Early-stage companies often cast too wide a net when defining their target customer base. They believe the more prospects, the better -- but pursuing the wrong types of prospects wastes precious time, cash, and sales resources. There’s a high opportunity cost to chasing someone who won’t buy (or buys and quickly churns).
All the while, your competitors are entering the market and getting to large and enterprise clients more quickly than you.
I’ve now helped three early-stage tech companies go from zero revenue to cash-flow positive. Honing in on the most valuable accounts and customer stakeholders has helped me accelerate B2B sales at each of these. In fact, the company I currently lead, Spotted Media, used this three-step plan to acquire our first set of customers before we even had a fully functioning web site.
Step 1: Create an Ideal Customer Profile
An Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) should consist of five strict bullet points that you will not waver on. This means you can’t work any prospect who does not check all five boxes of your ICP.
An ICP might consist of the following:
Revenue size (e.g. more than $200 million in annual sales)
Employee count (e.g. no fewer than 1,000 verified LinkedIn employees)
Organization’s employee structure (e.g. the brand must have an in-house media team)
Type of product sold (e.g. a direct manufacturer)
A mutual goal (e.g. a manufacturer that cares about increasing brand awareness)
Once you’ve created your Ideal Customer Profile, the next step is thinking through the people who work for this ideal customer. Stop asking yourself surface-level questions like, “Are they in marketing?” and start asking yourself in-depth, meaningful questions about these professionals’ motivations.
That leads me to the next step.
Step 2: Create a Persona Map
Choose the three primary roles that you sell into (e.g. the VP of Advertising, the VP of Media, and the VP of Brand Marketing), then outline the following for each of these three roles:
The buyer’s 2-3 primary daily responsibilities (projects they work on and think about every day)
2-3 ways your company can help make the buyer’s daily responsibilities easier
The buyer’s 2-3 longer-term goals
2-3 ways in which your company can help further the buyer’s longer-term goals
How your company can get this person promoted faster than their peers
This approach will save you and your team a great deal of time in the future when you’re at your laptop thinking, “What messaging and language should I use when reaching out to this person?” By filling in the five points above for each of your target roles, your outreach messaging will practically craft itself. Repurpose points #2 and #4 specifically for your email outreach.
These should appear within the first few sentences of your outreach emails to the target contact. Here is an example:
Ideas for [prospect's company] re: [goal]
Dear [prospect’s name],
I am reaching out to you given your role in media at [prospect’s company]. [Vendor] can help [prospect’s company] improve [point #1] with its millennial customers by [point #2]. [Vendor] is helping [Client A] and [Client B] media teams achieve a [point #3] that is [X%] more efficient through [point #4].
Do you have 15 minutes to hear about the unique ideas we have for the [prospect’s company] media team on [date] or [date]?
Thanks in advance, Janet
You’ve mapped out the specifics of your ideal customer, the personal motivations of the stakeholders -- now where do you go from here? To focus your outreach on the right people, you have to prioritize.
Step 3: Prioritize Your Personas
Prioritize your personas by ranking each buyer on a scale from one to five on the following:
Alignment with your solution
Size of their budget
Level of influence within the organization
Once you’ve calculated the scores for alignment, budget, and influence, lay out a strategic plan for your outreach starting with the buyers with the highest totals. (In this example, the VP of Media ranks the highest.)
This exercise will drastically reduce wasted time and optimize your outreach while allowing you to get in front of the right people faster.
What’s the result of this upfront investment in strategy? Efficient outreach that specifically addresses the needs of your various buyers. Your messages will resonate more, and your prospects will respond more frequently.
Say goodbye to the typical results at early-stage companies, and say hello to more calls, meetings, and closed business.
Originally published Apr 12, 2017 7:30:00 AM, updated January 02 2019