By Dave Steinmeyer
No matter how sound or well-developed your B2B marketing strategy, if you aren’t talking to the right audience, your efforts aren’t going to bear much fruit, if at all. Many tend to go for an ideal persona for their B2B audience and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. But just sticking to one persona actually means you leave out other potentially relevant audience segments depending on the different objectives of your overall strategy.
What makes B2B audiences different
It pays to understand the distinctions between B2B audiences and those of B2C, particularly if you’re used to the latter—and there are major distinctions. First, B2B decision-makers aren’t always readily apparent. You’d assume that those at the higher levels in a company can make a go/no-go decision, but in many cases, there are several people that actually need to be involved to make the final decisions—and you need to be able to reach all of these people to make sure you close a sale.
Second, B2B buyers don’t always go on just what they want—unlike B2C customers. Many times, B2B buyers look at the state of their company and need to be doubly sure there is a need for a particular product or service. This affects your approach, of course, as you need to identify those needs and position yourself as a valued solutions provider. It also affects how you segment your audience—following these differing needs and company situations.
Finally, B2B audiences are generally a lot smaller—following the 80/20 sales rule. That is, 80% of business sales are from just 20% of your customer base. Knowing this, it becomes clear that relationship-building is absolutely crucial. Particularly when you realize that many of the sales contracts last longer than you would typically see in B2C dealings. You need to also realize that B2B buyers are in for the longer-haul with purchases requiring constant support, updates, and other improvements.
1. Look at your current audience.
Always start where you currently are when doing research on your B2B audience. Your current audience is a great starting point because—while they might change and evolve over time—these changes won’t be so big as to stray too far. Particularly for existing customers, you would do well to send out surveys to understand what worked and what didn’t in terms of your approach towards them. You can even utilize social media and telco strategy in this regard if your following is particularly big.
2. Talk to your teams.
If there’s anyone who’s knee-deep in your audience and knows them in and out, it will be your sales teams. The data you can gather from them regarding your audience goes beyond statistics, they can provide deeper insight based on their interactions. If that’s not enough, you can even ask your sales teams to conduct post-call surveys to gather what specific information and data you’re looking for. This will give you an on-the-ground perspective of your B2B audience like no other.
3. Track the trends.
Of late, online communities organized within social media and centered around a wide range of interests are becoming the norm. It pays to join communities relevant to your offerings so you can essentially “listen in” on conversations within your industries. Provided you have an open mind and a cool head, you can even peek into conversations of your company and what you offer. These tend to be far more open and honest than responses you would get on a survey you yourself put out.
4. Keep an eye on competitors.
Another great avenue for research is to look at who your competitor engages—and who engages them. This is especially true for competitors whose offerings parallel your own very closely. By taking a look at how they interact—and what works—you gain insight into what your own audience might be looking for. Of course, the caveat here is that what works for another brand might not necessarily work as effectively for you, so testing is still key.
5. Create buyer persona segments.
Finally, a great way to research your B2B audience is to actually create persona segments. From the data you gather from the preceding means of research, you can make several of these—and comprehensively too. These can stand as base templates which you change and evolve over time to better match what your research reveals. The best part about creating segments, it makes it easy for anyone on your team—or in your company—to understand who exactly your audience is.
It bears reiterating that your audience is not something you can pin down once—and that’s that. It’s an evolving, changing thing that goes with the ebbs and flows of circumstance and even global events. You’re likely going to get the best mileage if you utilize all methods mentioned above—and continue to do so every few months or so.
About the Author
Dave Steinmeyer is Executive Director of Enterprise Sales for Internal Results in North America. He’s responsible for managing and guiding the regional enterprise sales teams—ensuring that they grow and expand in the region.