Finding Your Ideal Customer: A B2B Guide to the Right Audience

October 17, 2017 | Kaleigh Moore


It seems like positioning your brand so that messaging and sales efforts speak directly to the target audience is kind of a no-brainer, right?

You want your ads and sales tools to, well, sell.

But missing the mark happens more often than you’d think — and big brands aren’t exempt from the occasional failure, either.

Here’s an example: Remember when Levi’s ran its “Hotness comes in all shapes and sizes” campaign? Despite the inclusive message, most of the images that accompanied the copy were of skinny, non-curvy models.

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Image source

Not only did the campaign miss the mark, but it also created negative press for the brand (and it likely caused them to lose some customers, too).

We can also look at Song Airlines, a subsidiary company of Delta. Song was positioned as a low-cost air carrier for “hip, professional women”—complete with attendants wearing Kate Spade-designed uniforms, organic meals, and an in-flight exercise program. Marketing dollars were invested into TV and print ads that reinforced the lifestyle branding as well as publicity events in New York City’s shopping and nightlife districts.

Despite these efforts, Song ultimately discovered that although the marketing message was unique and interesting, it struggled to connect with the target audience and to drive bookings—and sales suffered. By 2006, Delta absorbed Song Airlines.

In both situations, it begs a question: Were these just advertising gaffes, or do they indicate a larger problem…like that these brands had a complete misunderstanding of the target audience?

It’s hard to say for sure without knowing the nuts and bolts that went into formulating failed campaigns. However, we can view them as warnings as to what can happen when audiences aren’t fully understood during a major marketing campaign launch.

This also holds true within the B2B setting. Examples like these illustrate the necessity for a deep understanding of who your ideal buyer/company is.

In this post, we’ll dive into how B2B companies can pin down the right audience, tools that help this discovery process, and building out profiles that help inform smarter marketing and sales materials.

Research Tips: Looking for Trends in Your Customer Base

Let’s start by talking about research.

When you’re getting started with the research process that will define your ideal audience, your mind might go straight to building buyer personas (AKA semi-fictional representations of your ideal customer). In fact, maybe you already have those. Let’s look a bit beyond those, though.

Instead, let’s look at some broader indicators that will help you examine some key factors that define the B2B markets you’re going to target.

1. Find the dominant industry

Start by looking at your existing client data to find out which specific industry stands out as the most dominant. If the most common industry represented by your current client base is different from the one you’ve been targeting in past marketing and sales materials, make a note. That likely needs to change.

2. Find out what size the average target company is

Use this same data set to find out what the average size is (as in, number of employees, revenue generated, etc.) for the clients you have within that industry.

Are they small businesses with fewer than 50 employees? Or are they large corporations generating >$1M in revenue each year? Somewhere in between? Outline these types of data points to get a clear profile of the businesses you’re targeting moving forward.

3. Find the common tech tools your audience already has

Next, you’ll want to start looking into what tech tools your target audience already has (and uses on a regular basis.) To gather this data, you may need to conduct focus groups, to send out surveys, or to leverage interactive assessments with this demographic to find out these details. Here’s an example of how scheduling tool HotSchedules did this with an interactive assessment:

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Notice how the assessment educates the user on potential gaps in service and/or areas for improvement, but it also provides insight on the back end for the company.

The answers from this assessment help the brand better understand the common methodology, processes, and tools their demographic is currently using (for scheduling, in this instance).

4. Do some data-mining to find patterns and pain points

Once you’ve worked through your own data to this point, it’s time to start looking externally for clues into what your target audience wants and needs. You can do this by:

  • Looking at review sites like G2 Crowd for patterns and pain points around similar brands or product/service offerings
  • Working with a market research firm to conduct in-depth studies on the audience you’re targeting
  • Looking at data from credit card companies that illustrate the product/service buying habits of your target audience

Try to think creatively about where else you might find sources of valuable data. Are there complementary businesses you can partner with to pool resources and learn about your audiences together so that both parties benefit?

Additionally: Are there places online where the target demographic spends time (like forums, Twitter chats, etc.)? Spending time in these spaces can help you get a better grasp on the pain points your audience is facing.

Discovering Who Is Using vs. Purchasing Your Solution or Product

Once you’ve gathered information about the general audience your sales and marketing efforts should be pointed at, it’s time to find out who will be using the product within this group and who will be the purchaser.

Often times, these two are at different levels within the business, so you need to have messaging for both.

This is where buyer personas can be more useful. By thinking about where these two different people are in the purchase journey, you can create dynamic content that not only speaks to their different needs and concerns, but that’s also tailored to where he/she is in the sales funnel.

Let’s start with the first part.

Knowing the needs/concerns of the user and purchaser

Say you are a B2B SaaS company selling CRM software. The businesses you’re targeting are mid-sized with 50-150 employees, largely within the e-commerce industry.

The user of your software:

  • Is a customer service representative, 25-32 years old
  • Needs it to be easy to use
  • Needs features like quick access to a customer’s past orders
  • Needs it to be easy to export data for quick sharing across departments

The buyer of your software:

  • Is in upper management, 40-55 years old
  • Wants a tool that’s not too expensive and loaded with bells and whistles
  • Needs to see how it will improve the company’s bottom line
  • Needs to know what benefits there are to it, such as efficiency improvements or how it relates to customer retention

Creating content for these two audiences

The content you’d want to create for these two sub-audiences are different because they are looking for very different pieces of information.

While an interactive video demonstrating how to use the simple tools within the CRM might be valuable to the user, the buyer would probably be more interested in something like a case study demonstrating success via hard numbers and outcomes from a similar business that implemented the CRM.

You also need to consider where these two types of people might be within the overall sales funnel. Are they brand new to learning about your product? Or are they just about ready to buy and need a little more convincing to make that final conversion?

Keeping all of these elements straight can get confusing. However, multi-dimensional persona maps can help you better wrap your mind around who needs what type of content and when:

Persona.png

With a table like this one, you can even map out automated sequences that deliver these different types of content via email to different personas at just the right moment.

These tables also add some clarity and direction to the content distribution plan for deeper understanding of the strategy across departments and at all levels of the organization. This means more buy-in, because each department sees and understands what you’re all collectively working toward. It may also lead to more idea-sharing as departments can better grasp what data points may make these efforts more successful overall.

Know Your Target Audience, Deliver the Right Content

Overall, it’s important to keep in mind that even though you’re in the B2B market, B2B buyers are real people with needs, concerns, and obstacles just like everyone else.

When you know exactly to whom you’re speaking with marketing and sales materials as well as what they want and need, you can deliver highly relevant, personalized content that drives conversions.

The bottom line: Missing the mark with your messaging can mean lost time, financial resources, and overall slower growth for your business. Be sure to get this aspect right from the beginning and take the time to develop a thorough strategy around marketing to your target audience.

 

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