September 22, 2016
by Tony Zambito
People and professionals in organizations can have different intentions while working towards the accomplishment of organizational, as well as, individual goals. Understanding the difference between intent-driven and goal-driven behaviors allows for deeper levels of understanding buyers (customers). Leading to more effective online engagement, content design, and sales conversations.
The relationship between intent and goals is a very important one. Understanding this relationship allows for a deeper analysis of buying behavior and what truly is driving purchase decisions. Primarily, it helps with making sense of the tasks and activities buyers perform.
Tasks Versus Goals
This is also an important principle behind buyer insights research and buyer persona development. The many articles, books, and promotional material written about buyer personas, in general, are missing this key point. Whereby what is being professed is getting a little deeper in demographics and describing tasks and activities of buyers.
For example, we see plenty of hyperbole around the buyer’s journey today. Oftentimes, these exercises lay out the tasks and activities buyers may take along a journey. However, what is missing are the intent and the goals driving a person or a team to embark on such a journey.
I spoke recently with a CMO from a high tech company and here was his perspective on this:
“We recently spent a lot of time on developing a buyer’s journey view of our customers. Yes, we used the help of a third-party firm. Frankly, I was disappointed. The analysis of the chronological activities is helpful. But was it something that was going to really transform our marketing? I don’t think so.”
The issue this CMO faced is that the focus of the buyer’s journey was on tasks and activities and not on intent and goals. This issue is prevalent in misguided buyer personas also. Where what is documented amounts to glorified job descriptions of the tasks and activities buyers perform. Falling under this category is such things as priorities, preferences, buying criteria, and etc. because they are related to how one goes about performing their tasks and activities.
I believe this perspective from a Senior Director, Marketing from a SaaS and Cloud-based provider I interviewed a few months ago edifies this point:
“It was an interesting process. I found that, yes it was good to know things like what were the priorities of our customers, what they did in their job, and what they did during certain stages of the buyer’s journey. In the end though, there was something missing. Like, I never got the sense I knew what was important to them or even why it was important.”
This is a common refrain I hear from those who have not tackled buyer persona research with the all-important focus on goal-directed behaviors.
The Connection Between Intent And Goals
In order to generate improved online engagement, content design, and sales conversations, organizations need to gain a deeper understanding of the intent behind tasks and activities. At the same time, come to grips with how certain intentions are related to specific goals. Doing so provides the deeper level of understanding required to create resonance with customers in all aspects of marketing and sales.
For instance, an individual in a B2B organization may perform the activity of online research related to supply chain management. The intent may be related to intra-department discussions on how they have kludged homegrown applications that no longer are adequate. And, it is time to explore alternatives. Yet, there is context related to goals, such as creating faster delivery of critical components to established customers due to new market needs.
Drawing such connections requires sound qualitative research practices in gathering buyer insights. Well beyond the basic line of win/loss or profiling oriented type of rote questioning. Which, unfortunately, due to the popularity of the term buyer persona, are being misrepresented as buyer persona research.
Based on a slew of surveys over the past two to three years, it is clear that the failure to connect with buyers continues to persist. This persistent failure has marketing transformation on the minds of many CEOs and CMOs. With transformation meaning how to reorganize, as well as, realign marketing and sales efforts around the customer.
Gaining deep insights into the connection between buyer intentions and buyer goals can lead to reaching this key aspirational target on the part of CEOs and CMOs – to transform. Buyer persona research can play an important role in helping to achieve transformation. Providing it is done with true qualitative buyer research principles. And, is focused on understanding the goal-directed behaviors of buyers. Which is, at the heart of buyer persona research in general.
When marketing is able to gain such deep understanding, it can transform itself from just marketing to the tasks and activities of buyers. They can transform by mapping to the intentions and goals of their buyers. Putting their organization, in the eyes of customers and buyers, as the one organization that can help them to best accomplish their goals.
(The need for transformation in marketing is a growing concern for many CEOs and CMOs. One company focused on transformation successfully has been GE. In order to make their brand stand out, they are gaining a deeper understanding of what their customers are attempting to accomplish and how they can impact that endeavor. In this video, GE CMO Linda Boff reviews how GE is undertaking transformation efforts.)
Photo credit: Flickr user Premier Photo
About Tony Zambito
Tony is a pioneer , creator, and founder of buyer personas which he established in 2001. He's an innovator of the buyer insights research and buyer persona development methodology used to to help marketers and sales professionals make informed decisions on customer and buyer strategies. Tony is a leading authority on helping organizations leverage the power of buyer insight to become market leaders. Learn more at www.TonyZambito.com.