Content Marketing
How to Research Your B2B Audience

How to Research Your B2B Audience

April 25, 2023
5 min read

You might be surprised by how much your B2B marketing strategy relies on changes in your audience. Even if you’ve already identified your ideal buyer persona, you might be leaving multiple audience segments on the table depending on the objectives of your marketing strategy.

We live in an age where customer data is easily accessible, so there’s no excuse for not knowing your audience or for ignoring their pain points and specific motivations. Customers today expect a personalized customer experience.

So, make sure that you’re creating unique content specifically tailored for the sales funnel. The more you can personalize your marketing campaigns the more you’ll be able to increase the perceived value of your service or product.

Key takeaways: 

  • Personalization and audience segmentation are crucial for B2B marketing success, with key differences in decision makers, need vs. want, and target audience compared to B2C marketing.
  • Effective B2B research involves studying existing customers, gathering information from sales teams, keeping up with industry trends, and studying competitors to better understand audience needs.
  • Conducting B2B research can help establish a target market, create buyer personas, track customer needs, set your brand apart from competitors, refine offerings, monitor performance, and increase ROI.

The Difference Between B2B and B2C Audiences

Market segmentation and targeting for B2B is wildly different from B2C targeting. Here are the major points to consider:

Decision Makers

In the B2B sales journey, the decision unit is much more complex. You’re targeting a team of people involved in the sales decision from VPs right on down to the IT people who will integrate your technology. Your content needs to reflect all of the people involved in the decision and not just a single individual. This is very different from B2C, where an individual who needs to buy something only thinks of their individual needs, so you only need to convince that one person.

Need vs. Want

A B2B buyer considers the welfare of the business even before making a purchase and makes sure that a need for the product truly exists. On the other hand, a consumer buyer might go for the purchase that he/she wants. There’s a difference between a want and need.

As a B2B marketer, you can easily segment your audience by identifying the common needs and behaviors of numerous business types and building your marketing strategy around them.

Target Audience

The B2B target audience differs greatly from B2C. First, it varies in size. B2B target audiences adhere to the 80/20 sales rule where 20% of the total population of your customers dominate business sales at 80%. Second, personal relationships matter to your B2B audience since contracts are likely to be lengthy and ongoing. People know each other by the first name and meet face to face.

Lastly, the B2B target audience is long-term buyers. Since they’re making larger purchases that require more maintenance and updates, relationships are usually stronger.

Make Sure Your B2B Research is Customer-Centric

venn diagram explaining what customer centricity is (the sum on experience design, customer understanding, and continuous feedback)

Image Source: DivvyHQ

By allotting time and energy to your unique audience through better content, you can build audience loyalty, which, long-term, translates into better relationships and brand advocacy. Despite this, many B2B companies are still creating product and brand-centric marketing material.

According to research done by Content Marketing Institute, only 53% of respondents say that they create content that’s more audience-centric than brand-centric. That means nearly half of all B2B businesses are still creating brand-focused content and neglecting the needs and interests of their audiences.

Don’t fret though; it’s never too late to shift your B2B marketing strategy. Here are some ways that businesses can learn about their audiences:

1. Study Your Existing Audience

Sure, you’re trying to attract new prospects, but don’t forget your current customers. They’re perfect examples of how your target audience should look.

You can send a customer service survey to your existing customers asking them about their customer experience. Make sure that your market research keeps track of the most common answers and plot your next steps from there. If your B2B audience is more social media savvy, post a survey on LinkedIn, Twitter, or other social media channels to get a better response.

2. Gather Information from Your Sales Teams

Your sales team is there for a reason. They deal with customers on a regular basis, so they can provide input for developing better customer data.

If you want to take it a step further, you can gather more information by picking up that phone and making some calls. Your sales representatives can touch base with your current customers and get some responses for your survey at the same time. This helps you to get a solid grasp of any potential gaps in the customer service experience you’re providing.

3. Keep Up with Trends

Just like any other industry, the B2B industry has trends too. Join associations of people with similar interests or who might be in the same line of work as you. Professional communities will help you discover new trends and technologies that can help your brand stand out from the competition.

4. Study Your Competition

One of the best ways you can learn more about your audience (and industry landscape in general) is by studying your direct competition. What are they doing that customers respond to? Read their customer testimonials and case studies. What kind of information do they publish on their blog? This is a good indicator of what your audience is looking for.

Benefits of Conducting B2B Research

All of this is not for nothing. Your business will reap real benefits when you conduct market research effectively. Here’s a few ways you can utilize this new-found enlightenment:

Establish Your Target Market

After analyzing your existing audience, you’re now ready to establish your target market. Be as specific as you can. Identify their demographics, possible budgets, interests, needs, wants, likes, dislikes, and any other information that can help your sales and marketing teams personalize their communications with prospects.

Build Buyer Personas

Creating an accurate target persona will assist you in audience visualization, communications, and strategic decision-making. Don’t worry if you find yourself creating more than one target persona. It’s impossible to fit every possible characteristic in a single persona. Most businesses have anywhere between 3-7 persona variations.

Track Customer Needs

Once you establish your market research, you can review it from time to time and see how your customer’s needs are changing with the time. Lately consumers have been tight on the purse strings because of tight economic conditions. This can significantly impact how your target audience views selling. For example, buyers’ moral compass, like preferring to purchase and invest in sustainable companies, is less likely to affect their buying when money is tight.

Set Yourself Apart from Competition

Remember I said you can learn a lot from your competition? That doesn’t mean you want to become them! After you analyze your competition you can figure out how to make your brand stand out from the crowd. Learn from their mistakes (and successes) and capitalize on them.

Refine Your Offerings

Once you know what your potential customers truly want, you can take an introspective look at your offerings and make them even more appealing. Maybe you’ve been offering a case-study after X months of working together when customers really want more gated content for their own use (not speaking from experience or anything like that…).

Monitor Your Performance

We’ve already recommended you take a look inward and study your existing customers during your research, but don’t stop at just that. Continue to monitor customer satisfaction however you can and then be sure to actually listen to what they say. Maybe you have a “rate your experience” pop-up come up in your SaaS interface every few months, and you notice ratings go down after introducing a new uploading format. You were super excited about this addition, but just because you thought it would be a good idea in theory, reality says otherwise.

Increase ROI

This is truly the big ticket item! The end goal of any business venture is to directly or indirectly increase sales. With B2B market research on your side, you can use data-driven, customer-centric marketing methods that provide 5x to 8x higher ROI than traditional methods.

infographic outlining some benefits of data-driven marketing

Image Source: Adverity

Things to Remember

Competitor research is a great way to get an initial idea about who your target audience is, but keep in mind that what works for another brand might not work for yours, even if you have similar business models. Every business is unique and that makes your brand’s audience unique in itself.

The best strategy to learn about your target audience is to do your own primary research. You can also choose to combine your research with secondary data from competing brands to develop a more comprehensive description of your target audience. Remember that your marketing strategy doesn’t define your audience. Your audience defines your marketing strategy.

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Giana Reno

Giana is the Director of Content for Marketing Insider Group, a top-rated Content Marketing Agency. Connect with her on LinkedIn to stay up-to-date on all things MIG.

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