If your company is trying really hard to get in front of more prospects and decision makers in South Florida, it all comes down to the specifics, the targeting, and your goals.
So the first thing to think about is which prospects in South Florida are you actually trying to reach? Which decision makers in South Florida are you trying to reach?
The way that this question was asked -- it almost seems like someone has decided that prospects are the influencers and decision makers are not prospects.
The reality though is that both influencers and decision makers are types of prospects.
In most cases, you want to get to the decision maker as quickly and directly as possible -- because you're going to need to have that conversation to get their buy-in, their sign-off. But many times, it's a lot easier to reach the influencer.
Which Prospects in South Florida? Which Decision Makers?
So which prospects in South Florida and which decision makers in South Florida are we trying to reach?
The first place to start: build a report that identifies your top 10 or top 20 highest revenue-generating clients. More than likely, this report is going to come out of your accounting software, ERP software (enterprise resource planning), or whatever else you use to track revenue.
- Run a “revenue by client” or “sales by clients” report.
- Sort in descending order, so you have your “top 10” list or perhaps your “top 20” list.
- Indicate which you think are most profitable. (If you exported to Excel, add a column. Or if you’re using a paper report, simply note which you believe are most profitable. While it would be great if we knew exactly how profitable they are, if your systems aren’t that sophisticated, or if you don't have a constant rate of operating margin or profitability across the board, at least try to identify which clients you think are best -- based on the products/services mix they purchase from your company. Or the number of headaches they create or don’t create. Whether they pay on time. In other words, of those top 10 or top 20 biggest sources of revenue, which are the ones that you like the best, that help your company the most financially?)
- Identify who the main contact person is and what their role is. For each of those clients that you want. They're making a big dent: they’re generating a lot of revenue that's profitable. Our team likes working with them. This is the person that we've been working with, and this is their role in the company and their job title.
Clone the Most Profitable Part of Your Client List
Why do we want to do that? Because we're trying to figure out a way to clone the most profitable part of your client list.
If we could go in there, among those 10 or 20 clients and just select a couple of them. Hit the “Copy” and “Paste” buttons. What would “Copy” and “Paste” look like? If only it were that simple, right!
Thriving in a Buyer-Centric, Digital First World
So a lot of this strategy is especially relevant because of how much the world has changed in the last few years.
We need to recognize that we’re in a very buyer-centric world. It used to be that the sellers held all the cards and buyers were at their mercy. But that's changed a great deal.
Search engines, social media, and mobile devices have empowered people -- including your influencers, prospects, and decision makers -- to have access to a tremendous amount of information, almost instantaneously, that they never had before.
If you add into the mix the rapid adoption of search engines, social media, and mobile devices plus newer technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), the Internet of Things (IoT), and autonomous driving -- all of this are pointing to a world where the pace of change is only going to accelerate.
Why 70% Now Dictates Your Strategy for Getting to New Prospects and Decision Makers
Right now with where we are across most Industries and most buyer's journeys, we're finding that people are doing so much research on search engines and social media before they get to you -- that in most cases 70% or more of their mind is already made up before you ever get a chance to get a word in edgewise.
70% of the decision making has already happened before you even know about a sales opportunity.
So in this context, in this world, in this reality of where we are right now, your company can no longer afford to sit on its butts and just be reactive with this whole thing.
We need a much more proactive strategy for getting out in front of this. If you're still depending on the same marketing and sales playbook that you've used for decades -- one that's very centered on things like cold outreach -- cold calls, sending cold emails, basically spam, sending cold messages through LinkedIn, another form of spam.
It is a very steep hill to climb in today's environment to get in front of the right prospects and decision makers in South Florida with that really old school approach.
Are You Living in the Past?
Because what you're counting on is that the majority of your clients don't know how to use search engines or social media. You’re counting on that they don't have iPhones or Android smartphones in their pockets. And you believe that they're not empowered or have never heard of products or platforms like Netflix, Hulu or SiriusXM, digital video recorders (DVRs), or caller ID.
