By Erin Hardy
Most B2B businesses think that audience profiles are a great idea—in theory. The same folks also often think that they know enough, and that official audience profiles are just a “nice-to-have” kind of thing. But successful B2B content marketers know that audience profiles should guide every headline, blog post and hashtag they create. This is why the audience profile (or buyer profile) is a crucial marketing foundation piece.
Knowing About Your Audience vs. Knowing Your Audience
An audience profile is like exercise—you have to commit to see significant results. You won’t get washboard abs without committing the time and effort to the gym the same way you won’t maximize B2B sales unless you’re prepared to do the work and dig deep into the minds of your buyers.
The B2B sale is long and complex and requires a healthy relationship between the buyer and the seller. Don’t make the mistake of confusing knowing about your audience with knowing your audience. For B2C audience profiles, basic demographics are important—but B2B audience profiles require more.
Without knowing the right information, creating the most effective content is almost impossible. And since we know that simply publishing and posting isn’t enough, distributing content through the right channels is crucial. With a comprehensive audience profile, you’ll know what buyers want, when they want it and how they want it.
What B2B Companies Need to Know About Their Audiences
For B2B companies, the audience segments can range from project managers and department coordinators to corporate CEOs and CIOs. Anyone who makes decisions or can influence decisions is an audience. To make sure they’re buying what they need from you – every time – you need to know what makes each audience tick. Sometimes the needs are as simple as “I need to check this off my list” or as complicated as “this has to be perfect so I’ll advance in my career.”
To start, here are 10 questions that should be answered in a B2B audience profile:
- What does this audience do every day?
- What keeps this audience up at night?
- What is the most painful part of this audience’s job?
- How does this audience measure success?
- How does this audience define value?
- What are the career goals of this audience?
- What type of content does this audience best respond to? (i.e. downloadable infographics, email, blogs, etc.)
- What is the #1 roadblock getting in the way of success for this audience?
- What is the #2 roadblock?
- Where can you find your customer online? (LinkedIn groups, Twitter, industry website communities, etc.)
Okay, So I Really Know My Audiences. What Now?
The worst thing that you can do after you gather all of this useful information is to let it sit all alone somewhere, never to be read again. The next step is to determine what content is critical to show your audience you meet its needs.
Your audience is a group project manager who is worried about missing deadlines, period. Even though this audience has done business with you before, their likelihood to bolt rises significantly if they think someone else cares more about their deadlines. What kind of content would ease the mind of this audience? Content that reassures them that you have never missed a deadline and that you always make group project managers look great to their bosses.
The content you create for the group project manager doesn’t have to be grand and flashy—it doesn’t need to be a sleek video or clever infographic. When it comes to content, sometimes less is more. To reassure this audience about always meeting deadlines, a simple email with your track record and some reassuring numbers might suffice.
Who Needs to Read Audience Profiles?
Audience profiles aren’t strictly for the sales and marketing teams. While sales and marketing teams should refer to audience profiles for literally everything they do, audience profiles are for everyone. Well-developed audience profiles should be given to every single employee, and should be provided during any new employee orientation.
Why? Too many departments work in silos. Sometimes someone in a different department has no idea that your company provides a specific service and will miss a cross-selling opportunity. Or your entry-level administrative assistant doesn’t realize that when a deadline-obsessed project manager calls, the call needs to be returned within two minutes – not two hours – because the audience profile wasn’t distributed to all employees.
A Good Audience Profile is Never At Rest
Like your customers, audience profiles are living, breathing things. B2B markets, technology and buying habits change and people switch companies all the time. Therefore, audit your audience profiles once a year and see what needs to be updated, what’s obsolete and what new audiences need to be addressed. You never know what you might uncover.
Discuss with others about how you’re using audience profiles, or any other marketing topic—join AMA-Tampa Bay’s LinkedIn group.
Erin Hardy has been a writer and content specialist for more than 20 years, creating messaging for multi-billion dollar corporations like the HSN and Eckerd Corporation to boutique ad agencies and start-ups. Today, as Well Planned Web’s Editorial Lead, Erin transforms complex topics into meaningful content that resonates with clients’ customers.