Five Tips for Getting to Know Your Prospects

by Dianna Huff, of www.dhcommunications.com

If you want to be sure your B-to-B email communications are targeted to your prospects' interests and relevant to their jobs, you need to understand their job functions and the challenges they face. Get to know your prospects and you can learn how to easily turn the features of your product or service into benefits your prospects can't live without. Today, our friend and marketing expert, Dianna Huff, helps us get started with five great tips!

A.G. Lafley is the CEO of Procter & Gamble and his one simple rule has changed P&G from a floundering corporate giant to one whose stock has doubled: "The simple principle of life," he told a group of laundry executives, "is to find out what she wants and give it to her. It's worked in my marriage for 35 years and it works in laundry." ["P&G Chief's Turnaround Recipe: Find Out What Women Want" - Wall Street Journal, June 1, 2005]

Mr. Lafley's statement is about women consumers and, as the article states, reflects a philosophical shift on the part of P&G to look outside the company for solutions to problems. In other words, P&G is spending hours watching women use their products to learn what women care about most.

When it comes to B-to-B, however, there is a huge disconnect between how companies are pitching their products and what prospects want - a point borne out by the articles I've been writing for MarketingSherpa. Each article focuses on how to market to a specific job title, ie: How to Market to Sales Executives, and which marketing tactics work best. (You can view the complete list of articles at my Web site.)

In order to write these articles, I've spent hours on the phone interviewing numerous executives and professionals. It has been a true learning experience because I am hearing first-hand how marketing and sales efforts are falling on deaf ears. The number one complaint? Companies simply do not understand to whom they're marketing and why.

The constant refrain I'm hearing is, "Don't give me hyped product information. Give me information that will help me do my job better. Understand my job and what issues I'm facing. I'll be much more inclined to talk to you if you aren't 'marketing' at me."

To craft on-target messages, you have to know to whom you're writing. And the only way to do that is to know your company's prospects - from what they deal with every day to the issues affecting their jobs.

Follow the tips outlined below:

Tip #1. Attend trade association meetings.

One way to learn about industry trends and big-picture issues is to attend your prospects' professional organization meetings, seminars, and conferences. You'll pick up a great deal of information - including what your prospects are saying about your company and your competitors.

Tip #2. Become good friends with editors/sales reps of trade publications.

Trade publications are a great way to get information about the very people to whom you are marketing. Many publications conduct readership surveys; Machine Design, a book for design engineers, recently conducted surveys on how engineers find information and what job challenges they face. And, don't be afraid to call your advertising sales rep or editor and ask him or her for marketing tips and strategies. As one editor I interviewed said, "Wow, no one has ever asked me these questions before."

Tip #3. Scour the Internet for relevant information.

You can find a wealth of information about your prospects' industry and their pain points simply by researching the Internet. Want to learn more about a particular job? Visit the U.S. Department of Labor. Don't understand insider jargon? Type "define: [word]" into Google for sites listing the definition. Look for industry white papers, surveys, and reports - many of them don't cost anything. The CMO Council, for example, has a number of high-value reports that are available once you complete the site's registration process.

Tip #4. Monitor blogs and discussion forums.

Want to know what your customers are saying about your company and its products? Make it a point to visit industry forums and blogs. It amazes me how people will disparage a product online or highly recommend it to their peers - all on public forums. To see if your company is being discussed in blogs, go to Technorati.com and type your company's name in the search box.

Tip #5. Go on sales calls with your sales reps.

If Mr. Lafley, a CEO of a $6.5 billion dollar corporation, can visit women in their homes, then you can visit prospects in their work places. B- to-B sales lead expert Mac McIntosh advises marketers to go on one or two sales calls a month or to call distributors and customers for feedback. Meeting prospects face-to-face at their work place is invaluable: You'll hear their objections and why they may be considering your competitors' product. You'll also learn who else is influencing the purchase - allowing you to craft specific messages to each influencer (ie: IT, C-level, actual end user, etc).

Giving prospects what they want is easy once you know to whom you're marketing. Do due diligence on your target audience, understand their pain points, and know which marketing tactics work best. Your copy will be much more "on target."

Dianna Huff helps B-to-B marketers achieve results with copy that drives sales leads. Her clients include MarketingSherpa, Cabot Corporation, The Lead Dogs, and numerous small and mid-size companies. She can be reached via her Website at www.dhcommunications.com. Subscribe to her newsletter, the MarCom Writer, and get a free report on how to generate inquiries by writing articles for trade publications.