Far too often B2B marketers think they can just log into LinkedIn, blast out a few posts, send a few messages, and make sales just like that, without having any idea who their target audience is.
Let’s be very clear here…
The B2B marketers winning on LinkedIn right now are doing so because they’ve done their research.
They’re not just showing up with a blindfold on, throwing darts hoping something hits.
They’ve taken the time to identify who their target market is, where they like to hang out, what they like to engage with, how they like it to be delivered, and what the next steps will be from there. They traded the blindfold for a personalized cheat sheet.
The same goes for B2B marketers on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and anywhere else they might’ve identified as an important spot to be.
The key is this…
You need to prepare if you want to be successful.
The late Alabama football coach Bear Bryant laid it out quite well:
“It’s not the will to win that matters—everyone has that. It’s the will to prepare to win that matters.”
So how do you prepare to win in B2B marketing? What do you need to do before you start executing on all your great ideas for marketing campaigns?
Identify your target audience, and know them even better than the back of your hand.
The trick here is that identify a B2B target market is a bit more difficult than it is in B2C.
When it comes to B2C, the purchase decision making process is typically much simpler. Typically, you’ll only have one person (your customer) who decides on whether they want to buy. Because of this, you can dive deep into their individual pain points and what it is they want when you’re identifying your target customer, then tailor all of your marketing efforts accordingly.
Unfortunately, it’s not that simple on the B2B marketing side…
Major purchases need to be considered by more than just one person. Instead of just digging into what your ideal, individual customer is looking for, you need to think bigger. What is it that the business as a whole is needing? While the decision will still be made by individuals, it won’t just be their specific needs that matter.
It’s not as simple as just structuring your marketing efforts to target women between the ages of 25 and 35 making $50,000 to $70,000 per year that are interested in yoga.
B2B audience identification requires a different approach.
While there are some similarities, the process ultimately comes down to three simple steps. As you navigate the identification process, these three steps will serve as your guide.
So what are they?
Before you can start to identify your perfect B2B target market, you need to have a solid grasp on what it is that you do best, and why potential customers would be interested in you. The easiest way to do this is by asking yourself a few simple questions:
Bonus features and offers aside, you need to identify the number one thing your customers would see the most value in. For a program like CoSchedule, it’s be the ability to manage your entire editorial calendar in one place.
Think about what that core offering is, and who you see finding the most value in it. If you help businesses operate more efficiently in whatever space you’re focused on, you might be looking at fast-paced startups that want to stay as efficient as possible to best use their resources.
This is key. It’s also knowledge you most likely already have. Chances are, you saw a gap in the market and have capitalized. There was something holding businesses back, and you’ve identified it and built your business around solving it.
If you don’t have a unique value proposition to separate yourself from the competition, you’ll forever be competing on nothing more than price. Identify what it is you do that no one else is doing near as well.
Think of it like this: If you want to build a house, you can’t start with the interior design or the windows or anything like that. If you’re building a house, it all starts with the foundation. The stronger the foundation, the more well equipped the house will be for years to come.
Now that you’ve thought about out who you think would benefit the most from what you do, and who would find the most value in it, it’s time to start actually identifying and building your B2B target audience.
What’s the best way to do this?
Highly detailed marketing personas.
What is a customer persona, you ask?
This definition from Ardath Albee hits the nail right on the head:
A marketing persona is a composite sketch of a key segment of your audience. For content marketing purposes, you need personas to help you deliver content that will be most relevant and useful to your audience.
On the B2C side, creating personas is common in target market identification. You think about who would want what you’re offering the most, then create a set of standard personas to represent them, down to their age, location, position – you’ll even give them a name. Then, as you build out your marketing strategy, you can keep these ideal folks in mind and ensure everything you’re doing fits who you want to be targeting.
The tricky part here is this…
B2B marketing personas aren’t quite as simple.
Again, there’s typically more stages involved in the B2B purchasing process. Because of this, you can’t just rely on marketing to your one, uber-targeted persona then call it a day. These B2B purchasing decisions tend to go a lot deeper and focus on what the business needs more so than the people involved.
