Better Prospect Intelligence: What B2B Marketers Can Learn from Blind Men
In My Face
A colleague recently asked, “With all the data available to us now, what role, if any, does qualitative research play in B2B prospect intelligence? Isn’t that ‘old thinking?’”
That was somewhat in my face and a tad confrontational but a good question. To answer the question, I had to take a step back. While stepping, I tripped over a memory of the poem “The Blind Men and the Elephant” by John Geoffrey Saxe.
Elephants and Prospecting
In this poem, six blind men go off to find out what an elephant really “looks like.” Each blind man is given an opportunity to touch this strange beast, each from a different angle. Each, per their limited experience, develops their own mental image of an elephant―perhaps a tree, a spear, a fan―and then they talk.
So oft in theologic wars, the disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant not one of them has seen!
The argument stops just shy of physical violence. No agreement is ever reached. The point is that data analysis leads to just one view of our prospect.
The Elephant in the Room and Prospect Intelligence
The prospect is the elephant in the room, and no one perspective, no one point of view yields a true and complete portrait. There is no monopoly on insight, grasshopper.
A three-dimensional view of our prospects can only be achieved by a three-sided equation:
- Data analysis adds an important dimension to our prospect intelligence efforts in recognizing what prospects are doing now. It’s immediate and improves targeting and enables greater efficiency. However, it doesn’t provide depth to the “who” and the “why” of the behavior, which leads us to include Sales’ internal intelligence.
- Internal intelligence―Sales talks to the elephants all day long, every day. They experience how prospects interact with their company and add to the prospect intelligence. Let’s tap into their real-world knowledge, both of the individuals and the specific accounts. How do prospects articulate their issues?
To complete prospect intelligence, Marketing needs more depth on the real people who we are calling prospects.
- Persona research. Creation of a prospect person, or personas, based upon new qualitative research yields the human insights into the individuals who comprise the buying center, their own values, perspectives, and agendas. It takes the learning from behavioral data analysis and inside intelligence and matches it with motivation.
All of which is to say that one point-of-view can be true but not account for the totality of situation. Putting data analysis together with internal intelligence and persona research, we start to get a glimpse of that strange and wonderful beast and fine tune our prospect intelligence efforts.
Or, as the great marketer Groucho Marx once said, “One morning, I shot an elephant in my pajamas. What he was doing in my pajamas I’ll never know.”