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All Customers Aren’t Alike

by David Brock on October 26th, 2016

“Well Duuugggh Dave!  Thanks for that stunning insight!?!”

OK, now that you’ve gotten that out of your systems, let me dive into what I mean.  Let’s imagine we have done our homework.  We are treating customers as a homogenous group, we are segmenting our customers based on industry and markets.  We may be segmenting customers based on size (Global, Enterprise, SMB, Consumer).  We may further be segmenting the buyers within enterprises by persona.

We’ve done our homework, we have content, marketing, and sales programs aligned to these segments.  We prospect within a segment–but still aren’t connecting with customers as effectively as we would like.

There’s an important element to our segmentation that we too often forget to consider, the customer maturity.

No I don’t mean those that are always serious versus those that continually crack jokes and pull pranks.  I mean their maturity within their segment.

Are the early adopters, do they see themselves as innovators and thought leaders?

Are they risk averse, are they always the last to adopt a change, choosing to compete on price or other bases?

We need to align our marketing and sales strategies around the customer maturity within their segment.

Geoffrey Moore’s work in Crossing The Chasm gives us one model to look at at how customer maturity impacts our success in engaging customers.

customer-maturity-model

Within our segments, even within our personas, there are differing levels of customer maturity.  Our solutions may not resonate with each segment—in fact we have to look at the maturity of our solutions and similar solutions in the markets.  Many within the segment may not be aware or have the problems we are addressing.

For example, if our solution is revolutionary and disruptive, regardless how compelling the business case is, Early Majority, Late Majority, and Laggards are unlikely to be interested.  We are wasting our time and resources as well as aggravating customers in those segments with our marketing and prospecting.

Likewise, if we develop a highly refined approach to a well known mature solution space, it’s unlikely that Innovators and Early Adopters will be interested in the solution.  While it’s differentiated from everything on the market, for them it’s “So Yesterday!”  They’ve “been there and done that,” they are looking for the next disruptive change to their business model.

We can, however, leverage this model of customer maturity to great impact, both in our introduction of new products/solutions, as well as maximizing the effectiveness of our sales and marketing programs.

The innovators, love MVP’s (minimum viable products).  By definition, they want to be involved in shaping solutions, trying new ideas, disrupting their own thinking and improving.  They can be great partners and laboratories for testing our own ideas–whether it’s new products/services, or new ways to approach and engage the markets.  Through these we will develop early insights—perhaps not great insights, but sufficient to capture the imaginations of the next groups.

Early adopters are actually the real powerhouses for much of what we do.  It’s through them that we gain deeper understanding of what the majority of the markets care about.  It’s through them that we mature our own knowledge of what customers need, the real value we can create, the sustainable insights we can leverage.  It’s these early adopters that are most receptive to our “challenging,”  and to our insights.  They will will more readily engage in looking at their businesses differently.  The buying/sales cycle may be longer, both they and we are learning and discovering a lot, hopefully collaboratively.  It’s critical to create great customer success/experience.   Early adopters are often viewed as thought leaders within their segments.  Certainly the early majority pays attention to what these early adopters do.  Having the “Flagship/Lighthouse” accounts as references, eases our ability to access the early majority.  They provide the platform to launch into the Early Majority.

The Early Majorities are where the bulk of the market opportunity exists.  Both want proven solutions, they will look to what the rest of the market is doing.  Early Majority will pay a lot of attention to the experiences and results from Early Adopters. Referencing innovators will have little impact, the response from Early Majority customers is, “Well, they are different.”   The insights they are more likely to be interested in are, “What results did it produce for the early adopters, what are the risks, how did they manage the risks, what do I need to do to achieve success/reduce risk, how do I justify this to management?”  Hopefully, we’ve learned all this from the Early Adopters and are leveraging it in our content, marketing, and sales programs.  Buying/Sales cycles are likely to be somewhat shorter than with Early Adopters.  We will be more capable of managing process effectively because our own experience is richer and more mature.

Late Majority are a lot like early adopters.  We may see more competition in these because more alternatives may be available.  There may be greater price sensitivity along with this.  Again, buying/sales cycles are likely to be more compressed.  Late adopters will be driven to implement a solution just to keep up and keep competitive.

And there will always be the Laggards, forced into doing something because everyone else is doing it and they have to for survival.  They are likely to be price sensitive, the buying/selling process may be closer to a transactional process–or even some might be moved entirely to the web.

Looking at customer maturity, their readiness to change, and aligning it with the maturity of our solutions is critical to our success and our ability to engage our customers with our content, marketing and sales programs.  Our latest greatest cool new disruptive technologies will fall on deaf ears in every segment except the Innovators and possibly the Early Adopters.

Likewise, we may look at deploying our sales people differently.  With Innovators, it’s likely that our product and business development people will drive success.  With early adopters, our most experienced Challengers may be the most appropriate.  With the Early Majority, we will be able to leverage SDRs, BDRs, Account Managers—we still need to Challenge and provide Insights, but we have deeper knowledge and experience about these.  The buying/sales process becomes more predictable in this stage.  Late Majority customers might easily be shifted to channels.  We’ve developed the “formula for success,” now we can transfer that knowledge and experience to our partners.  And laggards may actually be moved to web based fulfillment.

We have to understand the maturity of the problem/solution space for our solutions.  We have to understand the maturity of our customers and their receptivity to these types of solutions.  Finally, we have to align our content, marketing, sales programs and resources to the right customers.

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