I guess if you hop in the DeLorean and go back to 1985 with your sales and marketing playbook, maybe the nonsense of cold calling, spamming people, and stuff like that would continue to work. But that's not the world we live in today.
So if a lot of your playbook depends on harassment as opposed to helping, and beating people down until they agree to give you 15 minutes of their time for a meeting, if it's tough to be relevant. Because even if you do reach the right person, are you getting there with the right timing? Or is it really bad timing?
How can you be contextually relevant if you think that somebody could be a fit, but right now couldn't give a crap about what you're talking about?
They either made that decision two years ago, and they're not going to change now. Or they're not going to make that decision for another two years. So the question is: can your sales funnel, your sales forecast, really absorb this?
In a digital-first world, there is no room for selfish behaviors. People are paying money to block out interruptions from annoying, obnoxious marketers. Again, this is why people subscribe to Netflix, Hulu, SiriusXM, and services just like this. They got tired of being interrupted. And they want to get 100% of what they want, no more no less, 100% on their own terms, at the exact moment they want it.
How to Compete in Today’s Hyper-Competitive Market
In today's environment, if you want to reach the the right prospects and decision makers in South Florida, you want to get to the right people, in the right place, at the right time, and in the right context.
And if you get the timing wrong, if you're not there at the right time -- this is where cold calls can hurt your credibility the most -- in the right context is supercritical.
Why? Because we no longer want to be seen and can no longer afford just to be seen as a vendor, as a commodity broker.
So much has changed. And if you look at the way the world is going, with Amazon and Walmart investing aggressively in e-commerce. Walmart was really at the forefront of supply chain management decades ago.
But if you look at software gobbling up the entire world, entire industries -- Uber, Airbnb, online banking, e-commerce -- it's super critical that we have value to add beyond just being the cheapest provider of our products and service.
It's critical to gain leverage in the sales process, in the buyer's journey, so that we and our companies are perceived as trusted advisors, as subject matter experts.
And the way to do that: you need to understand what is driving the purchase decision.
The Plan for Getting to Our Most Important Prospects and Decision Makers
So we built this report, and now we understand who are our 10 or 20 biggest sources of revenue. And we understand of those 10 or 20 clients, which are the most profitable. We understand the kind of person that we're dealing with at that company -- what’s their role? -- what’s their job title?
Based on that, you should be able to select your primary buyer persona and your secondary buyer persona. This is your first and your second most important kind of buyer, client, customer, -- that has the most economic or financial impact on your company.
Just to make sure that you and I are on the same page:
A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of one of your ideal clients based on actual research and educated speculation.
To put together an effective buyer persona, an effective strategy, yes demographics are important. But the beginner gives up after demographics and assumes that the entire buyer persona can fit on a cocktail napkin or Post-it note -- which is not the case.
Questions That Must Be Asked for an Effective Strategy
If your clients have a high lifetime value (average client lifetime value or “LTV”), if there's a lot of economic value, sure we need to know the consensus on their
- Company size
- Highest level of education
- Marital status
We certainly want to know their
- Their job title -- including possibly a synonym or two of their job title
- Who they report to
- What positions report to them
But that's just the basics. That's the price of entry. If you just stop there, you're doing maybe 20%-25% of the job. I guess it's better than nothing. But you're creating buyer personas at a beginner level (at best!) -- not at a level for somebody that's serious about getting to these prospect and decision makers.
So to really up our game, we need to understand the consensus around
- Their challenges
- Their frustrations
- The collective struggle that's keeping them all up at 2 o’clock in the morning (and why that’s relevant to your company)
- What, if they screw up, could get them fired
- Their goals
- What if they get right, if they hit it out of the ballpark, will get them a promotion and a big bonus
So in addition to understanding demographics, the consensus on their challenges and goals, we need to understand how each of those buyer personas -- your primary and secondary buyer personas -- get their information:
- How do they learn new skills?
