You’ve known it for months – that sneaking suspicion, the voice in the back of your head that is repeatedly drowned out by competing priorities. Let’s cut to the chase: Your target audience is poorly-defined. Or, perhaps it was well-defined at some point, but has most certainly become out of date.
While there are many common core issues that span marketing programs, each company faces distinct challenges. Your program is unique, so your target audience must be, too. However, much to the chagrin of most marketers, segmentation is one of the most challenging aspects of our jobs.
Targeting is an important activity, and it’s critical to get it right. Energy spent pursuing the wrong audience is simply wasted. More content is not necessarily better, and a scattered approach to targeting is inarguably inefficient. According to the Content Marketing Institute, B2B marketers target an average of four different audiences with separate content strategies at any given time. Yet Forrester Research indicates that “targeted delivery of content” is the biggest challenge for 33% of B2B marketers. Having a clear profile of these groups is key to ensuring your materials reach their intended recipients.
Part of the challenge of B2B marketing is that the decision-making unit in B2B markets is more complex. As B2B International reminds us, “Business-to-business markets are characterised in a number of ways that makes them very different to their consumer cousins.”
Compared to B2C markets, B2B buyers are more ‘rational’ and long-term, the products are often more complicated but less drastically innovative, the target audiences are smaller, and personal relationships are of the utmost importance. Since the target audience is smaller (meaning there are simply fewer buyers than in a consumer market), marketers must employ a hyper-targeting approach to reaching the right buyers.
After nearly 25 years in the B2B marketing space, here are some golden nuggets that we’ve learned about choosing the best target audience for your unique program.
- Leverage your customer database. Don’t discount the historical data that already exists within your department. This intel could be as simple as the holiday card mailing list that is cultivated by your sales team. Beyond December card distribution activities, you should make it a high priority to maintain your database as a current and relevant source of information year-round. Then, a careful assessment of this list can give you insights that empower you to make targeting decisions.
- Navigate the transition between firmographics and customer characteristics. It’s true; in B2B targeting we must first start with the characteristics of the companies we’re targeting. However, a company doesn’t make a purchasing decision – a person within it does. While a company should meet certain criteria (industry, size, revenue) to fall within our target account list, we must also cater to the individual who will be the one to shake our hand and make the deal. Independent of their firms, who are these people? What are their major issues, concerns, and fears? What is driving their teams crazy, and what solutions are they not even aware exist? In B2B, it’s easy to lose sight of this, but it must be factored into our targeting plan.
- You are not all things to all buyers. Every buyer wants to feel that their vendors are offering a tailored product, and this is of course true to some extent. However, your business was likely not built with one specific account in mind. Because of this dynamic, it’s important not to over-target. Rather, with a smart segmentation strategy you can position yourself as the right solution to a wide enough group of buyers. This will allow you to maintain a balance between flexibility and staying true to your core competencies.
With these insights coupled with the basics of segmentation activities, we can successfully navigate the process of defining our target market, and move forward with this accurate information in-hand. Once you are satisfied that you have defined your target audience, check out my other blog post on creating a target persona, and my post on cultivating lookalike targets.