In case you wanted to attend tonight's open house on the demographics of B2B technology adoption, here's a pertinent diagram from a recent publication on the subject. As you can see, when they look for information, two people in the same department—an application developer and an enterprise architect—go to very different sources.

  • Conclusion 1: Demographics matter. A lot.
  • Conclusion 2: If you say that your target customer is developers, you need to take a big product marketing time-out. Not all development professionals are the same. Now march up to your room and think about that.

As important as conclusion 1 may be, it's not exactly profound. Sure, we all know that people are different, but what are the significant differences? And how should these variations affect the way we market our technology to rank-and-file developers versus the fancy-pants enterprise architects?

Many efforts at persona development break down at the very beginning, with the question, How many different personas do I need? There's no obviously correct answer to that question, especially when you haven't seen the data that indicates which demographic differences are significant, and which aren't. (Leaving aside the practical question of how many personas you can actually produce.)

Therefore, the important question is not whether demographics matter, but how they matter. Many marketers jump at this point several chapters ahead in the story, to the part where they pick the marketing tools that will wow the socks off these two audiences. However, that's extremely premature, since you don't know yet what kind of information these people want. Chances are, they're not interested in how great you are, but in what information you can provide that will make them healthier, slimmer, and more attractive. (Or at the very least, reduce the number of on-the-job headaches.) Your product might be part of that story, but it's often a small part.

Context matters. Factors like company size, country, and role have more of an effect than many people realize. IT managers in one country might gleefully gobble up any information you can provide about best practices for implementation. In a neighboring country, these very same people might say, "Hmmm, that's very nice, but we know what we're doing, thank you." If that doesn't have an affect on your marketing mix, I don't know what else would.

My point isn't to frighten you into paralysis, because the world is too complex for any mere marketer to conquer with some laughably generic messaging and collateral. These differences are discoverable, and the over time, you'll learn how to speak effectively to particular audiences. The big mistake is to act as though these differences don't exist at all, or don't matter enough to deserve your attention (usually because your product is so fantastic that it defines a new market, has no competitors, makes the stars fall from the sky, yadda yadda). Help exists, too, such as channel partners who already understand the idiosyncracies among stakeholders in particular markets. If you're looking for the ROI of this learning process, take a minute to calculate the cost of product launches that target the wrong people.