The term, audience development, has become more ubiquitous in the world of marketing. A recognition of the growing importance of digital content marketing to overall marketing strategies today. For B2C CMOs, the concept of developing audiences and communities has been an essential core principle for some time.
For B2B CMOs, the idea of audience development and engagement can be perplexing. Fraught with confusion surrounding questions such as: exactly what constitutes an audience and is there really a difference between buyers and audiences? Questions I often receive when working with CMOs specific to B2B.
Investing in audience development remains a key goal for many B2B CMOs. Cultivating and connecting with an audience in the digital economy has become a must-do ingredient to successful B2B Marketing. How to invest and what to invest in becomes critical decisions for B2B CMOs.
There are several ways B2B CMOs can address the dilemma of investing in audience development and engagement:
- Do Not Get Hung-up On The Term Audience
As the concept of content marketing has become more prominent in the B2B Marketing landscape, so have terms and compartmentalization. For example, some content marketing pundits believe you should separate out audience personas. Because these are different, in theory, from your buyer personas.
I believe this approach may only exacerbate the compartmentalization based on the faulty premise of making personas about the “who”. This is as opposed to understanding the behaviors of communities and buyers within communities.
My recommendations for B2B CMOs is to view their target markets and audiences as communities. And, to focus in on how to become relevant to the communities they serve. Whereby an audience is a community of people and organizations who share common, as well as, unique goals and yet may exhibit different behaviors when it comes to influencing, decision-making, and purchasing.
- Invest In Understanding Goals And Behaviors
A key underpinning in being effective in connecting with today’s buyers is understanding the goals that drive their behaviors. Research has proven that goals can vary immensely. Including goals that have a direct influence on how buyers and the people they interact with engage with digital content.
A key principle for successful audience development then is in understanding which goals you must map back to in order to resonate. Which means you are addressing both common goals shared by a community making up an audience, as well as, unique specific goals. Just as well, you must then understand the behaviors of buyers and others as they attempt to fulfill these goals.
It is in such attempts to fulfill goals that buyers and others will seek to gain access to digital content.
- Utilize The Right Buyer Persona Research Approach
To achieve such understanding, it is important for B2B CMOs to be able to distinguish between authentic goal-directed buyer persona research from that of faux buyer personas. Much of what is coined as buyer personas today are in fact still focused on how to define the “who” buyer profile as opposed to a true understanding of goals and behaviors. Key insights that can inform audience development and engagement are found in understanding goal-directed behaviors. Not in the rehashing of profiling-based rational facts.
To get at goals and behaviors requires qualitative research. With the right qualitative research techniques being essential. Often, buyer persona interviewing advice is skewed towards using a win-loss approach focused on the buying process. And, invariably asking the – “which water hole” do you prefer question. Such approaches reveal very little about the true goals driving and influencing behaviors related to how and why buying decisions are made, as well as, how content plays a role in such decisions.
- Focus on Customer Scenarios
Let us face it. Most of us are very eager to tell the world about what we have to offer. And, it usually means that a majority of communications emanating from an organization starts with such. B2B CMOs should consider a different starting point. By understanding fully, the scenarios, which confront their buyers, they are in a better position to connect by demonstrating their understanding of goals and the scenarios in which these goals play out.
For example, a supply chain analytics provider I recently worked with shifted their communications to lead with scenarios. Their buyer persona research uncovered multiple goal-directed scenarios in multiple segments. Informing them on which scenarios were most important to customers. This ability allowed them to connect on a new level with customers, as well as, speak to the communities (audience) as a whole on how they were all affected by these scenarios.
- Avoid Content Overload With Quality Versus Quantity
A given in the new reality of digital marketing today is the overwhelming production of content. Getting through the enormous amount of noise and clutter is paramount to gaining the attention of buyers today. One key principle in audience development and engagement today is that of content must be of high relevance to your audiences, communities, and buyers.
This is opposed to the faulty premise of the content quantity argument. Whereby it is believed that a high degree of content quantities means that you will gain mindshare and your brand will “stick” with buyers.
The path to quality is a well-mapped hike packed with overall deep understanding of the goals, behaviors, and scenarios influencing choices being made. And, make no mistake about the concept of choice. To engage with your content and communications is clearly a choice.
As many B2B marketers are finding out, done without quality, the choice is usually not to engage at all.
B2B CMOs can improve audience development and engagement by investing in attaining a deeper understanding of the goals, behaviors, and scenarios of their buyers and those they interact with. These types of deeper understandings are at the heart of buyer persona research.
As mentioned above, to engage is clearly a choice. As B2B CMOs may be finding out, clearly choosing and investing in the right approaches for understanding customers today can make or break their audience development efforts.
(What follows is a video consisting of interviews with three B2B CMOs that emphasizes the need for content to be grounded in overall brand strategy. And, they touch upon the importance of telling a good B2B story. To tell a good B2B story means truly understanding the goals and scenarios that reside in the world of your customers.)