047 | Do You Know Who: The Focus of Your HealthTech Marketing with Joshua Oakes | Studio CMO

Podcast by | April 9, 2021 Branding and Design, Positioning and Messaging

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The Episode in 60 Seconds

How well do you know your customer? Is your knowledge limited to a single sheet of paper with a fake name and some socioeconomic and psychographic data or have you taken a deeper dive?

Joshua Oakes has spent his career helping companies understand their customers at a core level. He calls his approach, “Who First.”

On this edition of Studio CMO, we will walk through the four steps of Who First:

  • Audience Discovery 
  • Audience Understanding 
  • Serving Your Audience
  • Measurement and Collaboration

About Our Guest

Joshua Oakes is the creator of Who First, the framework that helps companies develop and apply an understanding of their customers to serve them more effectively and drive outcomes. After years of consulting for organizations with product marketing or customer acquisition challenges, he decided to help them solve the root problem he kept finding:

Companies that don’t understand their customers could never hope to acquire them effectively or serve them well.

His background is half technology, half marketing. He’s worked with companies in SaaS, higher ed, healthcare, music licensing, non-profit, social media, entertainment, telecom…lots of industries and every stage from pre-seed to enterprise.

He gardens extensively for the fresh produce and for the metaphors. He makes jams and wines (mostly to give away) as well as salsas and hot sauces (which he won’t give away without a serious warning).

Show Notes

The way that you understand your customer is very similar to the way that you understand any other human being that you’re in a relationship with: you talk to them, you try to relate to them empathically, and you spend time with them. — Joshua Oakes

The Who First Methodology

  1. Audience Discovery – talking to customers
    • Guided interview—”Learn Who Interview” (at least 10)
    • Be an active listener
    • Where did they begin the journey?
    • What was your vision of the future when your problem was solved?
    • What were the signposts that told you that you were on the way to success?
    • What traps did you fall into at work?
    • How did you experience us as an organization and as an individual?
    • And many more
  2. Audience Understanding – distilling what you learn
    • Analyze the content of the recorded interviews
    • What trends do you hear?
    • What information emerges that is shared, actionable, validated, and measurable
  3. Serving Your Audience – application
    • The Who Plan – a break down of what your customers experience at each stage of the journey
    • Whoa – a formula for deciding what content to create
  4. Measurement and Collaboration – improving your systems, processes, and your teams’ ability to work together
    • The “Know Who” Measurement — put audience metrics into your weekly and quarterly reporting
    • Audience-Focused Teams

80% of our decisions are fundamentally emotional and that’s even true in healthcare, HealthTech, and B2B. And in fact, the emotional component of decision-making is more important in B2B scenarios because there are more people with emotions involved in that decision-making process. — Joshua Oakes


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John Farkas (00:00):

Understanding our buyer is clearly one of the core tenants that we are married to in the context of marketing. And, you know, it’s just interesting to me to see how people look at that discipline. You know, I’ve had recently had, uh, one of our clients present to me, a very professionally laid out set of four different personas that they target with their customer complete with weekend preferences and types of cars driven and lots of colorful anecdotal information that took up space on the page. But ultimately did very little to help me understand what I needed to do to engage them in the real market, you know, in, in a world that we live in today that is so dependent. So contingent on searches and what people look for in the effort to solve specific problems. Having a few loose problems listed on an elaborate persona is not terribly helpful. It really gets down to knowing exactly what people need and understanding clearly what are the problems plaguing them that they are trying to solve? It’s not about personas. It’s about how we understand the real buyer problems. That’s what we’re going to be talking about today on Studio CMO.

Mark Whitlock (01:41):

Welcome to Studio CMO, the true crime edition. In a world where search is king, will you find who you need? Hi, Mark Whitlock here. And we’re going to have some fun today, killing off personas and John Farkas, whom you just heard from, our CEO of Golden Spiral and the host of our podcast is here. And John, can’t wait to hear you. I see 17 soap boxes in your office. So this is going to be a really fun day.

John Farkas (02:10):

Hello, everybody. And, uh, just want to be clear. This is a non-violent execution.

Mark Whitlock (02:19):

No humans were harmed in the making of the podcast.

John Farkas (02:21):

No humans will be harmed in the making of this podcast, but lots of very creatively laid out persona profiles may be burned in the process.

