Have you ever heard that saying that other people won’t love you until you love yourself? Believe it or not, this applies in the business world as well. Buyers are looking for strong, confident, well-put together companies who do something they can believe in. They want to connect with companies that connect with their friends, and to buy from someone who is supported by people they respect. They want a two-way conversation with a company, and they’re not going to put up with any old-school advertising shenanigans. That won’t fly.
So, how do you become the perfect match for your best customers? There are a lot of ways to answer that question, but before you even begin thinking about how to woo your ideal customers, you need to do some work understanding yourself and your competitors. Let’s start by defining terms and differentiating between advertising profiles, buyer profiles, audiences, and personas.
Advertising Profiles vs. Personas
Profiles vs. Personas
But wait, there’s more! Often you’re faced with a B2B vs. B2C situation as a marketer and you’re posed with the question: “should I be treating these customer profiles differently?” The answer is yes. Or kinda. Or...well, you’ll see. If you’re in a B2B environment, you’ll want to ensure that you’re thinking about your ideal customer profile AND your ideal company profile. We treat these separately because the motivation of the company is less complex and nuanced than the motivation of the actual buyer and those influencers who impact that.
If you’re in a B2C company, you could put together an ideal household profile (as well as an customer profile). This would be especially important if you have an expensive product that will require multiple stakeholders in the home to weigh in on the purchase.
Also equally important is understanding which companies ARE NOT a good fit. If you’re a nutty granola bar maker looking to sell your product wholesale into corporations, don’t target companies who produce food allergy medication. (This is a slightly absurd example, perhaps, but I’m sure you get my point!)
Audience vs. Persona
Evaluating Your Market Presence
Now that we’re clear on what constitutes a persona, it’s time to take a look in the mirror. You can’t know yourself unless you know where you fit in the market. What are you strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, or threats (or, in acronym-speak, your SWOT)? Figuring that out requires a deep understanding of the type of messaging, services, content types, and marketing efforts you are putting out — and how they compare with what your competitors are doing.
When you’re trying to understand your SWOT, I recommend starting with something necessary, if a little unsexy: making a spreadsheet. It may not sound exciting (unless you’re into making spreadsheets, no judgment), but it captures an accurate representation of what you and your competitors are putting out into the world. When I go through this exercise for a B2B client, I build a spreadsheet that includes the following columns, then pull information for both my client and their competitors:
Company | Services/Products | Content Types | Marketing Efforts + Frequency
This allows me to get a snapshot of what my client has done, what they’ve said, how often it happened, and how they presented it. It also allows us to note what their competitors’ voice conveys, how often the offer proof points, and what their proverbial “shtick” is. This exercise leaves us with a non-emotional, non-anecdotal inventory of what we have been presenting to the world, and how it shows up in the market.
Widgets | Dongles | Doodads
So, you might be saying, “now I have a record of what I’ve done, and I know what my competitors do. So what?”
SO WHAT?! Here’s what: this information is essentially the golden ticket to better understanding how you can differentiate yourself in your market. It can inform the types of customers you could cultivate. It could provide you with insights on how to tweak your products or services (or even just your messaging) to appeal to customers your competitor is missing. It is a treasure trove of information to be cherished. In fact, often I highlight the holes in the spreadsheet to bring unignorable attention to the potential opportunities or weaknesses I see.
Now that you have a clear picture of your business and your competitors. In my next blog, I’ll move on to understanding your customers so you can build clear personas.
Make sure to read part 2 in the series where I talk about how to get to know your customers through experience and data. Then, review the tweetchat it all started from over at Erika Heald's blog capturing the conversation. Or if you're interested in learning more about our marketing strategy offerings, we recommend you head over to our Marketing Strategy page!
I'm a veteran digital marketer whose career has grown up with the Internet.