Whether you work in a B2B or a B2C company, it’s critical to understand who the target audience is and why they might purchase a product or service that your business offers.
I’ve had numerous sessions with CEOs and clients who want to sell to “everyone!” Not only doesn’t “everyone” buy any product (even toothpaste, detergent and shampoo have less than 100% penetration), but spreading marketing resources thinly with a “shotgun” approach misses the target buyer more often than it hits one.
Recently, I came across another problem with a target audience segment. My client wanted to target two segments of a specialized field because he felt that both audiences had the same motivation to purchase.
After I went back to brand basics, and started listing the two targets’ problems and company solutions to address those problems, I had an “a-ha” moment. It turned out that industry goals and operating plans led everyone to believe that the two target audiences in this B2B field should be moving in lockstep toward financial prosperity. In reality, one of the target segments had no motivation to follow management’s over-arching goals. In fact, this segment had dis-incentives to build company prosperity.
One of the target segments was being rewarded for cost-costing, when management wanted them to cut costs and increase revenue. But this target had no financial or career motivation to build revenue. Actually, if the segment increased revenue, they would be penalized by management who bench-marked this new revenue goal and expected the managers to beat it the following year. With their jobs being structured so that they didn’t gain any benefit for meeting revenue goals, they chose not to.
A similar situation occurred at a company I used to work for. It was a B2C retail company, with each outlet’s staff divided into two physical segments. Management kept scratching their heads about why the staff in the front of the store wouldn’t refer customers to products in the back and visa versa. One day I sat in a store to try and solve the mystery.
The front end of the store and the rear of the store were providing product alternatives to the same consumer problem. I could see that staff on the retail floor resided in two invisible silos. Each group provided service to customers on their own turf, but never crossed the line in the proverbial sand. Why?
After asking some pointed questions of the employees, I discovered that each half of the store had different managers, different salaries, bonus and incentive structures and different goals. Actually, the two employee org charts didn’t meet until the two branches reached the CEO. With competing agendas to raise sales in their own areas, the two groups had fallen into a pattern of never taking a customer to the other side of the store. There was no motivation and no incentive to do so. In this case again, there was dis-incentive to cross-sell all the store products if it didn’t count toward the sales goals on the individual staffer’s side of the store.
When you start to think about your target audience and how to reach them, dig a little deeper into the under-currents of motivation that are running beneath the surface. Then look at your own employees and determine how their incentives are structured to connect with your target audience. You may find that no amount of branding or marketing can overcome these crossed purposes, which have nothing to do with your product or marketing efforts, but have everything to do with WIIFM: what’s in it for me?