Mark Whitlock (02:31):

and Anna Grimes, my fellow co-hosts and sidekick is along with us today. Anna, thanks for being with us today.

Anna Grimes (02:38):

I’m just so proud to be here.

Mark Whitlock (02:40):

And we have our clue board all set out on the table in front of us. And our guest is taking the, the fourth place here and setting up his own icons in his room and Anna who’s with us today.

Anna Grimes (02:51):

So today we have Joshua Oakes who is the creator of Who First. And that is a framework that helps companies develop and apply an understanding of their customers to serve them more effectively and drive outcomes. He’s background is half technology, half marketing. He’s worked with companies in SaaS, higher ed, healthcare, social media, telecom. What I think is interesting about Joshua’s profile is that after years of consulting for organizations with product marketing or customer acquisition challenges, he decided to help them solve the root problem. He kept finding companies that don’t understand their customers could never hope to acquire them effectively or serve them well. So welcome Joshua.

Mark Whitlock (03:34):

Joshua. Thanks for coming.

Joshua Oakes (03:36):

Thanks. I’m really happy to be here. I love what you guys are doing with Studio CMO and I’m honored to be called up.

Mark Whitlock (03:43):

We’re a little bit disappointed though that we don’t have some glasses of your homemade wine and crackers cheese and jam on the table as well from your creations.

Joshua Oakes (03:51):

but maybe you can find some time to do that.

John Farkas (03:55):

Joshua. I know that you have been for a long time focused on the data layer of marketing, understanding. What’s really going on, what the data proves is happening in the market, based on what we can see through the, the search sphere and understanding how people are moving and how they’re engaging. And I’m just guessing that as you’ve continued to focus on that, that’s helped inform a lot of what you’re doing in the context of your focus now on the buyer. But tell me a little bit about how you’re approaching this world.

Joshua Oakes (04:31):

The question for me has always been, we have our assumptions and our biases, but how do we get close to ground truth? And data is obviously a pretty important component of that. But when you spend a lot of time with data, you learn a lot, just, you know, about what you’re collecting about your customers, about your process and your outcomes, uh, you know, whatever systems you are using, collect certain facets or dimensions of data, but having seen many customer acquisition funnels and acquisition strategies and product measurement approaches, I came to the conclusion or a sort of sounds like a college dorm room realization, but that, you know, data isn’t real. Math isn’t real. These things are languages that we use to describe reality, which is, you know, we have prospects and customers out there with a problem who hopefully want us to help them solve it.

Joshua Oakes (05:44):

And our interests are aligned. We would like to help them solve those problems too, um, and have a mutually beneficial relationship with them. But if you are trying to understand what that means by looking at Google Analytics’ report that tells you what your bounce rate is. You can’t really learn anything from that. You can’t learn anything about your customer and you can really only learn very limited things about your marketing. And there is an inherent bias in the data that every system collects. It can collect the things that it can easily measure and then put in a report for you. But the inputs into that system are almost always the things that are the most interesting, the most helpful, and what really helped you understand the, why, you know, the why of your bounce rate isn’t in Google analytics and the bounce rate. Isn’t really that indicative of how successful you are meeting the needs of your customers. So we need to think in a more systematic and a bigger picture, more human centric way about the data that we collect and how we use it to serve our customers.

John Farkas (06:56):

As you approach that, if it’s not the surface level persona, you know, understanding that how are we forming a picture of the buyer, lead us into how you approach that a little bit.

Joshua Oakes (07:08):

It’s not rocket science, the way that you understand your customer is very similar to the way that you understand any other human being that you’re in a relationship with, which is you talk to them, you try to relate to them empathically, and you spend time with them. At the very basic level. If you want to understand your customers, the best thing you can do is talk to them, talk to more than one. And don’t cherry pick the ones that your CEO is excited about, or your VP of sales or CMO want to call out as showcase customers, talk to them as many as you can. And I’m happy to talk about what that means and distill what you learn. Turn that into an understanding of your customer that is documented, actionable, measurable, and most importantly validated. And from there, all of these things have fairly specific kind of plans and steps, but the solution of what you need to deliver your customer often kind of largely suggests itself. You know, you create a plan that gets them from where they are to where they want to be in the context of the solution that you provide for them. And then you figure out how to help your teams and systems support that journey. Along the way. I talk about those stages as being audience discovery, which is the talking to your customer audience, understanding is distilling what you learn serving your audience is the actual application and then measurement and collaboration is how you improve your systems and processes and team’s ability to work together.

