considered as always evolving and developing as technology changes and expectations shift. They need to be regularly viewed and adapted to continue to be a useful tool.  

You might discover that you have multiple personas, and that’s ok. Just remember, each persona should represent a key segment of your target market, not a handful of people. 

 

Are your customers picking you, or are you picking them?

Your marketing should act like a magnet, both attracting and repelling.” John Espirian, Content DNA. 

I love this analogy. However, repel is a pretty strong word. I’d suggest your aim isn’t to be the solution version of the creepy guy at the end of the bar, but rather the subtle dress code that signals to people this is the club for them. 

Having a clear idea of your buyer persona and ideal customer helps you to market to the people that are the best fit for your business. You can move closer to serving them rather than selling to them – a far more enjoyable experience for everyone involved.

Trying to appeal to everyone is exhausting and usually not very effective. It’s far better to have 10 leads that all convert, than 100 dead-end ones.

During your research, you can also create an ‘anti-persona’.  This could represent people who will never buy or can’t afford your solution, or if they do, it’s a disaster – constant problems, complaints and negative reviews. Let’s try and give them a wide berth, shall we?

 

Buyer personas vs. user personas

Although there might be some overlap, your buyers aren’t necessarily going to be your users and vice versa. This could be because you’re selling an enterprise software solution, or toys aimed at kids! 

Understanding both buyer and user personas for your business is ideal. This provides you with a strong foundation for not only attracting customers but for developing and evolving solutions and creating fans. After all, gaining new customers is only part of the battle, you also need to keep your wonderful, loyal existing customers happy.

 

The benefits of creating personas

Traditionally buyers personas tend to be most closely associated with sales and marketing departments. I would argue that personas have value across an organisation. Whether the roles are customer-facing or not, having a shared view of who your business is serving can only be a good thing and sounds like something everyone in an organisation should know.   

There are heaps of benefits to developing and using a well-crafted persona (buyer and user), some of my favourites are below:                             

For marketing

  • Crafting relevant content that resonates
  • Understanding the key problems your solution solves
  • Knowing where your customers are and the right messages to target them with 

For sales

  • Building rapport and developing relationships 
  • Tailoring conversations around the customers’ issues and desires
  • Anticipating and alleviating barriers to purchase

For Service roles

  • Offering empathy and the right resolution to any problems
  • Understanding user goals and the best way to support them
  • Tailoring conversations to a user’s level of knowledge

For Product Development

  • Developing solutions that solve problems
  • Prioritising the features that matter most
  • To shape successful User Experience (UX)

Marketing is a fascinating blend of art and science, best practice processes wonderfully combined with creativity. With some many tools and metrics to look at, it can be easy to fall into the trap of chasing the numbers.

Buyer personas can bring you back to what will actually make a difference, how you can serve real people and start attracting your ideal customers. 

Need some help with developing your buyer personas? Check out my services to get you started.


I’ve mentioned some fabulous resources in this post, here are some handy links and some additional further reading suggestions.

Content DNA: Using consistency and congruence to be the same shape everywhere. John Espirian, 2020

Buyer Personas: How to Gain Insight into your Customer’s Expectations, Align your Marketing Strategies, and Win More Business. Adele Revella, 2015