What are the questions you need to ask and answer before building your marketing funnel? Here we look at market research methods and examples that will inform your funnel marketing & content.
Market research is the most important step you can take on your journey towards building an automated marketing funnel. Unless you have a good understanding of your market, it’s needs, wants and desires, you won’t be able to build the compelling offers and messaging that will get your prospects to act.
Who are your ideal customers? Who would buy your product?
The more we understand about our ideal customer the better we can trigger their pain points and get them to take action. A good understanding of our customer gives us the ability to preempt their needs and build funnels that can answer their fundamental questions.
Market research informs our messaging
More closely defined our ideal customer the better we can target our marketing and our message. If the definition of our ideal customer is too broad then it’s likely our messaging won’t resonate. Having an ideal customer profile doesn’t mean we can’t sell outside this audience. It’s purely a tool for helping us stay consistent and on point with our marketing and message. The ideal customer is what we strive for but more often than not, we’ll attract prospects who meet some but not all of the attributes of our ideal customer.
Use market research to define your ideal customer
Here are some questions you should consider when defining your ideal customer. Remember that the questions need to be relevant to your niche which means you’ll need to adapt or build on this list.
Profiling the business
- What industry does your ideal customer operate in?
- Where is your ideal customer based?
- How many employees does the company have?
- What is the company turnover?
- How many years has the company been in business?
- How much research is involved in the purchase?
Profiling the decision-maker
- What is the position/job title of decision-maker?
- What department does the decision maker sit in?
- How senior are they in the organization?
- How much can they spend without requiring sign off?
- Will the decision be made by them or a team?
- How immediate is the need?
- What business goal will your solution help meet?
- What personal goals will your solution help meet?
- What are their business challenges?
- What are their personal challenges?
- What publications do they read?
- Who do they follow on social media?
Market research methods
The ideal customer profile is a combination of primary research and existing customer data. If you don’t have any current customers then you need to rely heavily on research to validate your assumptions.
Using existing data that you own or have access to is called secondary research. It’s called secondary research because it’s using secondary data sources.
If you’re an established business you’ll already have the information to build your ideal customer profile, indeed you may already have ideal customers and customers profiles you want to avoid.
If you don’t have any existing customer data then you can validate your assumptions using Facebook and LinkedIn.
There are plenty of sources of statistics and data from local government to corporate white papers. You can also san forums and leverage tactics like social listening.
Secondary market research is often a great start but not enough to have true validation. Most businesses will also undertake some form of primary research. Use secondary research to frame your questions and deep dive using primary research to uncover further insights.
- One of my favourite forms of market research is actually speaking to prospects and target customers.
- You could show a survey to a selection of visitors on your website.
- A common tactic used by market research agencies is using rewards and incentives to encourage survey participants.
To generate demand you must understand the product
You need to have a thorough understanding of the product/service you are promoting. If you don’t understand the product then you won’t be able to promote well enough. Many marketers, especially in complex B2B scenarios, don’t understand their products well enough. Product knowledge can’t just sit with product management and product marketing, campaign managers and brand managers also need to have considerable knowledge of the product they are promoting.
Features are great but benefits are better
A good way to test your product knowledge and find the gaps is to map product features to benefits. This works for any product or service. We are all very good at listing the endless features of our products, but how does this map to benefits for the prospect? As demand generating marketers we need to be able to map the features of a product to benefits our ideal customers are looking for. If there is a mismatch then either the product needs to change, or our ideal customer isn’t who we think it is.
Map benefits to feelings and outcomes
Regardless of the features or benefits of a product, our prospects are buying the end result. What is the end result for the prospect when they buy your product? Consumers don’t buy iPhones because it makes phone calls and has apps. They buy iPhones because of the way it makes them feel. The idea of buying the outcome also applies in B2B. Businesses want to make money or save money, business buyers want to make the right purchase for their business and the colleagues who will be using the products they buy. Ultimately the business buyer is as much a person as the consumer buyer. The consumer may be more driven by emotion and the business buyer more logical, but they are both buying a feeling.
Map your power words
Power words help you to start formulating messaging. These are the terms that will cause a reaction in your prospect. The reaction can be good or bad, the point is to get a reaction. For an IT software solution, negative words and phrases could be “software bug” or “piracy”, positive words and phrases could be “user growth” and “customer retention”. It’s a good idea to start mapping power words in the research phase. This is where you’re learning about your market and customers. Before you start creating copy, images or any other content you’ll already have the words that trigger the pain points and words that fix the pain points.
What are the common prospect objections?
In every market, whether you sell B2B SaaS or fast moving consumer goods, your ideal customer will have objections. The advantage in the B2B scenario is that you can build time to answer those objections. In the B2C world, your ideal customer may see your sticker price and walk away. In a B2B sale, the sticker price is a starting point for discussing why your product or service warrants that price.
Prospect objections are far more than about price, especially in a B2B context. The B2B buyer could object based on integrations with other systems, security, licensing or a myriad of other reasons. Understanding what the objections are and addressing these in your marketing and sales funnel reduces resistance when it comes to winning the business. Addressing objections through the funnel will also reduce leakage from the funnel. Objections are great, objections are buying signals and objectives give us the opportunity to make your product position more compelling.
Define your proposition and create a compelling offer
The end of the research phase is a good time to start writing draft headlines. This is where all the insights about your market and ideal customer are fresh in your mind.
Start by defining your offer. What will compel your audience to take action? Pain points and solutions play well into defining your offer, especially in a B2B context. You need to build compelling offers and get those offers the right audience. When defining your offers you need to reach a message to market match, but if your offers are the same as everyone else’s then it’s not going to stand out.
The research phase will help you understand who your market is, how to reach them and why they are buying. Armed with these answers you can build a marketing funnel and fill it with relevant prospects that can buy. Building an automated funnel is about hitting pain points with the right messages at the right time.
Next steps in creating your automated marketing funnel
- This article is part of our series on building an automated marketing funnel
- Go back and read part 1 – What is a marketing funnel?
- Go forward and read part 3 – Create a visual marketing funnel map & demand generation strategy
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