Sharing experience, insights and best practices for building SaaS businesses. Clients rely on us to realize the future visions of their organizations. Posts here are based on real-world outcomes and lessons learned from putting marketing to work – marketing that grows software companies like yours.  Let’s build something bigger, together.

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If you’re marketing to SMBs or the Middle Market, you’re probably not speaking to business owners' needs.

As the owner of an entrepreneurial enterprise, I don’t think of myself as a “small to midsize business.”  I think of myself as a business owner, entrepreneur, life learner, marketing guru and mentor.  SMB just never figures into my self-image.  And if I owned a $100 million manufacturer or was CEO of a privately-held $150 million SaaS software vendor, I wouldn’t think of myself as “middle market.” So where do these market segment identifiers come from and why are they so pervasive?

Entrepreneur-two-generation-businessMy take is that they are convenient shorthand that has become reduced to marketing jargon.  Which is a nice way of saying that the marketing initiaitives that rely on these monikers and target markets are unlikely to achieve their objectives due to an incomplete understanding of the people they are actually selling to.

Inbound Marketing starts with a thorough understanding of whom you sell to. The vivid, semi-fictionalized profiles we use every day are referred to as Personas. The use for Personas goes far beyond Inbound Marketing – the most successful organizations use Personas at every stage of the product, marketing and client lifecycle (this is true from entrepreneurial to behemoths as large as HP in its software business, whose CMO provided great insight into his use of Personas at INBOUND 2013).

If you’re stuck on how to get started with personas for SMB marketing (seeking keyword density, apologies), and your product or service is being marketed to entrepreneurs, please allow me to lend a hand. In creating personas for a client's business, we came up with three that you can use as a starting point for your inbound marketing to entrepreneurs.

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Our client determined that his consulting services are very valuable and easily differentiated to entrepreneurial businesses. In researching his market, which is based on advanced social science analytics, we realized that there are two very different kinds of businesses and business owners he can target: Founder-only leadership and two-generation leadership. And the personas he’s targeting are very different at each. The companies he wants to sell to have at least $10 million in sales.  Since his service relies on an understanding of management and social sciences, he decided to focus on only one of the personas we created, at least to start.  Can you figure out which one that is?

Business Owner Bob. Bob founded the business and may or may not have complete college. His decisions are made based on his knowledge of the business, not management theory. He’s more emotional than analytical, but he does know his numbers. He uses reporting templates from his accountant and a consultant he hired to help him understand his business and customers.

Debbie, Daughter of Bob.  Debbie might be the first person in her family to go to college but almost certainly the first to go to graduate school. Bob made her work elsewhere and go to grad school before working in the family business. She feels a strong need to prove that she belongs in and can contribute to the business.

Pretty simple, right?  Debbie is the ideal Persona for us to target in this market segment. She has motivation and will really understand our client's value-add for her family business.  So we're starting this Inbound Marketing campaign with content and engagement for two-generation family businesses.

Our client's business targets fairly substantial entrepreneurial enterprises, but your ideal customer might be somewhat smaller. In that case, you may need to reach a non-family member who has significant influence over small- to mid-size decisions: the office manager. We've included Office Manager Maggie in our free Persona Quick Start template.

Office Manager Maggie.  Every successful family business has a protector, and Maggie takes care of Bob and Debbie. She’s fiercely loyal, has an Associate’s degree and makes a lot of the day-to-day decisions at the company. She’s the classic gatekeeper and knows it. 

Personas You Can Tailor for Marketing to Entrepreneurs

We’ve created three personas in template form for you to download, provided as a PowerPoint document so they are easy to change. The more these personas are based on real people, the more powerful they are.  The process of creating personas usually involves conversations with sales and customer service staff as well as customers themselves. If you’d like to dig deeper on creating personas, please contact us and we’ll provide additional resources. 

Get your entrepreneur personas below!


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