Marketers who are concerned about messaging and segmentation need to think about how the best sales people operate. Top performers succeed because they focus on a target audience and listen before speaking. This is easier for sales than for marketers, as account reps enjoy a “market of one” on each call. But this goal is behind the decision to do market segmentation at all – marketers need a way to develop a strategy and message that will cause a market full of buyers to see our product, service or solution as an exact fit for their needs.
Most of the companies I know have invested in consultative sales training, teaching sales people how to gather information and tailor messages to the needs of an individual prospect. It strikes me as highly illogical that these same companies are satisfied with creating marketing programs and sales tools that deliver a single message to every buying influencer in every part of their market.
I'm worried about the companies that have added a layer of industry or solution marketing people as a way to address the need for segmentation. Most of these haven’t structured their new marketing groups to replicate the sales process at the level of a part of the market, i.e. to gather deep insights into targeted buying influencers, identify patterns, and then group/segment buyers based on similar pain points and buying processes. Rarer still are the segment marketers who have the authority and budgets to understand all buying influences and then customize program messages, sales tools, and go-to-market strategies to buying segments. In fact, most of the industry marketing people I meet aren’t marketers at all, but an extension of the sales organization that devote most of their time to helping the reps on prospect calls.
I once had a client who loudly proclaimed that “marketing doesn’t work.” My reply, “poorly executed marketing doesn’t work, and worse yet, it wastes more money than just about anything else you can imagine.” I’m afraid that segment marketing will have the same fate. Companies are making investments in these areas, yet most of the money is being wasted as the skills ,goals and activities of these groups are misaligned with the rest of the go-to-market team.
Companies are staffing segment marketing groups with people who have been in the industry, which is a good starting point for thinking like the customers. But these people aren’t trained as marketers, and they rarely have the influence or budgets needed to improve the company’s go-to-market strategies.
Segment marketing people need to avoid too much reliance on their histories in prior jobs and their time with the sales people. Market segment experts need to get out of the office and meet people who aren’t currently evaluating the company’s offerings, identifying groups of buyers who share the same problems, buying criteria, information gathering process, and influence over the purchase decision. Depending on the company's offerings, there may not be “differences that make a difference” in how we should market to people based on demographics such ascompany size, industry, or geography. Segment marketers need to look much deeper, to really grok the people who influence buying decisions, being vigilant for new insights and patterns that will allow us to reach out to a group of people and create the experience that there is an exact match with our solutions.