The Simple Truth About Business To Business Marketing - People Buy, not businesses

One of the challenges that keeps surfacing in business to business marketing is how to define a target customer.  What if you are selling to a company rather than an individual – how do you specify a target?  What is your business to business target market?

To define your business to business target market start by recognizing that you are not marketing to businesses. Companies don't buy anything, people buy. So, your product or services solves a problem for somebody. Know what that problem is and market to that person. This thinking can be a shift for most people, but it is a powerful way to market your business and define your marketing target. 

First, know that never in the history of the world has a business bought anything. 

The other day I was standing in front of a group of business owners and marketing managers helping them to define their target customer – their EngageStory character – and I had this simple epiphany. 

I asked one woman who her target market was; she replied: "small businesses." 

Which is an answer I get dozens of times a week: “I am targeting small to medium-sized businesses, or big businesses, or service businesses or businesses with purple doors.” 

Most people talk about their segments with the conviction of having thought through their target market carefully and precisely defined be a whom they want to attract.

The woman in this workshop could tell me how many people work at her target client, how much money the business makes, whether it is innovative or stuck in its way and so on.   

We have all been trained this way.  This is how we create segments and how we think about our customers.  However, it is wrong.   

My epiphany: her target market doesn't exist, and if you are marketing to a business, yours doesn't either.

knew this but struggled to express it until I just did: stop selling to businesses. 

Nobody listening to you is a business.  Businesses don’t buy.  They never buy.  They don’t even exist except as a piece of paper and an entry in a database somewhere.

Businesses aren’t real; people are. 

People are real.  People buy. 

Individuals in businesses have problems and needs.  The state of a business informs these needs and their needs can absolutely be related to business performance. But it is still the person who has the need and the person you must market to.

The real reason you might target a business with sales in the realm of 20 to 40 million dollars is that people in these businesses tend to have a similar problem. 

However, the sales are irrelevant.  The problem is key.  

Instead of targeting the business with the right level of sales, you must target the individual with the problem. 

Think deeply about your customer, who decides to buy your product and understand what is missing in their life.  Ask yourself (or better yet ask them):

  • What challenges do they face?

  • What is causing them stress at work?

  • How do they feel about what is going on in their life?

  • What do they wish they had?

[Read More: Your Customers Exist in Their World]

Use this information to create a profile of your target customer.  Because you are selling to a person.  People make buying decisions; people have needs; people have nuances and personalities. You must understand the person, not the business.

Targeting this way will make your marketing much more specific, more detailed and easier to relate to.

Therefore, instead of “I target companies with 20-40 million in sales who want to grow”., you target “Business owners who aren’t getting enough out of their marketing and need new strategies to attract customers.”

Then you can get more specific in your targeting and explore a level deeper, getting into the why they don’t have it.  

When you start thinking of your market as people with real problems you can develop solutions that speak directly to them in a way that attracts, engages and increases sales. 

The next step is to understand what is missing in their life

There is always something missing for your target customer.  That is likely informed by the state of the business and the challenges that they are facing, but it isn’t the same thing.  

[Read More: Your Prospect Is Incomplete]

One of my clients worked at a company that was going through a reorganization, and she had to define her team and convince her boss, the CEO of her strategy.  The problem the company faced was how to reorganize.

The problem my client faced was how to convince her boss of the validity of her strategy.  The missing piece wasn’t a new way to organize the company, but rather how to simplify, clarify and explain her ideas to the CEO.  

She hired me to help with the communications and influence first, help with thinking through the structure second.  

It is essential to understand what is missing for your prospect, ultimately the only reason they buy is to make themselves complete.

Successful marketers and successful businesses know that they are selling to people and solving problems for individuals.  

That woman in the workshop? 

The beautiful thing is that once she let go of trying to sell to businesses and started thinking of the people she was targeting and their needs her whole pitch changed. 

She spoke easily and eloquently about whom she was targeting, and I went from a bored listener to a potential client. 

So, stop selling to businesses, start selling to people.