In a previous life I had a boss who was a devout advocate of the ‘shotgun’ technique for sales and marketing.
He liked his numbers big and encouraged his team to ‘fire’ emails and calls blindly at a large list of potential customers, hoping something would stick.
This technique spread our efforts too thin, our ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ emails failing to make a genuine connection with prospects, and as a result, our conversion rates were very low. Not only was this approach inefficient for the business, but hugely frustrating and equally demoralising for us too.
Mapping Your Markets
Market mapping is the antithesis of this approach. The rifle to the shotgun, market mapping is a methodical approach that brings focus and direction to your search for new business.
By taking the time to research and understand a market, you can identify who the most relevant clients are – and why – from a large list of possible ‘targets’.
The more relevant a client’s interests and needs are to your initial offering or approach, the more likely a meaningful connection will be established, and the more likely you get hired, or a sale made.
How to Market Map
The process of market mapping is very simple. Take a market, list the companies that exist within it, and then take the time to gather information on relevant people within each company and their possible interests.
An online search is, obviously, the quickest and easiest way to gather information. Company websites, LinkedIn, and industry magazines are a good place to start, but don’t forget useful tools like Google Alerts – a frequently overlooked time-saver.
Sometimes data can be a little more of a challenge to come by, and even large well-known industries aren’t always well documented. Such ‘holes’ in your map aren’t necessarily a problem though.
Market maps, incomplete or not, can deliver some very practical benefits:
They direct you to ‘easy wins’: those companies and people where information is more readily available are more likely to be open to your approach and may be easier to build a rapport with.
They reveal possible areas for opportunity: just because data isn’t immediately available, don’t give up the search.
Keep looking for sources of information that will shed light on a prospective client. Others will have given up early on, leaving this a less competitive area of the market.
They show you when to move your research ‘offline’: While online research is the best way to gather a large amount of information, certain information won’t be available and you could try to meet some customers in order to fill in the blanks.
Attending events and conferences that your target customers are likely to visit will help complete more of your market map. What’s more, direct interaction helps form relationships that could lead to work.
Now that we’ve gathered information on who is in your potential market…
Gathering all the information you can on a group of companies is a great start, but we need two other crucial pieces of information:
1) Your current level of contact:
Integrating the market map with your CRM will show what percentage of the market you’re in contact with, and where you may already have relationships that could be levered to make new introductions.
2) The relevance of your offering to the market:
It’s extremely important to mark the relevance of every contact you uncover. You may have been able to identify a contact at a company, but if there isn’t evidence that they’re interested in what you have to offer, then an approach is likely to be wasted.
Putting this information together allows you to arrange your data into a priority matrix, bringing focus and direction to your business development efforts.
These customers are likely ones you are already selling to; if not they are the low-hanging fruit. You already have a relationship, you know they are interested in what you have to offer, you just need to ‘close the sale’.
These are prospective clients you’ve not spoken to before, but you know that they are likely interested in what you have to offer and developing a relationship shouldn’t be too difficult.
You know these clients; however, they’re not interested in what you currently offer. Consider new products/services that may be of interest to them or ignore them and move on.
These prospects should largely be ignored. You haven’t made contact with them, nor are they interested in what you have to offer. That shouldn’t stop you keeping an eye on them or approaching one or two – clients’ needs can change over time, or you might find that your research wasn’t entirely accurate.
There is also a dark space outside of this grid, a fifth priority:
Those clients for whom you have found no information whatsoever.
The process of market mapping is never really complete; rather it should continue, with research conducted from a new angle, new markets researched, or original research revised.
To wrap it up…
Market mapping helps make efficient use of the time you’ve set aside for business development.
Once complete, it delivers a priority order ‘to-do’ list of relevant clients to contact, an alternative to the endless trawl through LinkedIn, the occasional email to past clients, or the shotgun approach that a search for new business can often become.
What are your experiences with mapping your market?