- What are their favorite resources?
- What are their favorite watering holes when it comes to learning about new information and keeping up with their job and industry?
- What are the online resources that they find themselves tapping into all of the time?
- What are some of the offline resources that they find themselves tapping into all of the time?
- (And most of all we need to understand) What do they crave from a company like yours? What do they want? What keeps them coming back? What do they get from your company or want to get from your company that they can't get anywhere else?
Figuring Out Their Path from Stranger to Purchase Decision
So once we have this primary and secondary buyer persona built out, that we get to based on interviews -- preferably face-to-face conversations and original research -- we need to understand the buyer's journey for each of those buyer personas:
How does your primary buyer persona and your secondary buyer persona go from being a complete stranger to your company to being a satisfied paying client?
There are typically three phases that people will go through on their buyer’s journey:
We need to understand what are the milestones, the questions, the problems, and the goals that originally brings a stranger to your doorstep before they ever know that your company exists -- before they know anything about your products and services.
If we're trying to be relevant to what's going on in their mind, in the Awareness stage of their journey, it is 150% about them and their problems. Not your problems. Their problems. So everything that we’re talking about needs to be product-agnostic and company-agnostic. There should be no mentions of how wonderful you are, how beautiful your facilities are, how smart your team is, how friendly you are, or how fast your service is.
That’s not appropriate for people that are complete strangers. You haven't built up any trust (yet). You haven't done any kind of education (yet).
Why the heck should they listen to you? Early on, that's what awareness is all about.
In the Consideration phase, we’ve now gone from giving advice and answers to broad problems, to starting to help them whittle down what they're talking about, defining the solution and the category.
So it's appropriate at that point to start talking about the category of your products and services, the category of your company -- and helping them understand the criteria which they should view the differentiators -- how they should evaluate the different options it in front of them.
Yes, they have questions in the consideration phase. They have problems and goals. As they start to move down the sales funnel and move further along on the journey, that conversation changes to be a little more about solutions as opposed to just problems.
In the Decision phase, at the end of the buyer’s journey, the bottom of the sales funnel, this is where their questions, problems, and goals are lot more centered appropriately about your company, your products, your services.
The problem: for people that are brand new to this, that are not living in a digital-first world, that frankly are stuck somewhere between 1995 and perhaps as late as 2012, they're living in a world where everything is all about them -- and how wonderful their company is.
And their website and their digital presence are frankly the equivalent of someone you talk with at a cocktail party that speaks 95% of the time and won't let you get a word in edgewise -- really full of themselves. So make sure that your company doesn't come across like that online.
If you're making that first impression, if you're not talking about their problems and you're just talking about your own problems, that's kind of the equivalent to the egotistical jerk that you meet at the cocktail party -- that you can’t wait to come up with an excuse to back away from.
Make sure, if you want to nail this, if you want to get to the right prospects and decision makers, that you understand who they are and where they are.
Leveraging the Questions You Get Asked All of the Time
Along those lines, to fill in some of the specifics here, start by brainstorming all of the questions that you get asked all of the time -- that you’ve answered until you're almost blue in the face.
Put those questions into buckets by buyer persona and buyer's journey, by where they are.
If it's starting to sound like this is all about content, content, and more content, and it's all about them -- not you, you're getting warmer.
Yes, that's what this is all about. We want to make sure that whenever somebody is thinking of a problem, question, or challenge that they’re struggling with -- anything that they would ask you about in a face-to-face conversation, by phone, or if you talk with them at an event or on social media.
Make sure that when they go to social media or to a search engine like Google, Bing, Siri, Alexa, Cortana, or Google Assistant, that when they ask that question, that your content, your answer, and your advice is what surfaces all the way at the top of the page -- certainly in the first couple of results.
Because people have no attention span anymore. They're not going to go beyond the first couple of results.
