Tag Archive for: Cascade Insights
What was the last movie you watched? Maybe it was Top Gun: Maverick or Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Now, imagine that you’re a cast member on the set of one of these movies. If you have the movie script, you’re going to understand each character’s role in the movie, what their lines are, and what motivates them. In fact, if you understand the story well enough, you might just improvise an iconic scene. However, if you show up to set without a script, you won’t know what the story is, what your lines are, or how you should even respond to the characters around you.
The same idea applies to B2B sales. Fundamentally, you need to understand how the buyers and stakeholders in your target accounts talk to each other and how they embark on and conclude a buying journey. Buyer personas give you a sense of how these conversations start, end, and what type of “dialogue” each character uses. Most importantly, buyer personas give you a broader view of the decision making process.
Don’t Fast Forward Through Your Buyer Personas
One of the most common mistakes salespeople make is the failure to recognize that there are several decision makers involved in the buying process. In fact, Gartner reported that an average of six to 10 people are involved in most buying decisions. Our experience shows that many sales teams struggle to even identify five roles involved in the decision making process.
Moreover, Buying Facilitation author Sharon Drew Morgen calls out a key point about sales when she states, “a seller is in a unique position to serve a buyer by helping them discover the how, what, when, where, and why needed to solve a problem within the parameters of their culture.” She follows a bit later in her book with this key point as well, “[a single] buyer cannot know all of the answers to your questions because the odds are huge that they have a decision team working with them.”
So, how does a seller go from not knowing an organization to understanding their culture? How does a seller go from knowing one member of a buying team to understanding the needs of the entire buying team?
First, sales teams need to slow down and ensure they are meeting the needs of each stakeholder. The best way to do this is to establish some baselines as to what a typical stakeholder for your product or service might want from a vendor.
Secondly, sales teams need to be certain that the messages they are sending align with the needs of the buyers. Similarly, marketing teams need to ensure that any account based marketing (ABM) content or broader based content addresses these needs as well.
Third, marketing and sales teams need to understand how a stakeholder makes decisions over time. In nearly all cases, some members of the buying committee have a role to play at the start of the journey, middle, end, and a limited number will be involved in the project from start to finish.
For example, when a movie starts, we might have some sense of the climactic battle, but we don’t know the role that every actor might play. Is the character we meet in the opening scene going to be with us throughout the entire movie? Or will they “be brief and be gone”? Is the character we meet towards the end the true person our hero has to defeat in the end? Or is there someone lurking in the shadows who is even more powerful?
We see this idea play out in the Hobbit movie trilogy. It might be obvious as the first movie begins that Frodo is going to be with us through the end of the story. But Sam is the real surprise, as without his help, it wouldn’t be possible for Frodo to defeat Sauron.
The key takeaway: If you fast forward through the entire movie, would you really understand the plot (sales process)? You might understand how the battle (or sale) was won or lost, but you wouldn’t really understand how it happened. You wouldn’t understand which actor (or persona) was critical to the story, and you wouldn’t understand who was rooting for the hero (the seller) or against them.
Supporting Actors Need to Understand Everyone’s Role
We once worked with a client who had successfully built relationships with leadership at several universities. This client wanted to develop buyer personas for university c-suite roles to inform their marketing strategy and related materials. The goal was to take a role-based approach rather than leading with a product-first strategy.
To make this pivot successful however, the sales and marketing teams in our client would require a deeper understanding of the needs of key buyer personas. In particular, our client was focused on the needs of a VP of Research and a Chief Academic Officer in a university setting.
In a typical university, a VP of Research and a Chief Academic Officer have different responsibilities. A VP of Research is responsible for directing the university’s mission, focusing on policy issues, and establishing community relations. A Chief Academic Officer ensures academic quality in all departments, programs, and services within the organization.