Mark Whitlock (08:51):

John, you, you came to a very similar conclusion about how, uh, the data, isn’t always the picture that they’re humans at the other end of that, and how empathy plays a key role in audience identification, audience communication. What was, what was part of your journey to get to those conclusions.

John Farkas (09:10):

It’s fairly straight forward. And it’s consistent with what I’m hearing Joshua communicate. I mean, we have to understand the context that people are coming from, and we have to understand not just a thin slice that is indicative of one person’s journey. I mean, we’re talking about a healthcare ecosystem in our universe, right? And as we often say, I mean, you sell into one health system. You sell in the one health system, they’re vastly complicated organizations. They have lots of different approaches to similar solutions and understanding the specific set is important. And it’s really critical to understand what that looks like so often. And this is part of the key in some of what I’m hearing Joshua speak to. So often we start with the product and we build backwards. Like here’s what our product can do. And so you look at the bullseye of the problem that you solve and decide that’s the most important problem in the market? Well, that’s not always the case. And so it becomes important in our marketing to take people from where they are to where we need them to go or want them to go and make sure that we’re, our ears are open in the process. Joshua, what’s been your experience in working with organizations and how they, you know, what their predispositions are?

Joshua Oakes (10:35):

You really hit the nail on the head there. And your illustration describing the personas that you were shown recently is pretty representative. I’m sure you all have seen a lot of personas. Uh, you know, I do persona audits with folks and, or get called in when they have tried and failed to create personas or tried and failed to apply them. And that is very much the pattern that I see, you know, is a bunch of stakeholders get in the room. You know, it’s generally driven by marketing. There’s a handful of people from marketing. Maybe they pull somebody in from sales. Hopefully they pull somebody in from sales who is amenable to this, hopefully. Yeah. Hopefully they pull somebody in that is, uh, in some form responsible for customer success, whether that’s like an account manager or an actual customer success executive. And they say, you know, we really need to figure out who our customers are and they lock themselves in the room until they come up with something they’ve, you know, they Google, uh, persona template and fill in the blanks and fill the whiteboard and then I’ll stand back, put their hands on their hips.

Joshua Oakes (11:48):

And ah, it doesn’t, it doesn’t look right. Or did, what did, what did we do wrong? Is this good? Is this bad? Like now what do we even do with this? And at the very end, I’m sure y’all can guess that what I’m going to say is who’s not in that room is the customer, right? And so they’re playing a game of telephone. Uh, oftentimes especially if the people involved in there should be people involved who are at, you know, a director up to executive level. Absolutely. But if those people have not talked to multiple customers before they get in that room, how many games of telephone are we playing there to kind of try to bring an understanding of who the customer is to the table. And so they end up presuming as John, as you said, essentially, a customer who’s already half closed by the time they even interact with your business and they frame, this is a major problem with the personas is that they frame the desire that the customer has in terms of your solution.

Joshua Oakes (12:49):

And a major component of Who First is that this is a complete young unmeasurable metric, like fun. And I don’t mean hard to measure in the sense that Google Analytics can’t get it. I mean, it is probably for a couple of hundred years completely immeasurable, which is the extent to which an emotions impact our decisions as human beings. And I’m not a touchy feely person. I am a stone-cold show me the numbers kind of person. And I’ve had to come to this realization and, and admit it to myself, right? That 80% of our decisions are fundamentally emotional and that’s even true in healthcare and health tech and B2B. And in fact, the emotional component of decision-making is more important in B2B scenarios because there are more people with emotions involved in that decision-making process. The sales team actually often gets this at a more kind of intuitive level than marketers do, even though marketers have a reputation for being more touchy, feely than sales folks, because the sales team knows they need to go in there.

Joshua Oakes (13:58):

Then you need to identify the stakeholders. They need to identify the dynamics. They need to know that if the CNO and a health system has some kind of priority and the CFO has a chip on their shoulder because of something, they can work down through all of that on a case by case basis. But marketers being further away from those dynamics can, and decisions have a hard time abstracting that and turning that into something that they can do and an understanding of their customer, where they can bring those emotional dynamics to their messaging, to their outreach

John Farkas (14:34):

We are a marketing agency. And so we are primarily concerned with, in the context of the who land, who is looking to solve the problem, right? Who is out there in some form charged or having the onus on themselves to solve a problem that an organization is facing that is very often different than the person that makes the final decision. And this is where sometimes the line loss can occur between marketing and sales or marketing and the, the C level of the organization, because typically the C level folks are very involved in the conversation or maybe involved in the conversation when it is pretty far down the line. And they are in the room at that point, you know, when we’re talking about these enterprise solution providers, they’re in the room with the higher level, but they have no idea how they got there. You know, they, they do not know the backstory of how that conversation ended up happening at the table.