So it's up to you to provide content that's so much better than whatever else is out there that the search engines and social media can't help but reward your relevance by shining a spotlight on that for people that are looking for answers to that question.
Attracting Visitors, Converting Leads, and Accelerating Sales Opportunities
When it comes to attracting people from search engines and social media, yes this involves strategic blogging -- blogging with a strategy that helps your business grow and generates leads, sales opportunities, and new clients. Plus a video strategy that reinforces the same thing -- perhaps even a podcasting strategy like this that reinforces the same goals.
But that alone is not going to cut it.
You're also going to need a strategy to generate leads from those strangers that you've now turned into visitors to your digital assets.
Your lead generation strategy more than likely will center around premium content -- content that is so valuable, in the eyes of your buyer persona, that a big chunk of your website visitors are willing to trade their business card information for what's on the other side of the landing page.
So we see eBooks, white papers, special reports, templates, and checklists. Once we have the leads, we also need to segment those leads by buyer persona.
We need different kinds of content and different kinds of lead generation offers that are specific to buyer personas. But we also need to make sure that we segment them properly when we contact them after they've turned into a lead.
If you’re using a lead nurturing sequence email to educate and build trust, we certainly need to segments by buyer persona. And we need to be relevant to where they are on the buyer’s journey, their lifecycle stage.
Prospects, Influencers, Decision Makers, and Account Based Marketing (ABM)
One big thing to go back to for a moment:
The original question was how to get to South Florida prospects and new South Florida decision makers.
Let's clear up some semantics here, distinguishing what we mean between prospects, influencers, and decision makers. I alluded to this a few moments ago, but I think it's worth circling back to.
It's possible that your prospects could be a sub-persona or subset of your decision maker’s buyer persona -- and vice versa.
The big picture: What's going on here, especially if your company is business to business (B2B) -- if you sell to other businesses -- is account-based selling or account based management (ABM).
What this refers to is the big general trend in the last couple of years where sales cycles are becoming longer. They're being pushed out.
Decisions are now being made by a committee that used to be made by a single person. There is a tremendous amount of risk aversion going on. And because of that, we need to be dialed into the fact that influencers and decision makers care about very different issues.
Different Stakeholders Require a Different Thought Leadership Strategy
We need to know what each stakeholder cares about. It’s a different buyer persona, and it certainly needs a different content strategy that attracts them into the top of your sales funnel, with the right kind of advice, with the right kind of information -- what things that they care about.
The CEO of a company is going to care about different things than somebody that works in accounting. And somebody that works in accounting is going to care about very different issues than somebody that works in sales. And somebody that work in sales is going to care about different issues than somebody that works in engineering.
So we need to understand who the decision makers are and who the influencers are.
We need to make sure that our content strategy is dialed into each of them separately. If we try to use one-size-fits-most, we will fail. There's just so much noise, so much distraction, online that we need to be hyper-relevant.
We need to be careful to make sure that we don't blend everything together in a yucky combination that just doesn't resonate with anyone.
There’s got to be a different strategy for influencers that are prospects and a different strategy for decision makers that are prospects.
Don’t Sleep on the Second Half: Promotion and Distribution are Critical
Another big thing to keep in mind: when we're talking about content and investing aggressively for growth, and getting to these right influencers and decision makers, you’re only halfway done when you create the content. The other half of the battle is promotion or distribution of your content.
So a lot of this early on, right out of the gate, is going to be dependent on your existing reach:
- Your website authority -- how well you do when trying to get content to float to the top of search results. That's largely done not just by the content itself, but by how search engines evaluate your website authority -- usually a function of the quality and the quantity of your inbound links from relevant, authoritative websites. The quality of links is even more important than the quantity.
- Your email database -- especially the quality and quantity of your email database, and how well segmented it is. How well segmented your messages are determines how excited someone's going to be about reading content that's hyper-relevant to them, as opposed to the one-size-fits-none or one-size-fits-most approach -- what’s often called an “email blast.”