Our client learned that each persona would need to hear a different message if they were to develop an interest in our client’s solution. The sales team would best be able to develop rapport with the Chief Academic Officer by discussing fundraising in academia. Similarly, the VP of Research might be interested in communicating to the student body about research grants or new partnerships.
The key takeaway: Buyer personas give you an essential look into the motivations and needs of each buyer you’ll meet on the journey to a successful sale.
Buyer Personas Tell You When It’s Time to Say Your Lines
We recently conducted a buyer persona project for a client who sold a SaaS solution of interest to law firms. They learned that law firms rarely make any recommendations to clients about what software to use because they don’t want to be liable for anything.
However, Chief Legal Officers or General Counsels who work for companies about to go public might be interested in the software.
As a salesperson, this discovery shows that you can’t always rely on referrals from every market segment you might touch. Without this information, a sales team’s outreach efforts would be fruitless. This knowledge allowed our client to utilize B2B buyer persona research to create extremely targeted outreach — maximizing the use of their sales and marketing team’s time.
The key takeaway: You can’t always rely on existing clients to evangelize for you. Sometimes, you run into people who aren’t interested in your services whatsoever. But with buyer persona research, you’ll be able to maximize the value of your efforts and minimize wasted opportunities.
Buyer Personas Align Sales and Marketing Teams
Famous movie duos aren’t always in agreement throughout a movie. Take Maverick and Rooster, for example. Throughout the better part of the movie, Rooster resents Maverick after learning that Maverick pulled Rooster’s application to flight school, setting him back from his peers.
However, after Maverick gets shot down in an effort to distract the enemy jets, it’s none other than Rooster who risks his own life to save Maverick. The dynamic duo then steals an old enemy F-14 aircraft and barely makes it back to the base alive.
The beef between Maverick and Rooster created a riff across the entire team. This tension almost cost the entire flight crew their lives as they trained for the dangerous mission.
The same idea holds true for sales and marketing teams. When everyone is clear on what personas you’re going after you can provide unified sales and marketing content without confusion.
The key takeaway: It’s frustrating for a buyer to get different messaging from sales and marketing teams. Being in alignment internally creates a better outcome for your buyers which is the ultimate goal. Aim for cohesion, not confusion.
Be the Hero Your Buyers Deserve
In Top Gun: Maverick, Hangman only gets 35 minutes of screen time. (In contrast, Maverick gets 113 minutes, and Rooster, 66 minutes.) Although Hangman is an integral part of the jet fighter squad at the beginning, he isn’t selected for the death-defying mission. However, just as Maverick and Rooster are about to be shot down, Hangman comes in and saves them in the most heroic way possible.
The moral here for B2B sales teams is clear. Even the characters with the least amount of screen time can make a big impact. It’s easy to focus on the stars and forget that other actors can help you achieve your goals. Like Frodo and Sam, or Maverick and Hangman, you need to understand all the key personas, not just the ones with the biggest titles or the most screen-time if you want to win the deal.
Finally, don’t ask your sales team to win a deal without giving them the knowledge of all the players that matter, especially those folks who seem to be merely a supporting actor at first glance. We can help you get that early first look at the script of the buyer’s journey so you’ll know before anyone else how the story turns out in the end.
With 15 years of experience in B2B tech market research, Cascade Insights understands the value in knowing your buyer personas. Learn more about our sales services here.
Special thanks to Sean Campbell, CEO, for advising on this piece.
Marketers often find themselves stuck when trying to create the right messaging frameworks for their organizations. Maybe it’s because they are nervous about suggesting a new messaging framework without the data to back it up. Or perhaps they weren’t hired to solve that type of problem; they were hired to drive existing marketing campaigns. So, they’re not confident in their ability to create new messaging. Or maybe it’s because they’ve been sitting at their end of the table for so long that they no longer even know what their buyers’ needs are.
Asking the right people to participate in your research study is just as important as designing and asking the right questions. You simply can’t have a successful market research project with a rushed recruiting effort at the start.