John Farkas (15:38):

And they don’t know that it was somebody that was maybe two levels down the org chart that was responsible for initiating this conversation. They were the one that were online, trying to get at how to solve a problem, made a discovery and brought that in. And so the reflex action of an organization is to create a persona around the people at that table and ignore the fact that three quarters of the sales story was told before anybody got to that table and may have involved characters that were not in that chapter of the story. And I’d be curious how you’ve seen that play out Joshua and your interactions and experience.

Joshua Oakes (16:21):

When you are dealing with the people sitting around the executive table, obviously your, your stakes are much higher and the amount of time you have to explore what is actually going on is much lower. That pattern of particularly in executive sees a problem and tasks, the Lieutenant with like, Hey, figure this out and bring me three solutions and tell me what we need to do to figure out, do we need to involve it? You know, that kind of complex sale is a thorny one, right? Talking to your customer is still the only way around that. Right? There’s nothing in your CRM that’s going to tell you that that’s how it went. The only people who have access to that truth is the executive, right. And maybe their trusted Lieutenant. So in a B2B sale, right, that person who’s doing the research probably downloaded your white paper or use your ROI calculator or whatever.

Joshua Oakes (17:15):

So when you’re doing win/loss report or a post-mortem, you have to ask like, well, okay, sue.Smith@prospectname.com wasn’t in that meeting, what’s going on. Right. But when you are proactively trying to understand, okay, what is the lay of the land look like? You’ve got to figure out how to get that information out of the folks at the table. And you have limited opportunity to do that in the Who First methodology, we use a structured interview learn interview, uh, that guides folks that aren’t comfortable with conducting full customer interviews, which is almost everyone getting them to a place where that’s more comfortable. Now, are you going to get a CEO or a CNO or a CMO or VP of sales to sit down for a 40 minute interview? Probably not. Right. And even if you are, you’re probably not going to be able to get the VP of sales from 10 of your customers to sit down and for an interview.

Joshua Oakes (18:15):

So you have to be a lot more strategic and be a very active listener for the time that you get them. But with the learn who interview approach, we tackle all of these different areas where they were when they began the journey, what their vision of the future was when their problem was solved, what the signposts were that told them they were on the way to success with the traps, they fell into work, et cetera. We could spend the entire time talking through that system. But the understanding that those first two that I hit, where were you, how did you experience as an organization and as an individual, the executive, the problem that we are here to help you solve, and at the beginning of your journey, how did you envision your world being different, both pragmatically for the organization, but also emotionally for you as the leader, right? Like they have stakes in a big change project going well because their reputation is on the line. And they also are going to have metrics that they need to hit. There’s going to be all of these power dynamics in play. You have to be able to go right to the people who have that information and figure it out how to get it from them.

Anna Grimes (19:34):

Joshua, going back to the meeting with the personas, I’m curious to know what happens before that meeting. Why did we get to the persona level in the first place of drawing up these psycho demographics that kind of fall away? Um, once you can get somebody into the learn who learn how methodology, which by the way is, you need to bring it to you, your best clue game to the plate, and you need to bring, you know, Oprah level interviewing skills.

Joshua Oakes (20:08):

Uh, my aspiration is to make it such that it doesn’t require Oprah level interview skills for these organizations. It’s really more accessible than people think what leads up to these conversations, right? Where organization says, we need to get in room or need to make personas easily. 90% of the time, it can be ascribed to one of two challenges. And that is the first being. They are really investing in some form of content driven process for the first time. You -now, they are going from a customer acquisition strategy that leans heavily on direct response or bottom funnel, paid media and are realizing they need to nurture the mid-funnel or go all the way to top of funnel for the first time and realize that the best understanding they currently have is something like keywords, which isn’t really useful in that scenario. And the second is that they have come to a plateau in their execution and are looking to grow either launching a new product, launching a line of business, going into a new market and realizing that the things that they have done and learned intuitively in the past no longer apply. Hopefully they realize that before they make a big bet in execution of that area. But the challenge is all the things that we know now are suddenly assumptions that are liabilities more than they are assets.

