What is the most complicated part of starting your B2B project?
Compiling a team? Calculating your budget? Preparing for random accidents and pitfalls? Organizing workflow?
All of that sounds hard, but the real challenge many business owners come across is their market or the identity of their market, to be more precise.
When you start offering your products and services, you must be confident about them resonating with your intended audience. You should have no doubts that there is a need your company can address.
However, that’s not all.
You should know who makes up the major part of your target audience: The Innovators, The Adopters, The Early Majority, The Late Majority, or The Conservatives.
You have to know how quickly your market will mature, prompting you to adjust your marketing strategy and the way you present your services.
You have to timely explore new sections of your market to stay relevant and gather new customers.
In other words, you must be fully prepared because nothing stays the same in the world of B2B. Whatever customer base you manage to build in the first years on the market will not be there to support you as you progress and things change.
Let’s take a look at identifying your target market, pinpointing its maturity in time and using that knowledge to stay competitive.
How do your customers adopt your product and services?
When you start out, you’re introducing your product to your audience. What is your biggest guarantee that your potential customers would adopt your services? Marketing strategy and content are a must. But before you start creating content for your sales funnel, you must be confident about who are you going to be doing all that for.
Each segment of your audience responds to your product differently. It’s a well-known fact. According to Everett M. Rogers, product adoption goes through several phases:
Innovators. The risk-takers. This segment actively seeks out new value propositions and the ways to upgrade their performance. They’re willing to try everything new because they can afford it. Usually, innovators are medium-to-large businesses with a budget for experimenting, so they are confident about their decision and have some kind of damage control prepared. This is also the most communicative segment. They are eager to speak with sales executives and other companies from the same industry to see what’s new and explore new opportunities.
How to sell to innovators? Describe the most innovative aspects of your product. Show them how they can turn the tables on your prospect’s workflow, workload, and performance. Compare the benefits of your product with the benefits of a traditional product (no name-calling though! Badmouthing your competition is bad manners unless you’re Pepsi. And you’re not Pepsi).
Early adopters. Following innovators, early adopters are the second phase of customer adoption. Early adopters are known for being influencers. Their actions and decisions set an example for other potential prospects, and their authority allows them to assess each new product and review it. Due to their status, early adopters are a lot more cautious, so they won’t try out a new product unless they are confident that it’s risk-proof and delivers tangible benefits.
How to sell to early adopters?The best way to convince early adopters is to include a solid base of case studies, customers and ROI stats to your presentation.
Early majority. After your product becomes more familiar, it attracts the attention of the mass market. Your adoption pattern evolves into the early majority. This audience looks for a solid vendor, takes zero risks and relies on the opinion of early adopters before making a buying decision.
How to sell to the early majority? Be credible. Register on every platform that is relevant to your industry. Create a profile on Clutch/G2 and ask your customers to rate your services and leave a review. Keep your blog and social media pages constantly updated. Show that your businesses have delivered results for many B2B customers.
Late majority. This type of adopter goes only for tried and true solutions. They base their opinion solely on their available budget. They don’t look up to opinion leaders and industry titans because they are focused on shaping their business with available resources.
How to sell to the late majority?The thing is, you don’t target the late majority. The late majority targets you. They’re looking for a solid and reliable vendor who is safe to work with. And someone who has been around long enough to be considered reliable. This is when you should stay alert. When more potential buyers ask to meet you or want to employ your services, it feels good, sure. But you might end up working with low-paying one-time customers, while you could have been converting more high-value buyers from other industries.
Conservatives. Alternatively called laggards, these adopters signify the decline of your product. They have the lowest social and financial status, are very reluctant to accept the change or use innovations. Since they don’t trust opinion leaders and are not familiar with new technology and solutions, conservatives shouldn’t be viewed as your target buyers. They signify the need for change — if there is no one but laggards using your services, it’s time to explore new regions and new directions to stay afloat.
Market maturity: what is it?
