+ Point of view

Do you REALLY know your audience?

Written by Elliot Harrison

Speaking with clients throughout this most unusual year the topic of audience insights has increasingly been front of mind. In particular, how to get better at it. This issue has risen to prominence due to the changed economic situation the world faces today. Traditional buying processes are fractured and WFH has quickly become the ‘new different’ for millions of us

For technology businesses approaching B2B buyers, more consideration than usual is required. Moreover, what B2B tech brands currently thought they knew about their buyer personas has almost certainly changed in line with the changes to work we have all witnessed. In fact, what little was known before, for instance broad-brush job title personas, may now be permanently irrelevant.

Seek to understand

For B2B tech marketing pros to truly influence buying behaviours today, deep knowledge of their audience, what it wants and how its various cohorts consume tech, is vital for success. Consumer tech companies have always been ahead in this sense. They understand how prospect behaviour changes over time. They also know how buyer life stages, like kids becoming teens, or changes in circumstances, such as renter to homeowner, affect sales opportunities. 

Armed with these nuggets, they profile consumers to understand, for example, who might prefer Bang and Olufsen over Sony earphones. This is vital intelligence to dominate any market. B2B can also benefit from this process. Knowing who prefers Oracle over Salesforce, IBM over SAP or Dell is a start, but there’s much more that could be done. 

 

The B2B echo chamber

So how do you find out whether your positioning will resonate? How can you use data to inform future strategic moves and influence tech buyers today? The first step is to put less stock in the intelligence gathering methods of old. Back when I started in this game, audience insight generally came from five main places:

  1. What the analysts said. 
  2. Sales Team feedback from engagements at the coal-face.  
  3. Relevant media reports to assess market presence.
  4. Nimble-fingered Googling on forums, industry groups, product reviews, user groups, etc…
  5. Independent research expertise or focus groups for independent, real-time feedback. 

These methods worked for many years and each certainly has its part to play even today. Yet, the issue these old methods cause is they rely on content which could be out of date, potentially incorrect, and was for sure heavily influenced by the brand’s own PR and marketing practices built on a historic category position. In other words an airtight echo chamber. 

In addition, most B2B owned content was not written from the end user’s perspective. Instead it is from the perspective of the brand as a business entity or ‘an analyst’ in its pay. So, each of the five information sources above create a space where it becomes difficult to separate brand messaging from true, live visceral feedback. The sort customers actually use in their B2C consumption of everything from nappies to cars. The true barometer of your own brand’s perception is certainly not someone, especially an analyst, parroting your own messaging back to you.

The need for speed – enter social media

Let’s add Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and the likes of Reddit to the mix and see what’s changed. All of a sudden we can watch and analyse, live, how brands behave on social media and see how influencers and prospects respond to them. We can also see, in detail, which media prospects and influencers consume, how and why they follow them. 

We now have something more powerful, truthful, visceral. Let’s not underestimate the power of live prospecting and end-user feedback can have on the positioning of a brand and its ability to fuel and inspire future campaigns and product direction. 

It’s time to wake up to how influential social listening can be to help brands speed up and stay ahead. 

There are many excellent tools for social listening. However these require training and can be cost-prohibitive for many. At Positive, we have invested, so we can make sure our clients can stay ahead of the curve. 

So, what are the benefits and what are the key facets of social listening? The insights we can gain from social listening are rich and can easily span the different segments and communities talking about brands across social platforms, as well as the content and influencers that they consume.

Audience Segmentation – Understand the different sub groups talking about brands online. Traditional market research is expensive and time-consuming. Social listening gives us the opportunity to monitor all conversations to engage in and learn what buyers like, what they talk about and how to market to them more effectively.
With digital Audience Segmentation, we can gain deep insight into what excites target markets with insights into their interests, demographics, and consumer behaviors, which can be used to great benefit. 

Influencer Discovery – Lets us see exactly how different people motivate different groups. We can see, in detail, which influencers resonate with certain communities and provides us insight into how impactful those influencers are. We can produce customer personas by age, profession, gender, media interests setc.etc.

Targeted Content Strategy – Once we’ve learned about the audience and the influencers they choose to learn from, finding the right message which will resonate can be tricky. We can parse the content shared on social media by each brand community, we can see what content resonates and craft content accordingly. In addition, we can provide insight into specific media outlets which they share and consume daily.

The B2B tech space needs to do better when it comes to aligning their brands with end users and buyer personas. In the same way as we talk about brand fandom in the consumer sector, we need to start thinking about fandom in the B2B tech sector, too. 

The influencers and prospects which our clients want to approach hang out in specific places and consume specific media from specific people. The only difference is they talk about procuring SD-WAN, Process Automation or Hyperconverged Infrastructure – not iPhones. 

It’s time for B2B marketers to sit down and ask themselves whether they really know their audiences. Specifically, when was the last time they gained front-line feedback from end-users or prospects, rather than relying on third parties to provide it for them? If the answer is a while ago, it’s worth investigating the benefits of social listening. After all, this is clearly the year of change, B2B Tech has to add deeper audience insight to its to do list now.