Knowing your target audience and understanding what speaks to them is fundamental to marketing successfully.
This simple statement will sound obvious to most marketers. And yet, for B2B marketers specifically, pursuing an audience-centric approach is a real struggle. In fact, it’s hard to overstate how many companies are losing out by not engaging with the right audiences, at the right time.
As a recent industry survey indicated, that’s largely due to the fact that most B2B marketers don’t have the right tools to gain a holistic understanding of their audiences, through detailed, actionable, personal insights into their customers (beyond relatively superficial fields like job title, etc.)
Of course B2B marketers are trying to focus on the problems they’re solving, rather than how cool they think their product itself is. And of course they’re doing their best to base their messaging on what data they do have on their customers and prospects. But the reality is that — unlike their B2C counterparts — B2B marketing stacks simply aren’t geared towards audience management and engagement.
Fortunately, B2B marketing technology has finally caught up. But as with any martech solution, having the right technical tools is only half the story: successful implementation requires a clear understanding of the problem itself, along with how and where it needs to be addressed at each stage of the sales funnel.
Enhancing — or hindering — your entire sales funnel
A recent article for SiriusDecisions identified three key benefits for businesses who adopt an “audience-based go-to-market” approach: increased revenue, improved sales productivity and greater organizational focus.
These aren’t just “bonus” benefits, however — they’re objectives which every business aspires to. If you aren’t constantly looking to drive more revenue, improve productivity and increase the strategic focus of your organization… well, you get where this is going.
In fact, there isn’t a single point within your sales funnel that won’t be negatively impacted by a failure to take an audience-centric go-to-market approach. On the flip-side, focusing your marketing in this way will optimize every aspect of your lead generation.
1. Missing your customers altogether
Starting right at the very top of the funnel: without knowing precisely who your audiences are and how or where to reach them, you’ll simply miss them altogether.
Without knowing which accounts, buying centers and individuals they should be focusing on, marketers are left with only one option: what Doug described in his talk as the “trawler-based approach.” When you don’t really know who you’re aiming at, the only alternative left is to “throw a lot of content out there, put it in a big net, and see what you put in the back of the boat,” and just hope that among all the unusable or irrelevant stuff “you’ve got some attractive fish” as well.
It’s all about productivity. Of course if you “trawl” enough — using basic first-party data and intelligence from your CRM, Marketing Automation Platform, event lists and so on to direct your efforts — you’d be pretty unlucky not to net a few “attractive fish.”
But think about how much time and energy you’re expending per qualified lead. Perhaps even more importantly: imagine how many potential customers — people and organizations crying out for your solution — you’ll never even know about, let alone engage with.
An audience-centric approach, in contrast, is more like “fly-fishing,” whereby you “know where your audience is, find that perfect stream and then find exactly what’s going to hook them today.”
The benefits of such an approach are twofold: on the one hand it enables you to focus your limited efforts only on the right prospects; and on other, you’ll discover more qualified prospects in “streams” you may never have thought of — or even heard of — before.
2. Your best customers could be sitting under your nose — and you’ll never know
Even if your marketing or sales organization technically “knows” about a contact or account — that is to say, they are already in your database — you may not actually realize that they are a potential customer.
Without a holistic understanding of your audience, it’s a struggle to figure out who’s potentially interested even within the existing data sets that you do have!
For example, that contact may have entered your database months or even years ago, and remained inactive ever since for a whole host of reasons. Perhaps they weren’t quite ready; maybe they were just overlooked.
Whatever the reason, despite them existing in your Marketing Automation Platform for example, you may remain blissfully unaware that they are, in fact, a potentially qualified lead.
That’s a key aspect of focusing on your audiences: you need to know who they are on a very human level, in order to determine whether or not they could be interested in what you have to offer.
3. You’ll end up talking over them
Let’s say you are in fact engaged with a prospect; there’s no better way to turn them off than by serving up the wrong content or messaging.
Even the most eminently qualified prospect will be turned off if what you’re trying to sell them isn’t a fit, or if the way you communicate your product or service simply doesn’t speak to their unique needs and opportunities.
Whether you’re in sales or marketing, if you aren’t armed with a deep, nuanced understanding of your audience, you are your worst enemy.
4. Prioritizing the wrong leads
So you’ve zeroed in on a potential prospect, engaged with them successfully and served them highly relevant content. Great.
But your resources are limited, and there could be any number of other leads responding in a similar way. How do you know which ones to prioritize?
How can you tell which have a higher or lower propensity to buy? If you choose incorrectly, you could be abandoning your winning deal for one which ultimately doesn’t close.
Even if they are all equally likely to buy, how do you know which prospect is more valuable — for example, who’s more likely to close a larger deal, or potentially renew or even upsell at a later date, as opposed to churning soon after? Again, if you make the wrong call that’s another wasted opportunity.
There are so many factors and signals which determine that choice beyond the basic information you could possibly glean from your CRM, marketing automation, or even Google.
5. Falling at the final hurdle: misalignment with sales
Even if you’ve engaged and prioritized the right lead, identified them as sales-qualified and passed them on to sales, you could still snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by not aligning with sales.
If marketing and sales aren’t properly aligned — for example, if the right leads aren’t matched to the correct accounts; or if you’re working off conflicting data — you could fumble a perfectly qualified prospect.
And it’s not only the dissonance within your company which you should be worried about. Lack of alignment and coordination between sales and marketing can also make for a terrible customer experience.
B2B marketing: time for a paradigm-shift
As mentioned, while B2C marketing solved these problems long ago, for years B2B marketers have struggled in vain — in great part due to the persistent misconception that B2B marketing is somehow a “less personal” exercise.
But in today’s data economy, we can no longer afford to maintain this myth. In B2B marketing — no less than B2C — businesses are still ultimately selling to people.
And to sell to people, you need a single, aligned, consistent, highly detailed and highly accurate picture of your audiences. You need the intelligence to score leads and accounts, segment them for campaigns, match leads to accounts, and activate your marketing activities across numerous channels (CRMs, Marketing Automation Platforms, ad platforms, content management platforms, etc) simultaneously.
Learn how Marketo used this audience-centric approach to demand gen — and increased their win rate and ASP by over 40%:
Picture credit: Pixabay | CC0 Public Domain
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