You know you need to do it, but it’s a bit of a mystery. Where do you start with researching your B2B target audience?
B2B targeting is the most reliable way to pin down the ideal B2B audience for your products and services and the people most likely to benefit from the things you do.
So, exactly what is a B2B audience? How do you target B2B customers? How do you identify a B2B target market?
By the end of this comprehensive guide, you’ll understand what a B2B target audience is, why this kind of buyer profiling matters, and how to develop powerful audience profiles.
What is a B2B Target Audience?
First, the basics. What is a B2B audience, and how does a B2B audience differ from a target market?
Both terms describe groups of people to whom B2B products and services can be marketed, promoted, and sold. But a target market is more of an umbrella – a broad term describing the entire potential market. It’s a lot less defined than your ultimate target audience or audiences.
The term target audience drills down deeper, specifying sub-groups within the target market as a whole. The people who are most likely to buy from your company form much smaller audiences inside your wider target market, like a Venn diagram. You can pinpoint multiple audiences, and that’s what most business-to-business marketers do.
B2B targeting matters because it’s a vital step towards building an effective marketing and advertising strategy, adding more value to your brand. Unless you have a good understanding of your audience, their needs, desires, tastes, and whatever else affects their buying decisions in your context, it’s a challenge to develop advertising and marketing campaigns to appeal to them. Essentially, you’re working blind.
Think about the kind of people who are most likely to search for, buy, and use your products or services. You’ll need to consider things like age, gender, income, location, education, marital status, and occupation. You also need to think about the products you sell, analysing the problems they solve for various types of people in business.
It makes sense to do market research to identify those you think might be interested and use market analytics to narrow things down. Look at what competing businesses are up to for clues. Then build yourself a target market profile.
A target audience is a segment of the overall target market – the people you most want to approach. Your segments will be smaller and more detailed, created to inspire responses from granular, tailored marketing messages.
Once you’ve formalised the kind of audiences you want to appeal to, the creative process becomes a lot easier. You can see how B2B targeting gives you the facts you need to hang your marketing stories on, making it more likely that the right kind of people will respond.
Why B2B Target Audience Profiling is Essential
B2B audience profiling and targeting are very different from B2C. So why do you need to go through all this trouble with B2B audience profiles?
For a start, B2B customers are likely to be long-term buyers, which makes them extremely valuable and people you want to hang onto. Ideally, they’ll eventually become loyal to your business and maybe even become advocates.
Because B2B contracts can cover much more significant purchases than B2C, they often involve large amounts of money. Plenty of business-led purchases are large and expensive. They can be frequent repeat purchases, maybe bought regularly every month, quarter, or year.
At the same time, the decision-making process tends to be longer and more complicated as the cost of a purchase increases. It takes no time to decide to buy a new printer, however, deciding on the long-term supplier of IT equipment, computer security services, or essential raw materials? That could be a pretty lengthy process.
B2B buyers consider business needs, and B2C buyers consider their own needs.
This means the emotions behind a B2B purchase are very different. Business-to-consumer sales tend to fulfill people’s personal desires, a very different animal from the colder, less emotional purchases made on behalf of the business a person works for.
The buying decision will probably be looked at more closely than most B2C buying decisions. The buyer might have to justify their decision financially, logically, and in other ways to colleagues, managers, directors, and stakeholders.
It’s vital to come to an understanding of exactly what the products and services you sell actually do for your B2B customers. This means taking a logical approach.
What, exactly, is your core offering? Which problems does it solve, and how? Are there any organisations, or departments within them, that will benefit most from the things you’re offering? And what makes your products or services stand out from the competition? In other words, what are your USPs, your Unique Selling Propositions?
Nail all of this to come to a good understanding of what your audiences want from you and how you will solve their issues.
Developing B2B Target Audience Profiles
Next, let’s look at the process used to create representative B2B Target Audience Profiles, and what they should represent.
Look at your current customer base, which will give you clues about the look and feel of the audience you want to attract. More of the same is almost always a good idea. But you can also break your existing market down into different, tighter segments based on demographics, buying habits, past behaviour, and more.
It’s also good to think about who isn’t suitable, something that provides a clear insight into what you do want. And have a look at trends in your sector. What does the future look like? Is change in your industry affecting the target audience you want to appeal to going forwards?
As well as looking at the people who currently buy from you, consider your ideal audience, your dream customer, and those you most want to get on board and keep. And you can dive into competitor research to identify their B2B customer attributes, and see if you can mirror what they’re doing.
Here’s a very useful tip. You can help build representative audience profiles by asking relevant questions. To figure out what your perfect targeted B2B customer looks like, ask yourself:
- What is the size of the target company?
- Where is it located?
- How is its performance, revenue, and more?
- Why would they be interested in the products or services you sell?
- Which problems do they need you to solve?
Find out if there are any gaps that need to be filled, and know what they’re doing at the moment – can you do it better?
Find out what their normal buying process is. Establish the most likely decision-makers, whether it’s the FD, a procurement expert, the Managing Director, or a team of buyers. Then you’ll know exactly who to target in the organisations you want on board. And how do you best reach them? How do they behave online? What sites do they visit most, where are they on social media, and what sort of content do they appreciate most of all?
Don’t forget to think about which devices they use. This will drive the style and content of your marketing and advertising campaigns. If they’re glued to their desktop at work, you’ll need to build powerful campaigns that display and work beautifully on a PC along with a mobile or tablet.
All this analysis and thought lets you build a series of influential Buyer Personas, fictional customers the whole company can refer to, and help you identify and segment target audiences in your target market. They’ll help inform successful ongoing advertising and promotional activity.
Harnessing representative, realistic, lifelike personas and customer profiles is a really important aspect of successful B2B marketing. And now you’ve got the information and insight you need to go create your own.
Steal a marketing advantage over your competitors
Now you know how to identify a B2B target market and drill down to find associated B2B target audiences.
But there’s more. One of the best things about B2B audience research and profiling is it’s often overlooked. The value of all this careful thought and planning is still underappreciated.
And that means you might be able to use it to steal an exciting advantage over your competitors. Can we help you hit the right mark?
We’ve been doing it for years, highly experienced in identifying perfect target audiences for our clients, crafting potent personas to inspire marketing and advertising excellence, and building campaigns that work hard to boost bottom lines.
If you’d like to experience the magic for yourself, with end-to-end expertise supporting you every step of the way, contact the team at Common Ground.