Sometimes, this means using a research vendor to assist with fielding the right participants. Vendors such as panel providers and expert networks are frequently tapped to identify respondents for research studies. But if you are using a research vendor and still throwing out a large number of respondents or are having trouble making sense of the data, it’s time to dig into the problem. And that may mean it’s time to switch to a new sample provider.
This is one of several blogs in our latest series, “Delivering Bad News to Good People,” where we explore different types of bad news we’ve had to deliver and how these discoveries help companies create meaningful impact within their organizations.
B2B brand research can help to measure the relationship customers have with your company’s products or services. It may either confirm brand awareness hypotheses you already have, or it may surface new opportunities or unexpected perceptions among your buyers.
Sometimes, the findings uncovered in brand studies come as an unpleasant shock. Although initially upsetting, confronting the truth is a necessary first step to success. Once you understand where your brand stands, you can begin to address the gap between customers’ existing perceptions and how you want them to perceive your brand.
Perception precedes reality. – Andy Warhol
At Cascade Insights, we are often the messengers who deliver bad news to good marketers. Below, we’ve laid out four examples of bad brand news we’ve had to deliver, and how they were able to use that information to change the tides of perception — and reality — for their brands.
Bad News #1: No One Knows Who The Heck You Are
The context: We once worked with a cybersecurity client that was initially interested in learning about how their product compared to competing offerings.
In the survey that we administered, we asked respondents which cybersecurity organizations they were aware of. Their responses showed that our client’s product was not as well-known as what they had thought.
Key takeaway: Marketers often don’t like what the brand research tells them. But information — especially of the unpleasant variety — inspires action.
Once this client fully grasped the reality of their situation, they then had the leverage they needed to launch a smart B2B brand awareness strategy.
Bad News #2: No One Knows What You Offer
The context: One of our clients commissioned a brand study to investigate how recognizable their core offerings were to their clients. This client explained that its core offerings were foot traffic data, geo-contextual awareness, and point of interest data. Yet, at the same time this client wanted to expand from being seen as purely B2C focused to someone who could handle B2B needs.
We found our client had a very positive brand perception among B2C consumers. While this company’s social media presence was well-known, its B2B offerings were not as recognizable. In fact, almost 20% of survey respondents weren’t aware that this company offered foot traffic data. Given this client wanted to grow their B2B footprint, this was a challenging finding.
Key takeaway: While this may be perceived as bad news for our client, the study revealed key insights regarding its varying B2B and B2C awareness that enabled them to react, adapt and realign themselves with target customers.
Bad News #3: You’re Not Being Perceived How You Think
The context: One client of ours had recently made a significant effort to engage with the open source community and invest in a number of different open-source projects. After this investment, they wanted to conduct brand research to see if buyers recognized them as friendly to open-source.
Unfortunately, our research uncovered that buyers felt our client was not involved in open-source projects at all. To make matters worse, despite our client’s efforts in the open-source space, buyers didn’t feel that our client contributed to open-source projects. Further, our research revealed that buyers were more likely to work with a company that they perceived to be open-source friendly.
Key takeaway: Initially, this news was frustrating for our client to hear after already working to establish themselves in the open-source space. But, the research made it clear that they had more work to do. Additionally, it reinforced the value buyer’s placed on organizations who truly embraced open-source.
Bad News #4: You’re a Well-Known Brand, But Not a First Choice
The context: We conducted a brand study with a cybersecurity client who needed to determine their level of brand awareness. Our survey asked respondents what brand characteristics they felt were most important and how they would rate other cybersecurity on these attributes.
After completing the survey, we discovered that our client had a relatively high level of brand awareness. This result was a positive takeaway considering the market was so segmented. Despite this, only 5% of respondents said they would actually consider switching to our client from another vendor.
Key takeaway: You won’t be a good fit for everyone. But if you aren’t appealing to the customers you want, you need to know why. This brand study unearthed customer values that could inform the strategic messaging pillars to use in the company’s sales and marketing efforts.