Let’s say you have successfully launched your business. You generate revenue, manage your customer base, and keep an eye on your competitors. Your sales plan looks solid and you’re looking forward to whatever the future may bring.
However, the longer you are in business, the more changes you start noticing:
Your audience’s needs are not evolving.
Your growth rate is slowing down while your leading competitors become less intense.
New businesses that offer the same kind of services as you do barely gain shares.
Investors get more cash flows than invest in the market.
Your competitors solidify their positions on the market and stop changing.
When it happens, it means that your market has matured. It reached a state of equilibrium, where innovation and growth spurts are no longer a thing. Your competition basis and value creation now adhere to different requirements, so whatever strategy you have been using before will be bringing fewer and fewer results as you go on.
What to do in a mature market?
If you find out that your market has matured (or if you entered a mature market), worry not. It’s far from the end of the world.
With the right organization and planning, you can create a foundation for your campaigns and make your value proposition truly unique.
Pick a segment. It makes sense to segment your target audience in general, but when you’re dealing with the mature market, you should focus on the most reliable segment. The one that will help you generate the biggest revenue and build solid offers.
Concentrate on your best-selling services. Every B2B company should have a set of services that have proven to be popular and capable of generating steady revenue. Make sure to invest enough resources into your top-performing services — see how you can amplify their potential, imbue them with your brand identity, and make them your greeting card. Later, you will be able to develop additional services to add more value to your best services or launch a new direction entirely. But, at first, you must make sure that your bestsellers can support you throughout every stage of market maturity.
Embrace the change. To stay in the game, you should never lose your competitive edge. Even if things look good for your company, it doesn’t mean you can stop. Think about how you can use your tools, skills, and teams to create something truly unique or innovative. Ask yourself which services can expand the functionality of your company’s assets or address your prospect’s pain points even better. Make sure to keep your ambitions in sync with your company’s size and budget. Grand plans won’t do you any good if you won’t be able to realize them completely.
Research non-stop. By keeping in touch with your research teams and your current customers, you avoid seeing your sales decline and ending up with laggards as your constant audience. Make each conversation with your potential buyers deep and meaningful. You have as much to learn from them as they do from you.
How to track these changes over time?
You can catch up with anything as long as you pay attention to your supporting data pillars:
Your existing customer base. Your current clients are your main source of basic information about your target audience. This is also the way to outline the audience that you don’t have right now but will need it for keeping your business advancing forward. You can explore your customer base in many ways — from gathering CRM data and analyzing their buyer behavior, to sending out surveys, even talking to your key customers directly. You should be looking for similarities between your clients, know what drew them to your business and be able to identify your most profitable customers. With that done, monitor their behavior as well as the behavior of businesses that are nearly identical to theirs on the market.
Your competition. In addition to your customers, your competitors can provide you with a lot of helpful insight on how your market is doing and whether your Ideal Customer Profile is still relevant. You don’t need to compile a list of 600+ competitors and create a detailed data profile for each of them. Pick out only three or five largest competitors and see what they’re up to. Are they still looking for the same prospects that you do? Are they exploring new directions? Have they started covering new industries? Any change in your competitor’s behavior hints at the very changes that occur within your market. It’s also a good way to discover new opportunities by seeing what your competitors overlook.
Your audience. Your Ideal Customer Profile is not immune to change. As your market matures, it affects the ways of shaping value and the type of buyers you attract. Take a close look at your customer database and compare them with the data in your Ideal Customer Profile. Ask yourself:
- Do they match my ICP?
- If they match my ICP, do they satisfy the current needs of my business?
- Who do I need to advance further?
- Where do I find them?
The last part is tricky enough. This is why we have an entire Lead Research department at Belkins. Our Research teams cover over 50 sources and use multiple tools to refresh our data profiles, clean up our database from irrelevant data, and validate the contact database we currently have. They’re also responsible for exploring leads in the new industries we want to include in our workflow.
Did you find that content useful? Has it relieved your market maturity concerns? Or do you have more questions now? Let us know! We’re always glad to receive your feedback and answer your questions.