- Your social media reach -- again, both the quality and the quantity. It’s not just your number of followers, likes, and connections, but how solid that relationship is. Do they interact with you on a regular basis? Do they look forward to seeing your content? Or is all of your social media reach just junk and not very helpful?
So half the battle is content creation. The other half is content promotion. Your existing reach makes a big difference in how effective you can be.
Bear in mind: from where we are right now, compared to as recently as five years ago…
Moving to Pay-to-Play (Wall Street and Investors Demand This of Key Players in Search and Social)
The days of being able to get a free ride on social media and search engines are largely done -- even with ridiculously relevant, helpful content. It's extremely, it’s brutally, competitive. Many industries are just plain content-saturated. So the gravy train of free reach and free distribution has almost completely dried up when it comes to being able to get all of your website traffic for free, organically.
Yes, it can happen. But early on, for beginners, it's not likely to happen.
So we need to have a “Plan B” for what we do while we're waiting for our website to build up enough website authority, while we're growing our email database, and while growing our social reach.
For most, Plan B for most companies is pay-to-play -- whether it's paid social media, targeted advertising on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, or Twitter -- or something like that. Or paid search using something like Google AdWords or Microsoft Bing Ads.
But it's extremely important be realistic about where you’re at vs. your goals.
From the Friends-Don’t-Let-Friends Department
The big caveat that I always preface that with:
- Landing pages are not optional -- When it comes to attracting the right prospects and decision makers, do not make any kind of paid social or paid search investment until you have great performing landing pages with great premium content for the awareness stage of your buyer personas’ buyer’s journey. If you do not have at least a handful of different landing pages with premium content offers that your buyer personas are going to love, you are not ready to spend money on pay per click (PPC). Period. Regardless of whether it's paid social or paid search. That needs to happen first.
- Lead nurturing is not optional -- Before you start investing in those expensive clicks, besides having good performing landing pages, you want to have good lead nurturing sequences built out and segmented by buyer persona. These messages educate, build trust, and accelerate your leads into sales qualified leads (SQLs) and sales opportunities.
If you don't have those two building blocks in place, landing pages promoting premium content and segmented email nurturing sequences behind those landing pages, you are wasting your money when it comes to paid social and paid search. Do not start doing that kind of advertising until you have those assets in place.
The Bottom Line on How to Get to New South Florida Prospects and Decision Makers
If you want to reach the right people, in the right places, at the right time, and in the right context --- so you’re getting to these prospects and decision makers in South Florida where they already are, and positioning your company as the definitive go-to experts, a lot of this starts by having a really good understanding of who your primary and secondary buyer personas are.
Buyer personas will give you tremendous insight into what's relevant for them and how to be interesting to them -- so they can become interested in you!
So to recap, we've been talking all about how to:
- Identify who the biggest revenue generators are, zeroing in on your most profitable clients, and the primary role of the person that you're dealing with
- Understand how things have changed drastically in the last couple of years in a digital-first world
- Build out your primary and your secondary buyer personas to understand what's motivating them and especially relevant to them
- Be super-specific about the buyer's journey that each person goes through and what they care about at each stage
- Invest in creating a library of content that attracts the right people, in the right places
- Generate leads by creating content that’s so valuable that it can sit behind landing pages
- Create content that accelerates leads, in the right context, and transforms those leads into sales-ready status and sales opportunities
- Be careful about terminology: prospects can be influencers or decision makers
- Prepare for a world where decisions are being made by committee by having strategy that appeals to everyone that's relevant
- Promote your content in the right places to position your company as the definitive go-to experts when it comes to your company's product and service category that we want to be best known for, among the most profitable kinds of clients
Again, all of this is about how to get to new South Florida prospects and decision makers.
I'm so glad to have had you with us for this episode of the South Florida CEO Podcast.
I'm Joshua Feinberg, and we look forward to seeing you back again next time.
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