How well do you know your prospective customers? Do you know why your customers decide to buy from your firm? It may surprise a Modern Marketer to find out that most senior executives cannot answer these questions definitively. And, if the senior executives are not able to answer these questions, how can they expect the organization as a whole to be able to articulate a common, differentiated value proposition?
The only way you will truly know about your market’s buying criteria is to survey qualified people in your market. We did this at my firm several months ago and some of the results were very surprising and quite different from what we assumed.
I just read a fantastic paper published by Openview Labs, A Guide to Competitive Messaging, that offers a really good framework for analyzing your market, defining a message and making it common throughout the organization. You can register to download your own copy here if you like. Just so you know, I don’t have any affiliation with Openview, I just like the paper.
Buying criteria is not the same as importance. For example, if you ask someone what is most important when choosing an airline. Typically, safety is most important. But, when you ask the same person what criteria they use when purchasing a ticket, the answer is not safety because safety is assumed in this modern age of flight. Buying criteria could be any number of things; price, speed of delivery, availability of service, where it’s made, etc. You should also understand the relative weight each criteria carries with the market. Perhaps low price is a criteria, but it is weighted less than speed of delivery.
Once you know the criteria and the relative weights of each criteria, you are ready to align your message, core competencies and differentiation with the target market’s buying criteria. You may look at several different segments and find different results. For example, head of a family of 4 living in the suburbs may value fuel efficiency as number 1 and price as number 2 when purchasing a new vehicle. Whereas a single male in an upper income bracket may value power as number 1 and prestige as number 2. Once you know the market’s criteria, you should focus on the markets where you fit or develop competencies in markets that are attractive but you do not fit at the present time.
If your firm is one of the majority who does not understand their target market’s buying criteria, get busy and put together a plan today!