Joshua Oakes (21:51):

And so what those organizations do is say, okay, we need to figure out what’s different about who we are looking to acquire or talk to or engage. Uh, and then a LinkedIn post or a blog post they saw online, or an article from HubSpot or whomever says, you know, you need to do is make marketing personas or ideal customer profiles or avatars. There’s lots of words for these kinds of documents that they start execution before they realize this and try to create a persona. They very quickly realized that they just don’t know what kind of content to produce. Right. They sit down to make an explainer video or to make a blog post or to lay out a social media campaign. Right? And the best idea that anybody can think of is, well, here’s what makes us different, right? And end up making campaigns, videos, all self-reflective instead of setting the world of the customer that recognizes what their needs are, what they are trying to accomplish

Mark Whitlock (22:57):

Is very few actually talk about what the content needs to say. And they all say, you need to create 72 pieces of content from this one thing. And all of a sudden, it’s, it’s nothing about the audience, right?

Joshua Oakes (23:10):

Absolutely. And you know, the focus is often on, uh, and rightly so, taking a single piece of content and understanding how to apply it differently for your different personas. Assuming that you have thought far enough ahead to realize that you will have multiple personas within a customer segment. And that is absolutely the case. You should have a core piece of content that you then know how to reinterpret and apply for your different audiences, but that core understanding doesn’t exist, right? Like you want to fill your pipeline for your audience, but that still requires that you have a good understanding of who your customers are. And that understanding has been validated, uh, and not just created within the context of a whiteboard in the office without any customers being represented.

Mark Whitlock (23:55):

And John that’s been one of the excellent and joyous outcomes of Golden Spiral’s proprietary Buyer Matrix process, Golden Spiral connects all of these parts of data together and interviews and, and understanding and answers questions. And then once you get to that end product, John, the content that’s that’s produced is on target because we have ideally identified the needs and how the solution connects to those needs. How do we get there? How does the buyer matrix do that?

John Farkas (24:28):

Part of our Buyer Matrix process is going through and doing some of this work that you’re talking about, Joshua, where we’re talking to the sales, we’re talking to the people that are most closely associated with the customer interactions. We’re talking to customers and understanding, okay, what is the anatomy of their need set? Coming up with a narrative surrounding each one of those. So we’re, we’re, we’re putting those in narrative form and in hierarchical order. So, you know, from the, from the most pressing to least pressing, and then we’re looking for matches and problem sets among different people that are in the buying sphere. And what that creates for us is a really well detailed roadmap of what we need to be talking about in the market. If people’s needs are X, Y, and Z, then we ought to be talking directly about X, Y, and Z, even though X only has 25% to do with our specific solution.

John Farkas (25:26):

The fact that we’re talking about it, and it’s a real need of theirs, lets them know that we understand their space, lets them know that who we are and what we’re talking about is relevant to them. So that we have the opportunity to start a conversation and ultimately lead them into an understanding of what, how we can help them. Right. So it’s really important work. That’s clearly a priority for how we approach things. Joshua, will you kind of breeze through the four components of your process, but you know, you talked about discovery, understanding, serving, and then measurement and collaboration. I would love for you to kind of take us point by point and give us some of the backdrop of what’s behind each of those steps and what we’re doing specifically through that process starts out in discovery. What does that look like?

Joshua Oakes (26:18):

Yeah. Uh, audience discovery is the best place to start this process. And it’s kind of exactly what it sounds like. It’s the phase where we go in and get down to what is actually driving your customers to make a change and kind of assemble what you learned from that. We typically do that with the Learn Who interview, which is, you know, we’d go out and interview a number of customers as a team and coach and kind of bring people along. And as I said, I want to make it so that it doesn’t require, or it’s not perceived by the team internally to require Oprah level interview skills, but expose people from across the organization to the customers and get them used to what a customer interview is like. Um, and then we take those learnings across the interviews that we conduct and workshop the findings we, uh, record and usually transcribe those interviews and then mine them for a bunch of dimensions of what that customers and prospects experience was like.

