Everyone I have interacted with knows or has heard of the buyer persona, but how to use it effectively in your marketing campaigns, how to use it to define marketing goals and KPIs and how to use it to understand the buyer’s journey still remains an area where one tends to get lost easily.
In this article, we will be exploring a framework that can help founders and CXOs answer the following questions
Not limited to the above-mentioned points, this framework also helps identify the right audience, since not all customers are good customers (yes, I said it out loud!). Early stage companies can have some revenue by reaching out to friends/ family/ connections, cold messages on LinkedIn, etc., but to identify who you want to pursue and build repeatable and scalable growth engine requires focussed efforts. This framework will also help one determine customer acquisition strategy and select the right channels to build a sustainable growth engine.
One of the main challenges I have seen working with several startups is that the company defines its sales and marketing flow with the end goal in mind while giving very little consideration to the buyer journey. Trying to impose your sales and marketing journey on a buyer will yield no or sub-optimal results and may result in the company getting caught in an endless loop refining or tweaking it through A/B experiments that may, at the most yield 15–20% improvement.
Identifying the right buyer journey, first, and then aligning sales and marketing team is very important. This could mean revamping your entire sales and marketing flow and KPIs. Ideally, after identifying the right buyer journey should one test different messages, designs, communications and so on. We have been privy to cases where this strategy led to a 3X to 5X improvement in conversions.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to sales and marketing. How companies structure their teams depend on multiple factors including buyer’s journey and the category the company is operating it.
Let’s look at the different buyer journeys for different types of companies and in parallel, let’s look at how sales and marketing function should be structured.
For classifying companies we will be looking at two parameters, complexity of understanding the product offering and purchase decision/ buying complexity. Broadly most of the companies will fall into one of the four quadrants, the X-axis being buying environment and the Y-axis being product complexity.
This following table and the four quadrants are based on Forrester’s B2B buyer archetype matrix.
The buyer matrix will look like this:-
It is important to note that different offerings by the same company can fall into different quadrants. It is important to remember that the buyer’s journey is product specific and not company specific.
Companies may adopt single or multiple strategies for their various products, however, there are a host of benefits for a company adopting single strategy as opposed to different strategies. These benefits reflect across capabilities ranging from hiring, team structuring to cross-selling and up-selling.
In some cases, such as when a company catering to the mid-market segment wants to expand enterprise clients, is when they would need to employ different strategies.
Let’s deep-dive into the buyer’s journey for each quadrant now.
Broadly, the buyer’s journey for a product falling in the ‘Serve-me” quadrant will look like this:
Given the buyer’s journey in the ‘Serve-me’’ category, the sales and marketing function will be as below, with marketing function driving activities from generating awareness to getting free-trial to getting the user to upgrade to a premium plan. The sales team will have very little to no interaction with the user (as indicated in red).
Generally, companies building products for SMB’s and catering to large markets where customization is not required will fall into this category.
Some of the examples of companies that follow this flow are MailChimp, Freshworks, SurveyMonkey, WordPress, and many others.
The buyer’s journey in the ‘Guide-me’ quadrant along with the sales and marketing flow will be as follows, with marketing taking care of functions ranging from generating awareness for the product or service to generating leads for the inside sales team. The sales team will be involved in providing a demo, answering questions and closing the deal (as shown in red). As companies scale, the marketing team will start qualifying leads based on BANT or any other method and also start scoring leads based on historical lead to sales data.
It is important to note that marketing teams work will not stop at generating leads, they will also be involved in lead nurturing and drip marketing campaigns at each stage. For already acquired customers, the marketing team will work closely with the customer success team/ account manager to provide periodic newsletters and product updates.
Generally, companies chasing mid-market clients follow this approach.
Some examples of companies that follow this flow are, Clevertap, Chargebee, Hubspot, etc.
The buyer’s journey in the ‘Show-me’ quadrant along with the sales and marketing flow will be as shown below, with the marketing team owning right from creating awareness among users to acquiring them. Please note, in this case, the marketing team will not target buyers, but the users.
This strategy only works when the product is simple to use, individual users are able to find initial value (aha moment) by using the product and are able to extract more value by inviting other users to use the platform, thereby creating a network effect.
Once multiple people within the organization start using the product, the enterprise sales team reaches out to offer an enterprise plan with added benefits. This is also called the bottom-up approach of marketing or product-led growth.
Detailed sales and marketing strategy can look like this
Green -> marketing team, Yellow -> product team, Red -> Enterprise sales team
The ‘Enlighten-me’ model works best when the buying environment is complex, clubbed with product complexity. Usually, two (or more) functions (i.e. IT, Sales, Marketing, Finance, HR, etc.) are involved in the purchase decision with one function initiating and the other, validating. Both functions typically have strategic and operational needs.
Below is the buyer’s journey flow with ideal sales and marketing flow:-
The marketing team is involved in creating awareness and generating leads/ demos for the sales team. Marketing team will work with SDR (Sales-Development Representatives) and AE (Account Executives) to close the deal and assist them at different stages to maintain account interest and push them down the funnel.
The marketing team will focus on creating awareness in limited accounts and that is where Account-Based-Marketing (ABM) comes in picture.
ABM has multiple stages too, it can be pre-targeting nurture (making the account aware of your product and its offerings), lead to account nurture (engaging and informing stakeholders and decision-makers —targeting user & buyer personas in the account) and then account nurture (engage key stakeholders at target accounts (already in the database)). SDR may function as an inside sales team to understand requirements from the client and support direct sales representative in closing the deal.
More about ABM with other details another time :) [For now, you can read this informative article on Account-Based Marketing written by Erik Devaney at Drift.]
Before thinking about your product marketing strategy or running A/B experiments, it will be beneficial to select the quadrant your product falls in the Buyer Matrix and chart out the buyer’s journey for the persona you want to target. Post that, define the sales and marketing flow — make sure you are not running elephants to chase deers.
In the next article, we will be looking at how to map the buyer persona and buyer journey to your marketing strategy. You can read it here.