Many small businesses have multi-layered customer relationships, serving one audience who purchases or recommends their work, and an end-user audience who is the ultimate consumer of their product or service.
- If you are a professional speaker, you need to satisfy both the organizers managing the event as well as the attendees who will rate your talk. Both groups are important, and their satisfaction will impact your reputation and the likelihood that you’ll be invited to speak in the future.
- My research company conducts custom research for marketing agencies, for the benefit of their clients. I need to meet the needs of my agency clients, but also those of THEIR clients, who ultimately pay for my research and whose opinion of my work directly impacts their level of satisfaction with the agency that brought me in.
- If your company serves consumers, you may have a buyer who isn’t the person actually using your product or service — perhaps someone is purchasing it as a gift for someone else, or making a purchase decision for a child, elderly parent or another person.
When your business has multi-layered customer relationships like these, you need to take specific steps to ensure your marketing and messaging strategy responds to the needs of both the direct as well as the end-use customers for your products or services, and that you are supporting your direct customer’s selling activities on your behalf. I recommend these five steps to get you started:
Step 1: Assess the Needs of Your Direct Audience
Consider your direct buyers. What problems are THEY trying to solve by purchasing your product or service?
In the case of my research, agencies are looking for services that will help them win more new business, improve the efficacy of their marketing activities for clients, provide opportunities for additional revenue from existing clients, and encourage current clients to maintain longer relationships with their agency.
To meet their needs, my work needs to be affordable, needs to fit into a reasonable timeframe for their workflow, and needs to require minimal effort and oversight on the part of agency staff. My brand needs to be reputable, my expertise demonstrable, and my demeanor polished.
Your direct audience may be seeking a solution that is affordable and easy to find but has the cachet of seeming exclusive or expensive. Or perhaps they want something that gives them the appearance of having expertise they don’t have, or of doing a lot of work when in fact it’s fairly turnkey and easy for them to deliver.
Step 2: Assess the Needs of Your End-Use Audience
Now consider the ultimate beneficiaries of your work — those who are using your product, engaging with your service and (in the case of many multi-layered relationships) paying for your efforts. What will convince them that your product or service is what they need?
The clients of my agency customers need to feel their money has been well-spent, and that their agency was responsible with their budget. They need to see value in the research, even if they’re not experienced with research or marketing. They need to have the opportunity to ask questions and get answers that satisfy them.
Your end-use customers may want something that is low in sugar or less expensive than other options. While considerations like these may not be critical to your direct prospect, they can be deal-breakers for the end users.
Step 3: Assess the Commonalities and Differences Between These Needs
When comparing the needs of these two audience types, you may find they share many considerations in common.
In my case, both my agencies and their clients need to feel confident about my expertise, the quality of my work and its value to them.
However, each audience also has considerations and concerns that are unique to them.
My agency prospects are of course interested in the extent to which they can generate new revenue — directly or indirectly — as a result of my work. And they may prefer that their actual cost for the project remain private, given that they are likely to incorporate a profit margin when they bill their clients. They also undoubtedly want to ensure that my work and presentation reflects well on them.
My end customers, the agency clients, need to feel confident that the research will provide clear and unbiased insights, even if those fail to support their assumptions or those of their agency. They want to know that their custom research truly is developed just for them — that, in the memorable words of one of my prospects, “We’re not buying anybody else’s research”.
For each benefit you can claim about your product or service, assess whether it’s important to your direct audience, your end-use audience, or both. (And, of course, don’t fail to be ruthless in discarding “benefits” that really aren’t important to either of these groups.)
Step 4: Develop a Messaging Matrix
Now you can establish a messaging plan for each audience based on their needs.
- Address the needs and considerations shared by both groups in common areas of your website and other communications platforms. Both audiences will benefit from seeing you address these.
- Discussions pertinent to only one audience or the other can happen on separate pages or sections of your website, where content is focused on responding to the concerns or questions of a particular audience but won’t cause trouble if it’s viewed by other audiences as well.
- Topics that need to be addressed with one audience but which should not be visible to any others (such as pricing or selling recommendations for your direct buyers) should be handled in private, audience-specific messaging vehicles such as email, client portals or gated resource areas on your site.
Step 5: Help THEM Sell YOU
Don’t forget to provide resources that your direct prospects can use when pitching your products or services to their end-use prospects! Sales kits, presentations, or even your participation in the sales process can be invaluable in converting both types of prospect audiences into customers.
How do you have multiple layers in your audience target? How can you understand and differentiate what they need to hear, and give them helpful information to make their purchase decision?
Need some help figuring out who your best audiences are and the problems you should be solving for them? Learn how here!