Joshua Oakes (27:30):

Not necessarily their purchasing process with the organization, but starting all the way back at the beginning of their customer journey,, to use the common term, to understand how they conceptualized and felt about their problem at the beginning of their journey, as early as they can kind of recognize it and, critically, what they thought the end of that journey was going to be like and what some of those big signposts along the way we’re going to be right? Because no one has concluded their customer journey when they are, if you will, at the top of the funnel, right? So we need to try to meet them to the best of our ability. They’re at that level of understanding, particularly in these high friction content oriented journeys. So the discovery phase is when we dig down into that with the customer.

John Farkas (28:22):

How many do I need to do Joshua?

Joshua Oakes (28:26):

Yeah. Unfortunately the answer to that is one of those marketing answers that executives hate to hear, which is, it depends, but the first gate is, do not stop interviewing customers until you have interviewed at least 10 cents. Even if your entire customer base is 10, right? Like you need to build the muscles of the team. You need to stay out of the quagmire of thinking. The first brilliant thing you hear from a customer is what you need to put all your chips on and you need to start to kind of have everyone comfortable with the ebb and flow of the kind of energy of those interviews. Sometimes you might get really unlucky and have, you know, interview where a customer is just not really engaged. Hasn’t put thought into it and needs time to think about answers, to questions like this. If you get one of those as your very first or second interview, the team gets real discouraged.

Joshua Oakes (29:26):

You know, you got to push through, get the 10, get a sense of what your customer base looks like. And then you can regroup. That’s when we usually do our first audience workshop and take a look at what we’ve learned and get used to the process. Now how many interviews you need to do to get a kind of a real sense of, of who your customer base is, depends on the size of your customer base of course, and another other factors. But I generally recommend that people involve, uh, an analyst or a data science person when we’re trying to answer that question because the statistical sampling, uh, particularly, you know, qualitative is a mysterious science. The weird thing about it is you can, if you sample correctly, you can often, um, get a good sampling of your customer base. Even if you have a million customers with around 400 people, but you still often don’t even need to conduct 400 interviews, you know, particularly in your first round, we’ll talk when we get to some of the later stages, but who first about making this an ongoing process. But, uh, the most important thing is do not stop until you have conducted one of these interviews with 10 people, you will be comfortable by that point and it will far less daunting. Okay?

Mark Whitlock (30:50):

So we get through the first phase of Audience Discovery. We move onto the second phase, which is Audience Understanding

Joshua Oakes (30:57):

In Audience Understanding we take all of those gems and put them together. And in this treasure chest of things, our customers have told us and then start to break them down, identify the patterns and combine them to create what I position is kind of the actual opposite of a persona in that it’s shared actionable, validated, and measurable, but is to create the audience profile. And so that’s what we are doing during audience, understanding the team is working together with what we have pulled out of those interviews and creating the documents that comprise that profile of your customer.

Mark Whitlock (31:38):

So, in the Audience Discovery phase, uh, it’s about interviews, it’s about learning from the audience and the Audience Understanding phase it’s developing a firm grip on who the audience is. And you come out of this with that understanding of shared actual, validated, and measurable information about the audience that you can actually make decisions on, make content decisions on and other decisions on. And then the third phase of who first is Serving your Audience. So what does that look like? That you’re, you’ve turned it from kind of an, an, an absorbing to an output,

Joshua Oakes (32:11):

Right? Exactly. And that’s, that’s where you really take your validated, um, audience profiles and you hit the gas, right? Your, the validation has told you, yes, we’ve created these five audience profiles within, you know, say for the sake of argument, a specific line of business. Um, we now have a prioritized list of our audiences because we ran this exercise and 40% are resonated with a 25 with B and so on. Now you’re ready to formulate your plan of action for those people and then execute against it. So there are some other things that we learned during the interviews and in audience, understanding that feed into this, but the two major components of serving your audience are what I call the Who plan, which is a matrix that breaks down the specific journey for these folks. And if you have existing content, we can take it and figure out like, okay, is any of this repurposable for a, a, an audience profile that plugs into these steps that we have identified by listening to our customers and fill it in, or do we have these huge gaps, right? Where a customer has said X, Y, and Z were big challenges for us when we were making decisions here. And you realize you don’t have any content on XYZ, right? Yeah. And then it’s a good old fashion marketing hootenanny, where you just prioritize the list and you start filling all those gaps in with content.

