I’m a pretty fortunate guy.
Over the course of my career, I’ve worked with start-ups, small, medium and large organizations across a broad array of industries that target consumers and businesses.
This has allowed me to focus on marketing – meaning it has taught me to focus on the audience, identify key segments and develop integrated marketing campaigns that focus on delivering to the right person the right message at the right time through the right channel in order to get the right response.
It has made me benefit focused rather than feature focused because benefits resonate with the audience. They motivate them to act.
It has made me understand testing in order to improve performance so I can lower the cost of a sale, increase the order size and frequency and set expectations so the customer is more likely to come back and buy again and again and again.
It has helped me understand the importance of a solid data strategy in order to capture the right data, analyze the data and use the information to drive decision-making.
That’s why I love it when I meet with a potential client that looks at my background and voices a concern about my lack of experience in their industry.
And the reason I love that concern is because it allows me to ask them about their audience, their competition, their own unique strengths and resources.
Why? Because typically I get to identify opportunities to use what I’ve learned for the benefit of the business.
For example, last week I was in a meeting with the CEO of a professional services firm. And when I asked about his audience, I got a very general response – businesses in a certain geography with a certain level of revenue.
So I asked what their needs were, and their expectations, and what they saw as their possible solutions…and I began talking about the possible segments or personas that existed in his very general target definition.
And his eyes widened.
I asked about where they went to gather information about possible solutions because that would impact the channels that should be used to communicate with the buyers.
I asked what he defined as a qualified lead and a sales ready lead because that would impact who went to sales and who went into the nurturing process.
I asked what percentage were motivated by price or quality of service or other factors because that would impact messaging and offers.
I asked about conversion rates, retention rates and average order size as well as order frequency and their strategies for cross-selling and up-selling because that had an impact on revenue, profits and life-time value.
Within a few minutes, he realized that what I brought to the table was unique, valuable and critical to the long-term success of his business – and that industry experience was something that would come over time but would be based on data captured from our audience and our competition.
So the point of this little post is this – when you search for a new marketing person, focus on their marketing skills rather than their industry experience. If their good, they will be the voice of your audience in your organization. They will use that insight to identify opportunities for new offerings, new audiences, new markets, new pricing strategies. And they will help your organization play to your strengths, leverage your resources and improve performance in key areas like conversion rates, retention rates, annual order volume, order frequency, life time value, referrals…and profitable revenue.
What do you think? Is industry experience really more important than knowing how to better understand your audience in order to improve sales and marketing performance?