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Making the Case for an Audience-Based Go-to-Market Strategy

April 27, 2017

Adopting an audience-centric approach can increase revenue, improve sales productivity and improve organizational focus

Business units that are accustomed to product-centric marketing often resist the retraining required to shift to an audience-centric approach. To facilitate this transformation, in addition to training their own teams, marketing leaders must help the rest of the organization understand the positive business impact of go-to-market decisions that are informed by buyer insight. In this issue of SiriusPerspectives, we present three rationales that marketing leaders can use to articulate the benefits of switching to an audience-centric go-to-market strategy.

One: Drive Revenue Growth

Buyer insight is a crucial ingredient for successful innovation and go-to-market efforts that support revenue growth through customer acquisition and retention. Organizations that put the target audience first invest the time and effort required to gather and understand buyer behaviors and preferences. The ability to develop and market the offering in a way that conveys value for the target buyer is critical to ensuring commercial success.

  • Needs-based innovation. Innovations based on customer buying needs have a higher chance of commercial success, and audience-centric organizations are disciplined in their approach to targeting customers and incorporating their needs as part of the innovation process. Product development and management are guided by the problems and opportunities the target audience wishes to address (and is willing to pay for) vs. the organization’s internal biases and agendas. By moving away from product silos and investments in products with low commercialization potential, audience-centric organizations expand their innovation opportunities (e.g. new offerings, bundles, solutions). Organizations that leverage buyer insights are more likely to be first to market with unique offerings or capabilities.
  • Buyer-focused marketing. Marketing plans informed by buyer insight yield better results in attracting and engaging buyers, converting sales opportunities and retaining customers. Organizations that adopt audience-centric marketing use campaign resources more effectively and benefit from increased buyer engagement, larger sales pipelines, larger average deal sizes and, ultimately, more sales to target segments. In contrast, a product-centric organization’s marketing approach centers around what the organization does and sells, which produces only a vague sense of the offering’s value for the target audience. Audience-centric organizations eliminate this myopia by developing a go-to-market architecture that visualizes the target audience segment to the buyer persona level, maps the offering to the persona’s needs and captures the buying decision processes. Ad hoc marketing programs for individual offerings are replaced by strategic, integrated campaigns with campaign themes derived from buyer needs. Messaging and content are designed to resonate with target personas at each stage of the buying cycle.

Two: Improve Sales Productivity

Product-centric organizations’ sales reps have a built-in handicap: They must persuade their target audience to buy products that aren’t aligned to specific customer needs. Organizations adopting an audience-centric go-to-market strategy help reps successfully engage with the target audience, transferring knowledge about buyers and markets through effective sales enablement.

  • Aligned sales and buying processes. Sales reps who understand how their sales process aligns with the buying processes of prospects and customers can engage with buyers more effectively at each stage of the buyer’s journey, improving opportunity outcomes and reducing the length of the sales cycle. The B2B purchasing process is complex, involving multiple personas with different buying roles that participate during various buying stages. Marketers in audience-centric organizations equip sales with knowledge about the target audience’s buying dynamics, including their buyer’s journey stages and persona information requirements at each stage. This insight helps reps engage with prospects earlier in the buying process, especially in the education phase when buyers are trying to understand their business issues and reasons for making a change. Earlier engagement positions the rep and the organization as credible experts (vs. a mere product vendor) who can help buyers address their business problems.
  • Better sales enablement. When marketing collaborates with sales leadership, sales operations and sales enablement to determine the best approach to training and equipping reps to engage the buyer audience, the result is an aligned enablement strategy that helps reps achieve their quotas. Organizations with an audience-centric go-to-market strategy focus on supporting successful sales interactions with target buyers. The product demos, data sheets and ROI tools typically found in the sales enablement arsenal of product-centric organizations are supplemented with messaging, content and tools (e.g. assessments, needs diagnostic tools, competitive positioning, buyer-centric presentations) that help reps interact with buyers during every stage of the buyer’s journey. Sales enablement materials are designed to transfer knowledge to reps about the market, buyers, competitive landscape and value of the offering for the target audience.

Three: Align Organizational Focus and Resources

In product-centric organizations, fiefdoms created by separate business units or product lines pursue their own agendas, competing for limited marketing, sales and product resources to drive growth for their offerings. Audience-centric organizations allocate resources toward prioritized audience segments and address common customer needs. An audience-centric focus at the organizational level doesn’t displace product planning, which is a core responsibility for business units and product teams. Ideally, product plans align under cohesive go-to-market strategies for target audience segments.

  • Shared goals and objectives. SiriusDecisions research shows that B2B organizations that are aligned across product, marketing and sales achieve up to 19 percent faster revenue growth and 15 percent higher profitability. This alignment can’t happen when teams are entrenched in their own business units, product lines or functional agendas. Audience-centric organizations achieve internal alignment by rallying teams around coordinated investment in target audience segments. Executive leaders at these organizations invest in developing customer insights and empowering teams to collaborate across reporting structures to develop and market offerings that meet customer needs. Innovation and go-to-market decisions are informed by buyer and market data and ultimately oriented around the benefits and value for the customer. Audience-centric organizations enable employees to listen to, anticipate the needs of and respond to customers in ways that go beyond what’s required in their functional workstreams.
  • Coordinated planning. Organizations shifting to an audience-centric go-to-market approach must adjust their planning and measurement processes. Teams should begin planning for their functional deliverables with a common understanding of the go-to-market architecture (i.e. how offerings map to target audience needs) and business objectives for target segments. Portfolio marketing collaborates with cross-functional teams to ensure that their outputs are driven by and integrated with the audience-centric strategy. The organization measures achievements in each target audience segment, looking at shared impact metrics such as revenue growth, market share and retention. Functional measures represented by output and activity metrics – e.g. number of product enhancements, number of marketing programs, number of sales introductions – are not only viewed from a functional perspective but also coordinated to demonstrate overall contribution to the achievement of the business objectives for the target segment.

The Sirius Decision

Serving target audience needs can be a powerful rallying point for internal stakeholders who may have disparate agendas or biases. When organizational decisions are centered on data-driven insights about the customer, the tensions and conflicts around resource allocation diminish as teams collaborate to develop a unified and cohesive go-to-market strategy. Driving the growth of products and other offerings continues to be an essential objective, which is now viewed in the context of buying audiences. Persuading product-oriented colleagues to become more audience-centric won’t be quick or easy. Marketing leaders must patiently articulate the internal changes required and demonstrate the favorable business impact of making this shift.