Since they’re focused on the big picture, you need to be too. Rather than identifying the unique needs of one individual, you’ll need to identify the unique needs of multiple people along the purchase decision making line.
The creation process is one that requires a ton of personalization. You want your marketing personas be as detailed and well-thought out as possible. The best way to get started is to break it down into a few different steps:
This is where you’ll dive into the demographics, psychographics, and firmographics of each company and decision maker. This information will serve as the base foundation of your target personas, and act as the initial filtering phase when decided who to target with your marketing efforts. Using these answers, you should be able to narrow down your target audience significantly.
Find out what it is they’re struggling with, and match that up with the problem you and your business solve. If someone is already crushing it in the spot you bring the most value to, they’re going to take much for work to sell to than someone struggling.
Here you get to build out the typical buying process businesses you target will go through. The key is to understand how many stages the process is, and how many people it needs to go through. From there, you can decide how far along that process you want to focus your B2B marketing efforts.
When it comes to the creation of your marketing campaigns and materials, any insights you can find on where the decision makers are spending their time is key.
Maybe the decision makers at the businesses you target love video. Maybe they hate video.
This information is incredibly valuable if you can find it.
Now that you’ve built that understanding of what you offer and who you want to offer it to, it’s time to start digging up as much relevant information about the businesses and decision makers you want to reach.
This where you start to build out your target B2B personas with as much important details as you can. You get to conduct the research into what channels your target audience uses most, which channels they never touch, and how you give yourself the best chance to get on their radar.
Think of it like going into a networking event with a cheat sheet on every single person there.
If you’ve got some baseline information on each and every person, you’ll know who want to go talk to first, and how they like to be talked to. That basic information alone can be the difference between building a connection or not building a connection – or in your case making a sale and not making a sale.
Whether that be an email list, facebook page following, or something else – try to identify some common trends between them and their businesses. If they’ve expressed enough interest in you to follow you or subscribe, chances are they could be a key part of your target market.
The keys to look for here are all in your personas that you’ve built. You want to fill as many gaps as possible to arm yourself with as much information on the people you’re targeting as possible.
Check out your Facebook page insights to get an idea of who’s already following you, and what information you can extract from there. Do the same with Twitter analytics, Google analytics, and any other insights you can access on the platforms you’re currently using.
From there, try digging into your competitors. It may be tough to find detailed analytics on their audience and who they’re targeting, but any information you find here can directly tie back to the building of your own B2B target audience.
After that, dive as deep into relevant industry research and studies as you can.
This is where you’ll find the hidden gems of information on your industry that you never would’ve guessed on you own. Everything from where decisions are actually spending their time, to what content and copy actually converts best.
Most of these studies have been conducted by top research companies like Business Insider Intelligence, and are based on research into more B2B executives than you could ever reach with a simple survey of your own.
Important to note here: This stage is not simply a do it once and you’re done type of thing. Markets are constantly evolving. Buying patterns are constantly shifting. You need to continue digging into these insights and constantly be tweaking your marketing personas and the campaigns you’re creating to reach them.
It’s time to stop getting caught in the B2B guessing game.
Follow these three simple steps and you’ll go from just throwing darts blindfolded hoping something hits to targeting the perfect businesses that are most likely to convert.
Not only will having a set of research-backed target customer personas save you the headaches and frustration that comes with poorly targeted failed marketing efforts, it’ll save you precious time and resources and let you focus in on what you know will works best.
To give you a quick recap, here’s what your next steps should look like:
1. Identify what it is that you do best, and what your customers want most out of you.
2. Analyze your existing audience, industry trends, quality research, and your competitors to find as many relevant insights as possible into who you think benefits most from what you have to offer.
3. Construct your very own, highly detailed target customer personas based on what the insights and data you’ve collected.
Once you have your audience identified, it’s time to start using that knowledge to drive more traffic and bring in more high quality B2B leads. We put together a free B2B list building guide you can grab today to get started.
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