B2B marketers face unique challenges when it comes to attracting new business. The decision makers are often fiercely protected by lower level managers and employees who are tasked with filtering information for executives. This gatekeeping makes it difficult for B2B marketers to secure an opportunity to explain the value their product or service can provide.
For marketers who have previously worked in a B2C capacity, the solution to such a problem might be to blast out product messaging to the widest possible audience. That strategy can work well in B2C marketing where your audience is generally whoever is willing to purchase your products. The temptation to rely on mass marketing can be alluring to B2B marketers who are struggling to get past the gatekeepers. You may think that with enough ad budget or content creation the “higher ups” will eventually encounter the message. This is sadly not the case.
Generic or blanket messaging is largely ineffective in B2B marketing, even if you are targeting the right audience, because it seeks to appeal to everyone. Consider for a moment your personal circumstances and experiences. Surely the struggles you encounter in your workday are not the same as someone in your same role at another company, or even similar to the struggles your coworkers or managers face.
If your challenges are unique, would a generic or mass marketing message work on you? How could those messages possibly speak to your specific problem? That is why generic messaging does not work in a B2B marketing environment. Messages need to have depth and specificity to convince your audience that you have a solution to their specific problem.
You now understand that the message needs to be targeted, specific, actionable and helpful. You may even know who you want to target and get in front of. But do you really know who that audience is, specifically? Before you craft a content and messaging strategy, you must first clearly define the groups you are targeting so that you can narrow in on the types of messages that may resonate.
Identify your specific audience.
It may be tempting to create a list of every company who could benefit from your product or service and simply fire as many messages as possible in their direction. Someone responsible for onboarding new products will see your message, right? Not likely.
Think of how many emails or brochures you toss in the trash on a daily basis from faceless companies who found your contact information. Your message will likely fall to the same fate unless you identify the specific people in the company that need to hear about your value proposition.
This is where Account Based Marketing can be advantageous, because it looks at audiences within specific companies (accounts) and identifies their unique needs. You can hyper-focus on a group of people within the account and gain an understanding of what their challenges may be. This in turn allows you to craft unique content that provides specific solutions to their problems.
Your research funnel should look something like this:
Do a deep dive into all of the products or services offered by the company. Thoroughly comb through their website and Google the company to find news articles and any partnerships the company has with other vendors. Read through case studies, if available, so that you can gain a deep understanding of what the company does, and steps they have taken in the past to address challenges.
Identify all of the high level executives and managers in the company. Depending on the company culture, you may or may not find information about these key targets on the website. Some companies prefer to take an organizational approach as opposed to highlighting the individuals on their team. If that’s the case, head over to LinkedIn and search for the company. You should be able to find profiles of people who work there. Spend time “going down the rabbit hole” and get to know the decision makers at the company.
Spend time looking at articles people at the company have engaged with on LinkedIn. This can clue you in on the type of content that grabs their attention.
While middle managers may not have purchasing or decision making power, they are often the gatekeepers to the realm of upper management. Spend plenty of time getting to know them by going through their professional social media accounts. If you can find their email address, run it through Google to see where they may have engaged before.
You will also want to do some research into what each manager’s role is at the company. Do they lead a team of developers? Do they oversee the IT department? Are they a senior HR representative? Dig into their responsibilities in the company so that you can start to understand what their challenges or needs might be. This will be important when it comes time to craft messages that resonate with those managers, specifically.
Lower Level Employees.
You may stumble upon lower level employees while researching middle management teams or departments. While the bulk of your efforts will be on the higher rank and file in the company, it’s important to understand the lower level employees so that you can include them in your messaging strategy.
Employees at the bottom of the food chain, so to speak, often have the largest burdens and workloads, and are eager to find ways to make their jobs easier. For example, if you sell software that reduces the time it takes to scan networks for security threats, an IT engineer at the company might be very interested in learning more, and share your message with their manager.
Segment your audiences into groups.
Once you have compiled data on as many key figures in the company as possible, it’s time to segment the data into groups, so that you can identify the specific problems each group within the company needs to solve. Let’s again use our IT engineer as an example.
The IT engineer wants to reduce the time it takes to scan the network for security flaws, and review the data. It has typically taken 5 hours to run a scan and segment out the reports. Your software can reduce that time to 2 hours. The IT engineer forwards your ad or message to their manager.
Their manager, who is struggling with the aftermath of losing some employees, looks at your software and thinks it may be an affordable alternative to hiring another engineer to keep an eye on the scans. This in turn frees the more senior engineers to work on tasks that provide value. The manager presents the idea to the executive team, who may discuss it at their next meeting.
In the above scenario, the IT engineer and his manager exist within 1 segment, the IT department segment. Your content strategy should contain messages that appeal to the lower level workers in the IT segment, as well as the management in that department.
You will repeat this process for all of the key groups within the company.
Identify the value your product provides.
Now that you have your audience segments mapped out, you need to evaluate the features of your product and service and identify which features will address the challenges of each audience segment. Your messaging should explain how each feature of your product or service can improve workflow, save money, or deliver results for the company.
Not all of your product’s features may be relevant to a specific audience segment. Focus only on the features that address the problems that are unique to each audience segment. When speaking to executive level management you would not want to talk about the features that the IT engineers find amusing or creative. You would instead want to demonstrate how the features improve the IT department’s workflow, which in turn saves the company time and money. Now you’re speaking the language that a C-Suite exec wants to hear!
Creating targeted messaging that speaks to the heart of a company’s needs takes a lot of research and creativity. You will need to put yourself in the position of the people you are speaking to in order to understand what will make their lives easier. It may seem like a lot of work up front, and to be honest, it is! But your efforts will pay off in the long run and empower you to focus your time, effort and ad dollars on the right people who can take action.
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