Failing to document your B2B target audience leads to inefficiencies in many parts of your business. Here is an overview of what to document and some suggestions for using the information to improve performance.
In marketing, targeting the market segments and other criteria envisioned by the executive team can be much harder than you anticipate. Executive management may ask you to target office supply buyers at companies with between 10 and 250 employees, and give you the latitude to find the best way to identify those prospects. There are many ways to identify and engage companies that meet the criteria, and it’s important to find high-value buyers who are in the market at the right time.
It is a strong marketing practice to document descriptions of a target audience that will become the basis for your sales and marketing efforts. Documenting ensures that sales and marketing investments align with the company’s objectives set by senior management, and that your individual efforts are also in alignment to provide great ROI from the start.
Define your target audience Finding a great target audience starts with reviewing what works for your company already. Though it can be a tedious exercise, it’s a foundational task to assign firmographics and demographics to your current customers. Append each client company and contact and then summarize the data to see where you’ve been.
Next, review the target audience and consider carefully if you want to deviate from your current customer groups. Finally, summarize your target audience and have senior management and other stakeholders (e.g., sales, marketing, and support) provide input and sign-off on the document. In the final version, you should see the following data points:
Demographics (age, gender, personal preferences)
Geography (country, state, region, etc.)
Types by SIC and NAICS (e.g., 3599 Job Shops and 5411 Grocery Stores)
Employees and revenue
Other firmographics (e.g., equipment owned, services purchased, and software used)
Approximate number of companies in your audience
What event causes the target audience to need you (e.g., new supply agreement, new equipment purchase, bankruptcy, or new CFO hired)?
Approximate number of triggers that occur per year
Determine how much one extra customer is worth to your company in incremental margin (Incremental margin = revenue - cost of goods sold - sales commission. Ex: a software sale might be $25,000 revenue - $5,000 cost of goods sold - $2,000 sales commission = $18,000).
Gaining executive agreement helps you to ensure that the marketing efforts will target the people and situations envisioned by the executive team. Also, agreeing on the incremental margin provides you with a reliable method of measuring the expected payoff for earning an extra sale.
Knowing the customer value enables you to invest appropriately for the desired outcome. For example, it would make no sense to invest $10,000 in a campaign with 10 potential leads valued at $500 incremental margin, which would yield an expected $5,000 loss.
Buy media based on your target
When selecting a media placement from a publisher, compare your target audience to the publisher’s audience to check alignment, coverage, and triggers. For example, this is how you might evaluate a purchased email from a publisher that reaches corrugated box buyers with a monthly newsletter:
From this evaluation, you may not get the immediate leads you hoped to receive due to a lack of alignment, coverage, and trigger detection. You might only find value in the publisher’s ability to build your company’s brand awareness.
Many publishers avoid providing audience information unless you ask for it. Ask for their audit statements and any firmographic and demographic information available. The less information they have, the more warnings you should be hearing in your head. Good publishers know who their audience members are. They use the information to continue building quality lists and will share summary information with you.
Also, general digital marketing can be less effective in a B2B environment because so few business-related data points are available on digital ad marketplaces. When shopping for digital ads, have the marketplace or agency provide you with their exact selection criteria (phrasing) so you can compare it to the target audience. Don’t take the risk that an agent is selling you something close to your target audience that isn’t a precise match.
Acquire lists based on your target audience
Once you have defined the target, look for lists of companies and contacts identified using the criteria for your audience. A list’s primary purpose is identifying qualified prospects, so if the list includes too many unqualified prospects, you haven’t gained anything. You can find lists from vendors based on the following:
Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) or North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS) are de facto for B2B. While these lists are better than nothing, they are often very sparse in details other than company, address, phone, and SIC/NAICS. Plus, you will likely have documented many more criteria than these list selections will address.
State and federal registrations, such as attorneys, physicians, and trucking companies.
Specific equipment, software, or services purchased, which is determined by survey, finance documents, data mining, and other methods.
Events (triggers) such as contracts earned, recent press releases, bankruptcy filed, personnel hired, or financing acquired.
Good lists are expensive and they will make a great investment if closely aligned to your audience. If you have a salesperson earning $100,000 per year, making 500 field visits per year, it equates to $200 per visit. It’s easy to see how making the salesperson just a little more efficient is important.
Less qualifying provides more leads
Marketers accustomed to poorly matched audiences learn how to cope with the poor quality by presenting too many qualification steps. If you know a prospect is highly qualified, skip the qualifying hurdles and start earning their business. Maybe you mail a post card when you should send a series of letters. Maybe you mail a series of letters when you should simply send the salesperson.
If you’re unsure about a poor list, it’s easy to give up after just a few unsuccessful phone calls from an outsourced call center. If you are confident in the list, dedicate a full call campaign executed by your best inside salespeople.
Market using your target audience
If you have winnowed your lists to closely reflect your ideal prospects, think about some different marketing campaigns:
Having major company type appended allows you to personalize mail, email, and phone calls with type-specific messages. Turn “We help companies find employees” into “As a trucking company, we can find the best drivers for you.”
If you know the people on your list are the people you want to meet, offer gift cards or other valuable incentives to have the meeting. “Book today, and receive a $25 Amazon gift card for completing a 15-minute meeting!” This can work because you’ll close a substantial percentage of the sales calls—more than enough cover the incentive cost. Adding response incentives is wasteful if your list too vaguely reflects your target audience.
Calland visit based on your target audience
Distribute your target audience document to your outside and inside sales staff. Outside salespeople are often stopping into businesses and searching Google for prospects, so help them identify better prospects. Also, inside salespeople are making cold calls and should call the best prospects just the same.
Best of luck on your marketing efforts!
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About the Author
David Austin is the product manager for ECI’s Macola ERP and KnowledgeSync business activity monitoring software. Having designed and implemented data and software products, David brings over 20 years of experience building and leading top-performing teams in the construction equipment, trucking, and manufacturing industries. He also has been a team member and leader in sales, marketing, product management, and operation functions for many products that include Randall-Reilly’s EDA, RigDig and Top Bid. David received his MBA from the University of Texas at Arlington.