We’re Not Always The Bad Brand News Bears
We’re not always the bearers of bad news. We’ve also seen instances where companies’ key brand attributes aligned exactly with what the market cared about.
For example, one of our clients wanted to conduct brand research to measure how well their customers’ perceptions mapped onto the company’s brand values. Our client believed they were perceived as a caring, friendly, and responsive online HR provider. Our research confirmed this hypothesis, and the respondents emphasized how much they appreciated that our client’s values aligned with buyers.
The point is, brand studies don’t always deliver bad news. They can also confirm positive sentiments about your products and services. But until you actually conduct the research, you won’t know the reality of where you stand in the market.
You Can’t Ask Life to Take The Lemons Back
In the well known game series “Portal,” Cave Johnson voices the following quote.
“All right, I’ve been thinking. When life gives you lemons? Don’t make lemonade. Make life take the lemons back! Get mad! ‘I don’t want your damn lemons! What am I supposed to do with these?”
Unfortunately, for Cave Johnson, and all of the rest of us, you can’t ask life to take its lemons back. Nor should you get mad about it. But you can make changes. Those changes can be a simple light that others in your organization can choose to follow. And that change in direction can lead to more prospects, customers, or market share.
If you’re tired of dealing with lemons, or you think you might have some lurking around, drop us a note. We can help you figure out what to do with them – instead of just throwing them back.
This blog post is brought to you by Cascade Insights, a firm that provides market research & marketing services exclusively to organizations with B2B tech sector initiatives. Want to learn more about the brand research we deliver? Our B2B Brand Research can help.
Special thanks to Sean Campbell, Co-Founder & CEO, Tyler Honsinger, Director of Research, and Raeann Bilow, Content Marketing Architect, for advising on this piece.
The power of a strong B2B buyer persona is undeniable. In the past, creating them brought a competitive advantage for companies that used them. Today, it’s more than just a benefit; it’s a necessity. However, if your personas are so generic that you can’t effectively reach your target audiences, you might want to think about basing those personas on a firmer foundation of truth.
A remote company’s account of applying and being selected as a “Top 100 Business to Work for in Oregon”
For the second year in a row, Cascade Insights has been selected as one of Oregon Business’ 2022 Top 100 Businesses to Work for in Oregon.
COVID-19 threw organizations into a blender, with significant repercussions for the B2B buyer’s journey.
Users aren’t buyers. Unfortunately, B2B companies typically skip over this essential fact.
It is also true that B2B companies tend to buy buyer persona projects quite frequently, and user persona research much less so. We believe this is a mistake. Both research efforts are equally important, and the failure to do either one can lead to a lost customer down the road.
One reason for this divide is that marketers typically purchase buyer persona projects, not product research. These marketers are rightly concerned about the buyer’s journey, how buyers influence each other in the buying committee, and the customer’s key buying criteria. Regrettably, with all of this emphasis on managers, directors, and VPs, minimal attention is placed on users. And users can make or break a product’s success. Read more
Research needs to be acted on. Otherwise, what’s the point? A market opportunity study is one of the most powerful tools a business leader can use to drive that change.
Too often an organization falls down the rabbit hole after launching a market opportunity effort, simply because they can’t see the path forward.
At Cascade, we don’t just drop market opportunity research on your (virtual) desk and walk away. Instead we stick with you to make sure you learn, apply, and drive change inside your organization.
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- Customer Experience Research
- — Buyer Persona Research
- — Buyer's Journey Research
- — Key Buying Criteria Research
- — Jobs-To-Be-Done Research
- — User Personas
- — Customer Satisfaction Research
- B2B Product/Service Research
- — Market Opportunity Research
- — Concept Testing
- — Go-To-Market Research
- Marketing Enablement Research
- — B2B Data-Driven Marketing Research
- — Message Testing
- — Brand Research
- — Thought Leadership
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