Imagine you’re trying to learn a new card game, but instead of reading the instructions, you decide to just watch a few rounds. You may win a few hands eventually by mimicking others’ strategies, but chances are you’ll probably waste more time and energy through this trial-and-error approach than if you’d just read the rules.
Executing a B2B marketing strategy without first understanding the audiences you’re targeting can feel a lot like this — frustrating, overwhelming, confusing and, ultimately, a waste of resources. But what does it mean to really understand your audiences?
Understanding Your B2B Buyers
A deep understanding of your B2B audiences goes beyond simply knowing their title and industry. It means knowing their buyer journey — what makes them start to search for a new solution, how long they search, the red flags they’re looking for, their preferred research channels and more.
In the era of content overload, only marketing strategies that reach buyers at the right time with the right message and approach will drive ROI. So the question is, how do you actually gather the right buyer journey insights and apply them to your marketing strategy in a meaningful way?
Gathering B2B Buyer Journey Insights
While you can use third-party research and market intelligence reports to collate your audiences’ typical demographic data, gathering information on the B2B marketing tactics that actually influence your audiences’ buyer journey requires a more systematic approach:
- Review your sales data — Before you look externally for information on your audiences’ buying behavior, consider the gold mine of data your sales team is sitting on. Your CRM likely houses information on everything from your most commonly closed industries, average sales cycle length, frequent reasons for lost opportunities and more.
With this data already at your fingertips, you can begin to uncover trends in the buying behaviors of your ideal target audiences, including explanations for common drop-off points in the sales process, the sales and marketing activities that most successfully or unsuccessfully influence their ultimate buying decision, and other, lower-priority audiences you can shift resources away from.
- Conduct your own audience survey — First-party, quantitative research allows you to source buyer journey insights directly from your target audiences to validate your sales data or challenge existing assumptions.
While quantitative surveys can be time- and resource-consuming, they allow you to control the questions and audiences surveyed. Asking queries like, “What first triggered your need for a solution in this category?” and “What marketing channel did you use first to evaluate solutions?” to targeted survey respondents will result in more directly relevant buyer journey intel than broad industry market reports, like those from Gartner, Forrester or IDC.
Be careful, however, to maintain data integrity in your survey. Avoid asking leading questions, like “What feature do you like best about [product]?” or ones with limited multiple-choice responses. Aim for at least 500 respondents to ensure your data is statistically valid, though this threshold can vary according to your survey goals and population.
- Interview customers, prospects and Closed-Lost Accounts — To add further color to your quantitative findings and general assumptions, consider conducting qualitative interviews with different subgroups of your audiences.
While these results will inherently carry more bias than those of your quantitative research, you still want to limit distortion as much as possible. If you interview only your most satisfied customers, for example, you may end up with responses tinged by rose-colored glasses. Instead, schedule at least one, hour-long interview with a customer, a prospect and a Closed-Lost account for each target audience to gather the most comprehensive buyer journey insights possible.
Additionally, use a standardized script for each interview that asks open-ended, non-leading questions, like “What did you do to make the final decision about which solution to purchase?” and “Who was involved in the buying decision?”
Taking these additional steps will deliver valuable quantitative insights into your audiences that are as objective as possible.
Applying B2B Buyer Journey Insights to Your Marketing Strategy
Now that you understand your audiences’ buying preferences, how do you translate them into a B2B marketing strategy that drives ROI?
- Develop your sales-aligned buyer journey(s) — First, spend time analyzing the data you just gathered to identify trends and map your audiences’ unique buyer journeys to your sales funnel.
At the Awareness stage, when your audiences first find out about your product or become a lead, what actions do they take to gather information? What information are they seeking and in what format do they prefer to receive it?
In the Consideration phases, when they’re weighing all their options, what marketing and sales activities typically keep their interest in your product? What content do they want, and how frequently?
And, finally, in the Conversion phase, when they ultimately make a decision to buy or pass on your product, what features and capabilities should your teams prioritize amplifying to close the deal?
Once you have this information, you can document your audiences’ unique buyer journey(s) and develop integrated sales and marketing tactics to reach them at the right time, with the right message, and through the most effective channels.
- Create marketing goals tied to business goals and B2B buyer journey insights — At the foundation of your marketing strategy are your marketing goals — what are you hoping to accomplish as a result of your various marketing activities?
Your marketing strategy is only a success only if it helps the organization ultimately achieve its business objectives, such as increasing net new revenue or driving customer retention. As a result, your marketing goals should directly align with your business goals.
Using these business-aligned marketing goals, you can further filter the marketing tactics in your buyer journeys that both effectively influence your audiences’ buying decisions and help achieve your organizations’ goals.
- Adjust your marketing plan — With these hyper-targeted marketing tactics in hand, you can now develop a marketing plan.
This plan should map out the different campaigns and sequential marketing activities your team and/or marketing strategy agency partner will implement in both the short- and long-term, as well as the metrics and KPIs you will measure. Implementing a well-designed reporting structure, like full-funnel reporting or closed-loop attribution, is key to ensuring you’re measuring how well your B2B marketing tactics drive both marketing and business success.
Buyers today are overwhelmed with choices and messaging about products or services they need. As a result, the days of casting a wide, untested marketing net for the chance of “catching” a few key buyers are over. Executing a more targeted marketing strategy that actually drives ROI requires a deep understanding of your audiences’ buying preferences.
Interested in learning how Walker Sands can help you evolve your B2B marketing strategy in a data-based way? Get in touch to find out more about our Market Research and Marketing Strategy services.