Mapping the Discovery Path – The Foundation
This is the first in a series of blog posts that focus on the steps to building a working “marketing machine” fueled by content and driven by the purchase process. Often companies enter the marketing process knowing that they want to build a machine; they have tools, but no parts or plans to build it. They see another company’s shiny machine and think they need that one. Which leads me to the first step in building the right machine: understanding your target audience and their purchasing process.
There are some basic things to keep in mind when approaching the foundational stage of building your machine. It is important – first – to understand how your target audience goes about solving their problems and implementing a new solution and how the purchasing process works within their organization. This is actually the basis of building the machine.
Here are some sample initial questions to consider in getting to the discovery/solution path of your target audience:
- What exactly is the problem your solution is solving?
- How does an organization go about solving the problem you solve today?
- Does it start with an initiative from the Senior Team?
- Is it less strategic and more practical solution for a mid-level decision maker that has the budget?
- Does it involve re-engineering processes that are currently in place?
Today, many companies assume they know this process – which seems transparent – but when delving deeper it becomes apparent that the process has many layers. It’s easy to miss these layers because prospects usually do not give access to this process. In fact, many times companies only see the back-half of the process once a potential customer contacts the company at the later stages of the decision-making process. For some companies, with a simpler and lower cost solution (more transactional sale), this is by design, but for other companies this can be an issue. This is especially troublesome if a sound content marketing strategy hasn’t been built to support all the potential engagement points in the purchase process or if the marketing process has been based on feeling, rather than fact.
Here is an example of a possible purchase process:
SR Level Contact Discovery/Solve/Search/Suggest/Benchmark – Concept Demo for Understand Requested — Sr. Team Strategy Alignment, and Business objectives alignment – Initiative Created – Budget Grading of Solutions – Quick Pricing Review – Mid Level Initiative Lead – Initiative based research & Discovery – Potential Solution Paths Investigated — User Process/Engagement — Custom Demo Request – Technical Requirements Review — Pricing Review
It is important to understand that an organization’s purchase process is not just how an individual makes the purchasing decision, but how the organization – as a whole – makes the decision. In other words, each individual’s role, within the organization, is a key piece to mapping the machine foundation. So, how do you target each person? It’s important to work backwards and start building the attribution framework by utilizing your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. The CRM is the center of results and the system that traditionally connects sales activity to business results; basically, the engine. This solution needs to become the data center for all marketing and sales activity.
As a side, today there are a number of systems that have popped up outside of the CRM. It is important that these systems become an extension of the CRM so it remains the core database of full funnel results. One could consider this a sales-centric line of thinking but, in reality, it is a more holistic approach when considering the entire digital customer acquisition equation. By integrating this data, one can ascertain patterns and outcomes of all marketing actions that can then be leveraged and expanded to help accelerate growth.
As barriers to this data become easier to access, the more impact and meaningful adjustment can be made based on output and not on shear conjecture. We often fall into this trap. There is not a good marketing or salesperson that can’t “explain” output of a campaign or conversation but, in reality, our market – as we previously discussed – is not transparent. Reading the tea leaves, so to speak, becomes much more important when you are working to gain access to this discovery process with less contact or feedback from the customer. The solution to the puzzle is measuring and mapping output through to business results in the entire process.
Once comprehensive CRM data is developed, the next stage of the process is to “bucket personas.” So, basically, separate contacts into whatever roles make sense for your solution. For example, you can divide personas into Senior/C-level, Director level and then Manager level, Mid-level, and finally, Execution level. It may not be that simplistic in your organization; it really depends on the solution and the nature of your target customer.
Once personas are established, it is important to test different content types to match the different stages of a purchase process and different personas.
Different content types serve different purposes. Content that you build is, in essence, a hypothesis. This hypothesis needs to be tested and the output measured. Once you understand what is driving opportunities and stimulating the right action in the discovery process you should target, replicate and build relevant like content to continue to deliver like results. You may be wondering why I would address target personas as the first step. The reason is it leads to finding the fulcrum; where an organization decides to contact you, the provider. The fulcrum is the most important step in the process. It is the customer acquisition team’s job, including inside sales, to interpret contacts and touches throughout the process, to establish this point and work towards getting organizations there by influencing the buying process, regardless of where they may be in their purchasing process.
There are many layers to this strategy. In the next post in the series, I will address the fulcrum point of communication; how to find where the buyer has been influenced in the conversation to get to this point and how to leverage it.