Mark Whitlock (33:45):

And it’s the depth of interviews like this as well. We have our show notes, come over to studiocmo.com/047. And we’ll have all this information there and connect you even more to Josh Oaks website. So you can go even deeper with him, but we’re not done yet. Uh, we’re up to, up to the fourth phase of this, we talked about audience discovery, audience understanding, talked about serving your audience. And then the final phase is measurement and collaboration.

Joshua Oakes (34:15):

The two major components here are an approach that I call no who measurement and the other is developing audience focused teams. And if your audience understanding doesn’t produce measurable outcomes that you can tie ROI to, you should spend your time, effort, and energy on something else and, and budget while you’re at it. But all of these things about your customers are knowable and measurable. So you should measure them. And then you should look at how they work. Right? And I talked about analyzing individual pieces of content to see how they perform for specific audiences, talked about getting audience profiles and their associated metrics, overall performance, efficiency, change, et cetera, into your reporting. That can mean your quarterly analysis, but all the way, even down to your weeklies, right? If you look at your leads or sales or MQL to SQL is demos, whatever by segment, well, you also need to be looking at it by your audience profiles so that you know, that your efforts are paying off and looking at the composition of your funnel start to finish.

Joshua Oakes (35:26):

So there’s some underlying things that we need to do at most organizations to execute that, which is again, make sure you’re collecting that data, get the discipline of putting your leads or customers onto an audience profile so that you can measure, you know, there are some ongoing like identification of gaps, ongoing validation, and so on that we do apart as part of that as well. And that all feeds into the other component, which is developing audience focused teams, you know, to some extent, there’s this championing and evangelizing of the audience profile, or at least a focus on customer understanding throughout the organization and giving people the audience profiles and the tools they need to apply them. Uh, and then also coaching and advising and helping them do it.

John Farkas (36:19):

Joshua, so as I listened to that process, one of the questions that I have that is drained a number of our listeners is how do you regard, or how do you engage analysts in this process? You mentioned that on the front end, you know, as you were, as you were thinking about, um, the understanding phase, but how do you involve analysts or how can analysts be useful in helping accelerate some of this? Because they end up talking to a lot. I mean, they’re, they’re all about the who and a lot of their work. Um, so what’s been your experience there,

Joshua Oakes (36:52):

You know, analysts, uh, provide, uh, a very useful service, right, for organizations and they are definitely the right tool for lots of kinds of jobs. Generally speaking, I find that analysts know the market and know solutions really well, but they don’t know your customers as well as you need to. And sometimes they can provide really useful insights about who you’re competing against and what the market thinks about those competitors that can sometimes give you an advantage, but they are one data point, um, that you need to consider right. In this scenario. So if you’re talking about like, uh, a blue ocean scenario where you’re trying to figure out, if you can, um, go, um, to bat against a certain competitor or enter a certain market or add a feature and, um, kind of, uh, transition, uh, who you are facing, um, analysts can be very helpful, but I wouldn’t bet the farm on that, right? Like you need to go out and understand the needs of those customers still, uh, with a little bit more research, but, um, they can give you kind of a preliminary red light green light. Um, but if you have access to a thousand of your customers, now, I, you know, I like firsthand expertise, um, in those scenarios more than I like, you know, distilled expertise, they’re, they’re good things. Uh, but they are tools for different jobs.

Mark Whitlock (38:26):

So when it comes to that firsthand data, the firsthand experience with your customer, so you just want to go through this whole process, get your shared, actual, validated picture of your audience, and then you’re done. Right.

Joshua Oakes (38:41):

Uh, wouldn’t it be great if business was that easy? Like you figure it out once and then the problem solved. No, I mean like any other discipline in sales and marketing, right. It requires a continuous improvement and continuous learning. Right. So, um, you know, we talked about the, uh, measurement and collaboration, you know, all organizational change and improvement is an ongoing process. So every, you know, if you wanna, if you want to think about it as batch, every batch of customers that you generate, um, is, uh, a real opportunity, I would say. But, you know, you might say, uh, generates a requirement to see if things have changed, uh, you know, revalidate your audience profiles and look at if the market is shifting underneath you. You know, if you used to, if your biggest, um, audience profile, your largest segment, uh, used to be 40% of your closed deals and it’s been trending down and now it’s 10%, and then you have a big gray block on your pie graph that says not sure, well, you’ve got something to figure out there.

