You have a product or service to shout about, you’ve tested its market viability and know the appetite is there and now you’re ready to face up to the competition and promote. So, where do you begin with B2B marketing? In this article, I’ll outline the importance of getting to know your audience and leveraging your existing client base.
There are endless avenues you can go down with customer research. The level of research you undertake will be dictated by the size and complexity of your business, it can be as in-depth or as light-touch as required, but either way it is a job that's never done. Whether it's the needs of your clients changing or the growth of your business causing a shift in your target market or an expansion of your client base, it pays to continually research and create channels for feedback and engagement.
Good quality research will help identify how to add value to the customer experience, rather than merely profiling your audience to peddle needless goods. But where to start?
Think Beyond the Business
Who the hell is Alice?
You may be selling your product or service to a business but you’re still marketing to individuals, or often with B2B, to a group of decision makers (they’re still people though).
Identifying ‘target personas’ is a useful first step in learning where to place marketing efforts. This is something we do early in conversation with clients, in order to shape the content we create.
If you’ve got a good proposition you’ll have created a solution to a ‘problem’, whether perceived or not, remember Ford wasn’t selling a new horse when he designed the car, but he was providing a superior solution for mobility (sorry equestrians). Whose problem are you solving?
Have a little empathy
It may sound silly, but giving your persona an identity, albeit fictional, can really aid your understanding and empathy. “What would Alice think about this?” gives more dimension than “What would an operations manager think about this?”, it encourages you to think about the emotive aspects in play.
Briefly, understanding a target persona, is to identify the challenges they face on an individual level so that you can address these with your solution, and their drivers, so that you can appeal to these too, whether emotionally or financially for example.
No one asked for Excel
A simple exercise of writing down who they are, what they need, and why they need it is a good place to start. It’s important to note that what they need is not your product per se, but should be what your product or service delivers. No one needed Microsoft Excel for example, but rather an efficient way to manage datasets and carry out calculations.
Dig a little deeper to identify your persona’s goals, influences, and pain points. These will be impacted by political, economic, social and technological factors and with a global pandemic in play, are likely to have changed somewhat since March 2020.
How is the ‘problem’ currently being managed? If your target persona is already using a competitor’s solution then seek out any challenges it presents and fill the gap. If the solution performs just as well and you can’t make their job any easier, then emotive or financial drivers may be the differentials to set you apart.
In any case, it pays to examine how your business values and ethics align with that of your target audience, are you following best practice for sustainability, for example?
But who are you really talking to?
Is your target ‘use-case’ persona the budget holder or decision maker in the business? Likelihood is, while your product or service offering will be shaped by one persona, your marketing will need to consider others.
Listen and Learn
Who knows your customers inside out? They do.
You can do all the in-depth market research you can afford, but if you’ve an established client base and are neglecting to ask for feedback then you’re missing the obvious.
Understanding and engaging with current clients can give real actionable insights. Any assumptions made about your target audience should be continually evaluated with real-life clients. Such feedback will inform your business proposition and shape your marketing strategy, and furthermore engaging your customer base can open the door to new clients in the same space, as you can farm new problems and design valuable solutions.
Sometimes, a simple survey can be all it takes to provoke a new lightbulb moment and a pivot in production or marketing approach.
Another method is to give customers beta access, as an invaluable way to shape product iterations. Most people want to be ahead of the curve, and that applies to businesses too, so they’ll forgive a few bugs and glitches in order to access new features fast and have a final product they love.
In short, quality customer research can prove invaluable to direct both product development and marketing, and avoid costly mistakes in both. It goes hand-in-hand with competitor analysis when contributing to your B2B marketing strategy.
Stay tuned for my next article, where I'll dive into why continual competitor analysis can be crucial for growth.
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