DifferentiationMessagingPersonasProduct ManagementProduct MarketingSaeedSalesSegmentation

How well can you really understand your buyers?

By Saeed Khan

I had the pleasure of meeting with a number of international region sales managers recently. They covered geographic regions including Western Europe, the Nordic countries, Eastern Europe, Russia, Turkey, the Middle East and parts of Africa. There was a mix of direct sales staff and distributor/partner managers. This was the first time I’ve met with such a diverse group of  sales people all at the same time.

What was really amazing was the diversity of views and issues that were discussed.  The product in question was an enterprise IT software product, and while we do have price lists in numerous international currencies, the issues of pricing, discounts and difficulties selling the product were the focus of much discussion.

Now a cynic would say that when are these things NOT a focus of discussion with sales people? 🙂 But there were many  interesting points brought up by the group.

  • A very simple and seemingly clear value proposition in North America can be meaningless in another country because of different regulations or different business priorities.
  • In some countries buying decisions are VERY heavily influenced by the relationship between the buyer and the vendor and actual product functionality is less important.
  • In some countries there is a prestige factor (for the buyer) associated with certain vendors and certain products and that can heavily influence purchase decisions.
  • In some countries, local partners (e.g. system integrators and consultants) play a large role in the buying decision and implementation of a product, so their needs must be understood.
  • Not all regions viewed the value of product functionality the same way. Some regions valued certain functionality, while other regions saw little value in that same functionality.
  • In some regions, particularly emerging markets, piracy is still rampant, and security (or lack of it) in a product can be an influencing factor.

These are just some of the examples that were discussed, but it quickly became very clear that there was a lot of factors across the different regions that required different approaches to convince buyers to purchase product.

Buyer personae can be regional

When we typically think of buyers, we often talk about “THE buyer persona”.  But clearly there are MANY buyer personae that need to be understood. The sales managers understand their buyers — or at least are supposed to understand their buyers — but how well do we in Product Management and Product Marketing understand the diversity of buyers and buying criteria around the world? And how well can we stay abreast of the changes that will impact these personae? And with different personae, there will be a need for different messaging and likely different positioning. This has a fundamental impact on how the product is marketed in different regions.

These recent meetings really opened my eyes. I had a general sense of some of the regional issues prior to the meeting, but honestly, they were at a very high level, without much detail. Now I have a much deeper appreciation of the challenges we face in different regions, and I have a lot to think about as we plan product strategy and go-to-market activities for next year.

How do you handle regional differences with respect to your product? Is it an issue? I’d love to hear from you.


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