Accurate classification of customers (or clients) by industry, particularly in B2B, is key to marketing your business effectively. If you don’t know exactly who your potential targets are and what they want, you’ll be shooting in the dark!
Classification of customers by industry is the process of organising the businesses you work with (or want to work with) into industry ‘groupings’ or categories based on similar business activities. There are standardised industry classifications that can be a good starting point… but they’re complicated – often overwhelming and difficult to put into practice. And, a standard industry classification taken off-the-shelf won’t consider all the intricacies of your own business or the specifics that make a prospective customer or industry of particular interest to you.
Understanding your customers in this level of detail may at first seem a little excessive, but it is worth taking the time to get it right. Building a robust methodology will enable you to adapt as your understanding builds and the business expands into other industries.
We know that sometimes business leaders are reluctant to stake their claim in particular industries for fear of restricting themselves from being able to capitalise on opportunities that might present themselves later.
Business leaders can often get stuck being opportunistic rather than being strategic – moving away from this and embracing a more targeted approach will feel both liberating and inspiring.
In our experience, we frequently see marketing falling flat because businesses find it difficult to articulate which industries they serve and what specific propositions they offer. However, defining and creating specific propositions for specific industries becomes obvious once you understand differing customer needs …
Recognising customer needs is a pretty basic marketing requirement but we’re suggesting that to really address this you need to understand everything your customers do, in great detail. This level of insight will help you figure out so much – who you need to recruit to best service your market and how to position your business to make your communications resonate.
Targeted marketing to a very specific audience with very specific needs, demonstrates that you understand your customers’ challenges and builds confidence that you’re a safe pair of hands.
Once you’ve scoped out who your customers are and which industries they operate in you’ll be able to assess whether your team have enough industry expertise to help create meaningful sales and marketing opportunities.
Investing time allowing your people to become thought-leaders or industry experts will make you a credible supplier and give everything you offer more value. Your people will gain confidence in the language of the industry they serve, understand industry-specific needs and deepen key relationships.
With accurate classification of customers running through your business from marketing, operations and financial reporting, your marketing will be reinvigorated based on actual relevant data. You’ll be able to refine your marketing activities, identify where and how to promote your business, targeting specific audiences with even more specific messaging. And, as you drive forward with a new, more targeted approach you’ll be able to analyse which campaigns perform better and which industries provide you with the best ROI. Then, you’ll be able to gauge whether an approach is or isn’t working and know when your efforts might be better applied elsewhere.
As well as clarifying where you’re currently working you’ll start to see where you're not … you’ll spot obvious opportunities and wonder why you’ve not thought about certain industries before.
Financially you’ll be able to calculate whether certain industries are more profitable, when considering the cost of sale, the margin and the operational performance. There may well be some industries you work with that don’t bring great financial gains but you value them for other strategic reasons. Perhaps they make you look good by positive association, they open doors to other, more profitable opportunities … or maybe they are simply enjoyable to work with. The reasons could be varied but let’s understand them and make conscious decisions regarding our target markets.
You don’t need to stop everything you’re doing as you take your business through the process of classifying your customers … we’d recommend continuing to pitch to the markets you feel most confident in. You already know your business and your instincts are always valuable – go with your gut first … then validate with data.
It’s worth investing in getting this right because it will enable your marketing activity to hit the mark, time-and-time again. Gradually you should see better leads coming in from the right sectors … then all you need to do is work out how to convert your leads into sales …