As buyers increasingly engage in self-guided online buyer’s journeys, marketers must find ways to engage with prospects via websites, blog posts and other social media. Adding to the complexity of the challenge is the need to break through the barrage of information competing for each person’s attention. Ultimately that means finding ways of addressing each prospect more as an individual with specific needs in order to convey the relevance of your product or service. In a context that has become largely impersonal through the one-size-fits-all approach that is mass marketing, the voice that is heard more frequently is the one that makes a personal connection.
Establishing this successful connection – and subsequent relationship – with your prospect, first requires gaining their trust. In turn, gaining their trust begins with understanding three things:
- Who your prospect is – both in terms of their roles and responsibilities as well as their personality.
- What business, and perhaps personal, challenges and issues they face.
- What you can do to help.
The goal is to bring as much value to your prospect as possible. Helping them overcome current challenges or illuminating future potential opportunities and risks, positions the sales person as a thought leader with the opportunity of becoming a trusted advisor.
Beyond targeted email or direct-mail campaigns, retail remarketing strategies (you bought that so you might be interested in this) have demonstrated the success of communicating to prospects in a recognizably personalized manner. From a B2B perspective, numerous studies into buyer preferences have pointed to the need for sales people to take the time to research and understand the prospect’s business. With buyer’s now more eager to engage with vendors on-line first, it’s important to find ways for marketing to demonstrate knowledge of their business and to respond in a similarly personalized fashion.
One approach is to leverage the demographic capabilities of the various social media platforms, to target messaging using business demographics or to tie advertising to social causes that are known to be of interest to buyers, e.g. energy conservation for IT prospects. Studies indicate that such techniques can serve as highly useful lead generation sources.
More broadly, a successful personalized marketing strategy is based on a strong foundation in solid research. Here are two key aspects to focus on to ensure you’re maximizing the B2B potential of personalization:
- Before your campaign or marketing program begins, gather information and build personas.
The best prospect information will come from a variety of sources to form a more complete picture. Engage in research to understand precisely who you are selling to and what their purchase-related information needs are. Mine historical data, but also build personas to flesh out all aspects of your typical buyer – their responsibilities, roles, pain points, emotional needs, values, pet peeves, influences, attitudes, and so on. Interview customers, as well as your sales team to glean insights. Creating these personas and building corresponding marketing profiles is immensely valuable for positioning and content creation, in addition to lead generation and nurturing campaigns.
- During the campaign, continue to collect data on your prospects and feed it back into your programs.
While it’s unrealistic for B2B marketers to create Amazon-like remarketing campaigns – “you bought a new ERP system so you might be interested in a matching CRM system”(!) – There are plenty of opportunities to gain additional insights from prospects as they engage, and to use those insights for further personalization. Prospect surveys can yield data both on the configuration of resources and the specific challenges faced by individual respondents. Social media monitoring can reveal topics of interest and areas of passion and enthusiasm for individual participants. Even landing pages with open-ended contact form questions can provide data on a prospects challenges or concerns.
Personalized marketing ensures that you are speaking to specific prospects in a manner that is relatable and of value to them – that you are addressing issues of importance to them and not you. The more personalized you can make your messaging, the more successful will be the subsequent relationship building. The goal is to first establish a dialogue, and through this trust, and eventually loyalty – similar in style to the relationships people had decades ago with their corner grocer, someone who knew their name, understood and anticipated their needs. As Harvard Business School Professor Ted Leavitt is quoted as saying, “The future of marketing will be more like the past than you could ever imagine.”
For more on the future of marketing, download and read our whitepaper, Reshaping Field Marketing for a Digital World. Click on the image below.
What do you find to be the best way to target your messaging towards individual prospect needs?