Joshua Oakes (39:45):

Right. Um, and, uh, you are always, you know, you’re going to have turnover. You need to bring new employees up to speed on who your audience is and what they’re doing, and you need to be tracking even your existing, um, profiles and segments. If they aren’t changing how the market is changing for them, how their expert patients are changing and what you need to be doing to serve them better. You know, not just on the acquisition side, but obviously also, you know, product and services, but yeah, it never ends, right? Like there’s always something new and interesting to learn about your customers and how you can serve them better.

John Farkas (40:21):

If there’s an area worth obsessing on, on a consistent basis, it’s developing and cultivating this understanding on an ongoing basis, it ought to, for, for successful organizations, it is a part, a landmark part of the culture where you’re understanding who you’re talking to, and you’re keeping that conversation fresh and alive and in front of people throughout the organization, because if you are not succeeding in that realm, you’re not succeeding. Right. And I think that that’s an important thing to do. Especially we work with so many entities who spend so many calories in the context of their organizational dietary intake on product development and product development becomes the obsession. And it’s difficult when product development is the obsession and the loan obsession to make sure everything is aligned with where the market ought to gotta be. And Josh, thanks for, uh, kind of enlightening some of that and, and the science behind it, because really doing the work of discovery, building the understanding that comes through that, serving it up to the market, you know, beginning to, for the needs, the real market needs of the people you’re talking to, and then watching how they respond, building some disciplines around how you measure that is really essential and worth obsessing on worth.

John Farkas (41:45):

Having some people in your organization who are tasked with the process of understanding that and evangelizing that understanding throughout the organization so that it can help people move in a way that makes sense, understanding who is really essential.

Mark Whitlock (42:01):

So John practically speaking, when you’re looking at all this information that we have, hopefully, uh, about our customer, whether it’s through who first or the Buyer Matrix, et cetera, when someone’s framing content, or if someone’s getting ready to pick up a phone and connect with a customer, or someone’s getting ready to go to a trade show, if they ever occur or go into a virtual conference and, and connect with a customer there, what do they need to be thinking about when they make the content or make the connection?

John Farkas (42:29):

The first thing is, this is not about what you can write. It’s about what you need to write, right. I mean, what you can often, I mean, and you see what I can write content out there all the time. It’s surface level, it’s, it’s a copy of something else that somebody else has said it is. And it’s not necessarily stuff that people in the market are going to ravenously take in. So the first question is, is what I am answering is what I am writing here directly connected to something I know is a need in the market. And does it present a critical point of view that is unique to what we’re bringing that will be helpful in the conversation? I think that that’s really important. So knowing clearly who you’re talking to, what their needs are and what will decidedly be helpful, ideally from a unique point of view, that’s informed by your specific knowledge kernel and perspective that you hold as a result of what you’re bringing that’s important.

John Farkas (43:30):

And so making sure that you’ve got that kind of a quality assertion at the ready it’s and the reality is it’s not at the ready, it’s not stuff you have in your back pocket that you can pull out easy. It’s stuff that you have to work to create. And if you’re not having to work to create, if you’re not asking yourself, what do we have to need? What do we need to engineer here that is, is going to specifically speak to this target. If you’re trying to hit the easy button on your content, you’re not, you’re rarely going to hit the target.

Mark Whitlock (44:03):

And that’s, that’s a great point. And hopefully you who are listening are feeling like this was need to hear content. This was stuff that is going to affect what you do today, and maybe even into the future. Joshua Oakes. Thank you so much for being on studio CMO.

Joshua Oakes (44:20):

Oh, I loved it. Thank you so much for the opportunity.

Mark Whitlock (44:22):

the whole discussion today, around getting to know your customer, the customer’s needs the customer’s wants the customer’s pain and connecting your solution to that all comes out of our philosophy here. And we express it in these three statements, understand your buyer’s problems,

Anna Grimes (44:42):

Lead with an empathetic understanding

John Farkas (44:45):

And do what it takes to make your buyer the hero.

Mark Whitlock (44:48):

We’ll see you next time on Studio CMO

Mark Whitlock:

Studio CMO is shaped by Golden Spiral, an agency providing market positioning and demand generation for health tech. We help healthcare technology companies establish and communicate their unique message to the right decision-makers. Realize your market potential. Contact Golden Spiral. Our music is provided by some of Nashville’s hottest studio musicians who make up Human Music of BMG Production Music company. Find out more at humanmusic.com.

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